Saturday, September 17, 2011

Clinic with Peter Atkins - August 15, 2011

Dreamy and I were lucky enough to get into a clinic with Peter Atkins (Run Henny Run) hosted by Rest and Be Thankful Farm.  I was super excited to take a cross country jumping clinic with this excellent Australian event rider. Unfortunately it poured the day of the clinic, so it was moved to Cedar Hill Farm's indoor.  Of course, that meant that we could not jump cross country.  I was very disappointed, but what can you do.  

 Peter makes Dreamy look like a pony!  :-)

A childhood friend, Abra, who I have not seen in almost 15 years met me at the clinic!  It was so exciting to see her!  She took the photos here in this post. (Thanks, A!!!)

Now that I am sitting here typing, I wish I had not waited a month to write this post.  I cannot remember much of the small details any longer, but I will do my best.  :-)

Here Peter is teasing me about Dreamy's little tuft of hair on her ear...I rather like it and never bothered to clip her ears out this year since we never showed in-hand.  LOL!
I had requested a 90 minute semi private lesson and was paired with two young riders.  We warmed up while Peter watched, and he gave us pointers here and there.  He checked our horses' bits and he made the other two riders adjust their stirrups...he said mine were perfect.  :-D  He asked us each to tell him our horse's "story".  We stopped to talk after a few minutes of warm up and WOW he asked a TON of questions!  He is not the type of instructor who simply tells you exactly what to do.  Instead he constantly questions you to see if you can figure out what is happening with your horse and how to fix it.  He was tough but fair, and I really liked him.  But I will say the barrage of questions made me a little nervous!  The two teenage girls I was riding with were very quiet, and Peter kept looking to me.  He asked things ranging from the horse's bio mechanics to riding technique and everything in between.  There was a question I did not know the answer to and when I answered, "I don't know", Peter came over, took my whip and smacked my thigh with it!  O.O  I know my jaw dropped.  He told me if I said it again he would hit me harder and a third time he would kick me out of the ring!  I knew immediately he was not going to give me an inch and that I better step up my game.  (And for the record, I was so shocked I forgot to ask him what I should have done when I did not know the answer.  As a teacher, I am always OK with a student saying "I don't know."  But anyway...)

Peter is questioning us at the beginning of the ride...
So we began by walking our horses over ten ground poles haphazardly strewn on the ground (along the center line).  He wanted to see how our horses would navigate it.  Dreamy walked right through very carefully, never touching a pole, while the other two horses hit a bunch of them.  He then asked us all to look DOWN at where we wanted the horse's hoof to step next.  The other two horses stepped through much better and Dreamy stumbled her way along, hitting a couple of poles.  I figure this exercise was to show that looking UP and staying out of your horse's way would result in a better (eventual) jump.  But I was confused as to why the other horses walked through better when their riders were looking down.  Peter explained that the other horses had been able to feel where the rider was looking and needed help to know where to place their feet.  However, Dreamy's reaction was actually very rare (yay?) and very good (yay!!) in that she was able to step through better on her own.  He said it was a very good trait and one he looks for in his horses.  It made me feel pretty happy.  We also trotted through the haphazard poles a few times.  Each time we came through, Peter would adjust the poles, eventually making a cross rail and evenly spaced trotting poles.  Dreamy was happy and straight through them, but Peter got after me about my lower leg slipping back.  I know I need help with that (he gave me heck for not fixing it sooner...) and was happy for his relentless instruction.  He did not yell, but he was tough.  When you showed even a bit of improvement, he was very quick to praise.  I wish I could lesson with him once a month!!!

Walking through the haphazard ground poles.  I am the one to the far right.
More questions...we are in the middle!  (I was surprised to be the only one who wore a safety vest....?)
Eventually we moved up to a bounce and then a bounce to a one stride.  I love gymnastic jumping and Dreamy was fabulous.  She did stop the first time we went into the bounce, but that was my fault.  (It always is!) The more I worked at keeping my lower leg still and not over jumping, the better her jump became.  We worked hard and jumped numerous times.  By the end, I felt very confident and Peter seemed pleased with my progress.  He did admit that much of my position problem was a "muscle memory" issue and that I needed to relearn how to use my body over fences.  I think I need to take jumping lessons as well as the fantastic dressage lessons I already take.
Bounce to the one stride!
Dreamy liked Peter...and so did I!  He is a great instructor!!

Overall, it was a great clinic and I am glad I was able to ride with Peter.  I do wish he could come back to Maine next year...I REALLY want to jump cross country with him!

2 comments:

  1. Haha I know that nervous trying to think l
    of the right answer but I think it really helps the information stick because it really gets you using your brain. I got the never say I don't know scolding within the first five minutes of my first lesson..lol. But he has a great sense of humor if you don't fall for his tough trainer front. He also abandons all his "rules" when he makes a girl cry..lol. Sad to say I got to find that out when I had a minor frustration melt down in my xc lesson. What I loved though is that even though I was being silly he didn't treat me that way and made sure I ended on a good note. Ok I will quit my 'l love peter atkins campaign', lol.

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  2. I agree Amy! He is awesome and definitely has a great sense of humor. :-) I loved reading your blog posts about YOUR clinic with him. We need to start an "I love Peter Atkins" fan club! HA HA HA

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