11.17.2016

NLF Blog Hop/Contest/Whatever - Failure

1

I'm the type of person who readily admits to being a failure at something. I never used to be this way. I always wanted to think I was better than everyone else at everything.

It was animals who taught me humility. Particularly my first dog Eve, and Fiction.

In my last post I readily admitted that when I originally got Fiction I was completely over-horsed and ignorant. This combination created a 3-year downward spiral of backwards training that we're still combating. I'm no longer over-horsed and Fiction is no longer 'broken,' but we have some residual demons to work through.


For this blog hop/contest/whatever you want to call it, I want to hear of a time you failed astronomically, yet accepted your failure and learned from it. This failure doesn't necessarily have to involve horses - if there was an event in your life that was more pertinent that you feel comfortable sharing, by all means, do so.

You're free to either post an entry as a blog post on your blog, in which case you should leave a comment with a link to the post here. Or you can simply leave a comment outlining your failure and how it may have changed you.

Anyone who comments with their failure and/or blogs about it will be entered once into a drawing for their choice of either a Riding Warehouse $10 gift certificate (US residents) or an Amazon $10 gift certificate (US and non-US residents), delivered electronically.

Entries must be in by 12:00 PM EST, Dec 1st, 2016. Winner will be announced December 2nd.

11.15.2016

Zero Fox Given

11

Before we begin, this is the second part in a two part series on Fiction's advancement in training. Click here for the first part.

Also, thanks for the guesses! Most people guessed turnout and ulcer treatment. Fiction's turnout hasn't changed, but his ulcers are definitely gone, and while I'm sure he's more comfortable, it is only a small part to the ultimate solution (as in, ulcer problem was fixed several months ago, work ethic/personality change occurred recently).

I'm going to break this down a bit by explaining what went wrong/right in the three color coded sections of his history.

Red

    • Shitty backwards training. Shitty riding. Shitty instruction.
      • Three years with no backwards/damaging change? Screen your trainers, folks. It's important.
      • I was fucking over-horsed. You all were thinking it. It took me a fair bit before I realized it. Professional training and instruction should have helped, but, well, we all see how that went.
3 years of this. I had to have nerves of steel or I could have never survived riding this horse.

THIS is the jump we nearly had a rotational fall on (and we were trotting it!). That's how much of a flipping crazy idiot this horse used to be.

Yellow
    • New environment - Fiction significantly less stressed. Me too, for that matter.
    • New instructor that fits well with us, but way fewer lessons than we really needed (not by choice, by schedule).
    • Ulcers/barefoot issues.
More agreeable but still tense :(
Green
    • More lessons.
    • Trainer rides.
    • Complete 100% change in attitude and approach towards training/riding.

That last one is highlighted because it is key to the changes I have experienced. I spent three years blundering through, riding my horse like an ignorant dead weight and blindly following advice and training I should not have followed. I got incredibly defensive. The more defensive I got, the more Fiction overreacted. He became bridle-shy.

When I realized how horrible our training situation was and how I had pretty much been complacent in the breaking of my horse, (there is no disputing this - my new instructor has been very candid with me), I broke down. I refused to touch his mouth. I plodded along on his back and treated him like a delicate snowflake. Fear of breaking him or of stressing him ruled each ride. I was afraid to challenge him in any way.

Yeah. No. That shit doesn't work.

Back from our first lesson with the new instructor. You can clearly see just how damaged my riding seat is.
So, Fiction took complete advantage of this. Not touching his mouth and treating him like he's made of glass did nothing but completely ruin his trust in me. How could he trust me to lead him when I was afraid to take charge? Why should he work for me when I can't give clear, concise instruction?

Then he bucked me off. And I got angry. Really freaking angry. I completely disconnected from him. I'm still disconnected - right now he is nothing more than a resale project to me. The thing is, that is the mindset I needed to make this work. The more feelings and fear I put into my interactions with Fiction, the less of a leader I became. The less trust he had in me.
This was us on a good day back in the Red.
I threw my reins at my trainer and asked her to take over. She rode him three times, told me that he is an asshole, and that I need to be an asshole back. That is the only language that is going to get through to him.

But how could I be an asshole without reverting back to what had happened before? Simple. When he's being an asshole, respond firmly, and then immediately release when he gives in.

Let me give you some examples.

    • Fiction spooks at something, per usual. Say it's poles (he abhors poles). Guess what? He gets to trot/canter/walk over those poles in a thousand different directions without stopping until he relaxes. Doesn't matter how long it takes. Doesn't matter if we end up going through them sideways. Or maybe it's a drag mark in the arena he's terrified of. Guess what? He gets kicked over it again and again until he relaxes. Forward, forward, forward. No halting and letting him eyeball it. No pats and scratches as he snorts at the scary shit. No. He goes over it or past it until it is no longer a problem. The firmer I am, the faster he chills out and gets on with his job. I treat it like a life or death situation. He doesn't get to be scared. If he's not in actual danger, he has to work when I say work, no excuses.

    • Fiction flails when I ask him to do something, or shoots forward when I ask for the canter, or kicks out, or something stupid when we are working that was not caused by me. In essence: he acts like an ass because he doesn't want to do something. Too bad. I immediately make the work 100000x harder. If we're on a circle, he gets put on the tiniest circle possible, haunches in, exaggerated inside bend, until he yields. The moment he yields, I yield, move out on the circle, and give him a pat. There is no stopping if he acts up. I don't care if the work is hard (Newsflash - it's not. He's perfectly capable of it. He's just throwing a fit because he doesn't want to do it). I don't care if he gets upset because he doesn't want to move over and I refuse to relinquish my inside leg. If he is not in physical pain he must follow orders. If I stopped working every time my horse threw a fit because the work load was increasing and straining his body or brain, then we would never get anywhere. It's similar to working out with a personal trainer at the gym. You'll never improve if you don't pass your limits. In the case with a horse, you must push them and they must accept it. They don't push themselves (at least, mine doesn't. He would be a pasture puff if possible).

    • He is never allowed to lean on me. Ever. He's a big boy. He can carry himself. My arms and hands are not there to carry him. They can support him from time to time, but they are not a security blanket. Every time he attempts to lean, I change the bend for a few strides and then change it back. This helps unlock his neck and jaw. He's barely leaning on me anymore and it's only been two months of reminders.

    • We do a lot more lateral work now. Over-exaggerate the bend but make sure he doesn't start using that as an evasion as well (he's so freaking smart it boggles my mind sometimes). Warm-up is nothing but lateral work. Shoulder-fore, shoulder-in, leg yield, side pass, etc. This gets him off my leg. If he doesn't respect my leg, we get absolutely nowhere. Light touch, followed by stronger touch, followed by kick if he doesn't comply. Leg isn't removed or relieved until he yields. Two months in and I no longer have to use spurs or a whip. He went from being a dead-leg horse to a horse that responds very quickly to a leg aid.

    • Lots of walk breaks. His work is mentally taxing now. That doesn't at all excuse any tantrums he throws, but I recognize this problem and I make sure to compensate with lots of walking. Some trot work, walk. Some canter work, walk. This keeps him happy and calm and acts as a reset button. However, under no circumstances do I stop if he throws a hissy fit because he is mentally tired. He must first yield and give me one or two good strides, and then he can have a break. It's important to be able to recognize the signs. I keep track of how he is feeling. It's not hard - I know him extremely well after four years.

    • I trust him. Trust will never be 100% with horses, but if I don't put faith in his capability to do something, or in his capability to expand beyond his current mental and physical restrictions, then how will he have faith in himself? This horse has a huge history of just bolting off at the cantering and careening around. By learning to trust him to handle himself, he in turn trusts me to not ride defensively. It's a win-win.

And that's it. Applying these principles has effectively changed my horse into a completely new animal in two months. He is happy. He loves greeting me in the field now, cuddles with me in the crossties, stands still for me to get on him in the saddle, doesn't pin his ears at all while under saddle, no kicks, no bucks, etc. Floppy ears all the time. Not all the kinks are worked out, of course, but we have years of crap to undo, so I don't expect over-night miracles.

Just a filler pic haha.
I've redefined our relationship. I'm the drill sergeant and he is the private. He does what I say, when I say it. He's not allowed to be scared. He's not allowed to spook. He's not allowed to act up. He's not allowed to quit. He is to work.

That being said, I make sure to praise him liberally. I also keep an eye out for when he's just not in the mood to play. For example, the other night he was obviously in a bad mood, but he did everything I asked without a fuss. So I cut our ride short and gave him lots of love. If he tries and isn't an asshole, there is no need to push him when he isn't feeling well mentally. Still, if he had acted up under saddle, I would have followed all of my above advice until he yielded. He can be in a bad mood, but he still needs to work when I ask him to work. And in return I will respect his mental well being and refrain from working him hard when he is having a bad day.

In the end, Fiction must work when I ask him to work. If he doesn't the workload increases and increases until he yields and works. I cannot tell you just how more relaxed Fiction actually is now. Why? Because he finally recognizes me as a leader. He can trust me to relay instructions with absolute confidence. I only deal in absolutes. And, because of this new mindset, we have developed a stronger bond than we ever had before.



So, while I still joke every day about selling him, in my heart I know he's here to stay. We've finally developed mutual respect for each other. I'm still reconnecting with him in a way, but it is nice to have a partner that shows up ready to work and ready to please.

It's a type of serenity I never thought we would achieve. And it's all because I decided to stop treating him like a delicate little snowflake and started treating him like the smart, capable, beautiful animal that he is.

This probably wasn't the answer anyone expected. And my situation is different from a lot of people. But, basically, I have found that the more I treat the relationship with my horse as a work relation rather than an emotional relation, the deep our partnership grows. This sport is too expensive and dangerous to not be 100% in charge, especially with a sensitive jerk-horse like Fiction.

Note: I'll be recruiting someone to video me this Saturday, so I will have comparison videos up hopefully next week.

11.11.2016

Four Years With an Overreactive OTTB

16

I'm going to try and make this short and to the point.

Here. Have a puppy picture.
Timeline
    • Fiction purchased September 2012. No formal training. Off the track, sitting for a year in a field. I hadn't ridden in 5 years. I'm green & Fiction is green.
    • Two months after purchase, Fiction goes into three months of professional training with my last trainer.
    • Two and a half years pass of mostly once-a-week lessons, sometimes once-every-two-weeks lessons, with two more months of professional training interspersed.
    • I stop taking lessons & stop training for 6 months.
    • November 2015 - move to the new barn. Take a couple lessons with new trainer before she leaves to go down south.
    • Marchish 2016 - Trainer comes back. We take lessons 1x month (not by choice) for a while. Halfway through the year we change to 2x a month.
    • July 2016 - Fiction goes barefoot for a month.
    • August 2016 - Fiction bucks me off for the very first time.
    • August/September 2016 - Fiction gets three trainer rides.
    • September to Now - Lessons 2x a month.

Color Code

Red - Fiction is an absolute nutcase. Constant flailing/tossing his head, pinning ears, mini-bucking, running off on me, etc. Jumping is dangerous. We nearly have a rotational fall over a tiny log. People are constantly amazed at how I managed to stay on this psycho horse. Every ride is a battle. Trail rides are nightmares. (Summary: approximately 2 1/2 years)

Yellow - Fiction is calmer. Trail rides are amazing. We've quit jumping for the most part, but when we do, he is pretty chill. We still struggle in our lessons because he is a hot nightmare, but we begin to see very minute improvements. He is dead to my legs and heavy in my hands and rides are still an exhausting battle. He also manages to still overreact to every little movement I make. (Summary: A bit less than a year)

Green - Fiction is a flipping saint. Easy on the legs. Light in the hands. Soft, flexible, and responsive. He listens to me, enjoys his work, and is happy. (Summary: A couple of months)

So WTF changed?

If you want, feel free to take your best guess and leave it in the comments. I'll be going into depth about this topic in the next post, but it is likely to be long and detailed, so I wanted to break it up a bit.

11.10.2016

What We've Been Up To

13

I apologize for the lull in posting. I'm still reading blogs (and sometimes commenting), and I'm still riding and taking lessons, but blogging hasn't really been a priority lately. Primarily because everything is going so wonderfully that every post would be 'Fiction was amazing today.' Those get exhausting to read and write haha.


So, let me recap the last month or so.

    • Fiction has been amazing. People stop me at the barn all the time to comment on the change. I have a completely different horse. Long gone are the days of 20 minute warm-ups just to get to a spot where we can work on something. Now I can hop on and he's agreeable, flexible, and ready to go. I can canter on a circle on the buckle with his head practically between his legs while I work on my seat without a care in the world. (This actually brought tears to my eyes a few weeks ago). I would now consider us relatively competitive at First Level (though he needs quite a bit more work done, for sure), if he behaves at the show as he is doing at home.
    • The change in my seat and riding has been dramatic. I can feel things I never felt before. I can apply my legs in the right areas without even thinking. My arms/wrists/hands are no longer overly busy and rigid. My back is flexible and my sitting trot has vastly improved. I need a lot more work at the canter, but part of that involved improving the gait too.
    • Fiction got some new clothes - a new cooler and new set of blankets. He's also getting some fancy shoes put on soon. And he got clipped, but I can see now that I'll be clipping again in a month. He's still growing an annoying amount of hair.


    • Battling accutane has been exhausting. I have no appetite and no will to ride. I have to force myself to go out, so riding dropped from 4-5x a week to 2-3x a week. I've been on accutane nearly a month now and I'm finally regaining my energy and appetite, but the dosage will be upped in a week so who knows how that will effect me :(
    • I've been taking a lot of me time. Playing video games, reading books, buying things I want. It's amazing how I struggle to spend money on myself but don't bat an eye on dropping $300 for new blankets for my horse. I recently had a Treat Yo'self day at a comic con where I spent about $250 on semi-custom art pieces. It felt nice to indulge in something for myself for a change.
    • And, this is no secret to people at my barn, but riding horses just isn't my priority in life right now. I'm still not sure if this is an accumulated effect from drugs/SAD/a current restlessness in my life, but it's there. I'm trekking through it.



Anyways, I have a fairly interesting reflection post coming up, but I hope to have video comparisons of Fiction loaded first so that I can better support some of my points. I need to find someone to video me though, which is easier said than done!

10.21.2016

Progression

5

I know I've been quiet - sorry about that. I started Accutane and it's pretty much zapped all of my energy. I find it hard to muster up the energy (or desire) to do anything!

Anyways, it's been a bit since I've talked about my actual rides. I mentioned that the first half of September was pretty much spent away on vacation, so we didn't get to riding until the second half. He had three trainer rides over the course of a month and a half and the lessons really stuck with him.

I have no new horse pics so enjoy this puppy picture! They have all found amazing homes and will be leaving us soon.
So sad :(
We took one lesson that was really hard on the both of us. Instructor took over about halfway through to demonstrate what she wanted me to do. After that we managed to get our shit together.

Each ride after that provided further progression. We've implemented a 'my way or the highway' style of teaching with Fiction at this point. He can throw as many fits as he wants, but in the end he has to do what I want, when I ask for it. And he cannot lay into my hands and fall on his forehand as an avoidance tactic.

At our last lesson on 10/11 we worked really hard on getting him to carry himself and stop laying into my hands. We focused on slowing down, dropping his head, and bending around my leg. Under no circumstances am I allowed to let him lean on my hands, which means half halts have to be quick, concise, and varied.

Also this is how the puppy's mother waits to be let out of her crate after feeding time lol.
I'm having a lot of trouble putting weight into my left seat bone. Fiction doesn't make it easy for me either. When cantering to the left he throws me to the right and I have to fight to really sink low into my seat and lengthen my leg. I have a bad habit of leaning to the right when applying my left leg as well. It makes sense - my right side is dominant and I tend to have my shit together in that direction. So, Instructor gave me a few exercises to use to help find my left seat bone.

Start these at the walk on a circle. Halt. Use left leg and seat bone to sidepass a few steps. Halt. Turn on the forehand 360 degrees. Repeat.

She also recommended that I do more work bareback to help get a feel.

My sense of feel has drastically improved under this Instructor. I can feel when my seat isn't connected enough, when there is more weight in one stirrup than the other, when my body is leaning or crooked, etc. It's just correcting these issues that is really hard.

I made the switch to a paleo diet a few months ago and I've been experimenting with various recipes. These paleo banana nut muffins turned out fantastically!
We've had quite a few rides since then. Fiction has been fantastic for the most part. I've implemented a lot of circles, changes of rein, figure-8s, and transitions into my riding lately. It's really helped to keep his focus and it's great bending work, especially since he likes to fall in on changes of rein. We're still struggling at the canter but we'll get there.

Anyways, lesson tomorrow! Here's to hoping I don't die from exhaustion, considering I can barely keep my eyes open while sitting here at my desk :(

10.06.2016

2016 Survivor Run - 12 Miles

9


I love being in the saddle. Well, more accurately, I love trail riding for incredibly long periods of time. There is something super zen about it. To me, endurance encompasses everything I love about riding: long periods in the saddle outside over difficult terrain....with an aspect of competition. I always wanted to compete in endurance (and my original Arabian pony would have been perfect!) but by the time I had the means to do so, I didn't have the horse for it.
But, when I saw this fun 12-mile 'clinic' that was only a 2 1/2 drive from my location, I jumped on it and dragged Jan and Penn with me :).



The Survivor Run is an annual fun ride/clinic that is dedicated to survivors of cancer (the organizer's mother is a very dedicated endurance rider and recently beat cancer). It was very well put together and very well organized with multiple experienced endurance riders there to help out.

We left the barn around 5:30 AM, had an uneventful haul there (my second time hauling my trailer!), arrived around 8:00 AM, tucked the ponies into their stalls with soaked alfalfa and water, then headed over to the breakfast (included in the event price), where we sat for about an hour and listened to people go over the basics of endurance riding.



Then we collected the ponies and headed over to the initial vet check. Fiction checked in fine (all As, positive gut sounds, etc.) but the guy seemed freaked out by how much Fiction hocks in and I had to reassure him that Fiction has never interfered in the back, ever.

After we tacked up, we headed to the back of the line. Jan and I didn't want Penn and Fiction to start off at the head of the pack. I'm glad we stayed in the back because everyone took off galloping at the beginning and they had multiple horses get crazy.

The footing was atrocious - up to a foot deep of mud in some places and slippery in the rest. We did a lot of walking, some trotting, and just a bit of cantering. It was super interesting to see differences in the gaits of the endurance horses vs. horses taught dressage, especially at the trot. It was super hard for Penn and Fiction to trot through the woods because of how propelled they are by their hind ends and how large their strides are. Meanwhile, these little endurance ponies western-jogged the entire way through the woods with zero issues.



We ended the first 6 miles in the middle of the pack at about 1 hour and 12 minutes. Fiction came in with hardly any sweat and a heart rate of 51. He passed the vet check over with ease and we waited our mandatory 30 minutes before heading out alone.

The next 6 miles I decided to push him for a much more competitive pace - just to see how he might handle it. We did a lot more cantering, a lot more trotting, and even through in a gallop. Fiction definitely showed how fit he was by hardly sweating and handling it all with ease.

I got so amazingly close to these deer. They just stood and watched me - no fear.
Credit to Jan. I opted to walk him in because he was spooking and jigging and I wanted to keep him calm for the initial heart rate!
We shaved about 15 minutes off of our original time in the second 6 miles, which was admittedly a bit fast, but Fiction has huge strides, especially at the canter, and covers a lot of ground quickly. I immediately yanked his tack off, put on a halter, and headed over to the final vet check.

He initially checked in with a heart rate of 56 and dropping (he got very antsy and spooked right when we came in, so not sure if that played a part). The vet proclaimed he had swelling in his right front and left hind. I couldn't find any swelling in the front but did find it in the hind. Not really shocked - the footing was atrocious and at one point he was a jerk and tried to gallop off on me and his hind end went out from under him. Plus he swells easily - I never worry about it.

Credit: Jan. She was super awesome and held Fiction for me while I put away my stuff and cleaned the mud off of him!
Credit: Jan
They also said that he was negative in one gut quadrant, and then the farrier in the area gave him a B for movement (I saw and felt absolutely nothing, so not sure what the hell he saw), and proceeded to lecture me/talk down to me like I was a child on my shoeing choices (and my choice of farriers, despite the fact that I've been through 6 farriers with this horse) until I told him to shove it and walked off. It really soured me to the whole event (I've struggled for 4 years with shoeing Fiction - pretty sure I'm getting to a point where I know what the fuck I'm doing), and the vet even came over to apologize for the farrier afterwards.

Anyways, Fiction was perky, happy, and still quite energetic. He drank half a bucket, finished off some more soaked alfalfa, and nuzzled me for treats. I cleaned the mud off of him the best I could and then walked him around with his cooler on for a bit.

Credit: Jan. Penn loves his friend haha.
We then tucked our ponies back into their stalls and headed over to the awards ceremony/dinner (also included in the price! The event + breakfast/dinner + stall w/ shavings + t-shirt cost me $62). I won one of the 6 awards for most pink despite not wearing any pink? Not sure what happened there. Jan also won an award, which she traded for mine haha. They had same amazing prizes - a lot of which was donated, including 11 50lb bags of feed, gift baskets, gift bags, etc. Plus we all got t-shirts!

After that it was time to head home. We got back late and I fed Fiction his dinner and checked over his legs. His backs were still a bit puffy so I turned him out for the night to wander around.


I had a really great time and will definitely be going back next year. I have an endurance friend who will also keep me informed on some 10 and 15 mile intro fun rides next year for something different to do. I definitely wont be pursuing it competitively (which is honestly what this was a test for), simply because while Fiction definitely has the energy/endurance for it, he doesn't have the gaits for it. He's too powerful off of his hind end and too strong, thus the longer distances over rough terrain stress him far more than they do little plodding Arabian ponies. And he swells very easily in his legs, which my endurance friend told me will definitely set me back at vet checks.

Maybe one day I'll be able to afford two ponies - one dressage and one endurance :)

10.05.2016

George Morris Clinic

13

So, I got back from vacation on Tuesday night, spent Wednesday chilling with a friend, and then headed to the barn on Thursday to bathe G's horse and prep for the George Morris clinic in Westminster, VA.

I don't jump anymore but the stories about George have always fascinated me, so when G got in to clinic with him, I asked to come along as a groom. It was an exhausting trip but I actually learned a few things and I enjoyed meeting George.


Some tidbits from George that may interest you/help any hunter/jumpers in their journey:

    • Metal stirrups w/ cheese grater pads are his favorite.
    • Medium length, heavy jumping bats are also his favorite.
    • Stainless steel bits only please~
    • Less is more (when it comes to tack and attire).
    • Rubber reins.
    • The path to riding well is first stable management, then walk/trot/canter basics, then small jumps/gymnastics (George considers even one jump a gymnastic), then parts of courses. Reserve full course practice for shows.
    • Five factors to jumping: pace, line, distance, balance, impulsion.
    • Always two distances to jump: long and short.
    • If the horse ducks, circle the opposite direction.
    • If the horse quits, use a spur or whip.
    • George apparently hates twisted snaffles.
    • Jumps are not taken at a canter, only at a gallop.
    • Ladies must always wear gloves, men it's optional (apparently hunter people know this. News to me).
    • Progression of intensity of aides is: leg, leg plus cluck, leg plus cluck plus spur, leg plus cluck plus spur plus whip.
    • Don't jump fences, jump distances to fences.
    • Bareback work should be walk, trot, canter, pop (as in, jump).
    • He loves thoroughbreds.


Some interesting George sayings from the weekend:
    • "Black is beautiful." Not entirely sure I remember how this came about, but he went on a tangent about how he loves black people.
    • Europe has watered down boring fences. America has a nice variety of fences.
    • "That horse is lady broke." As in bucks, doesn't want to go forward, undisciplined. I had never heard of this term before this past weekend.
    • "Get rid of that bubble bit." When referring to a twisted snaffle.
    • Riders are self-ignorant and don't teach themselves. I noticed he has a tendency to make large blanket statements like this. If one person messed up, suddenly everyone was an idiot. "You people are so stupid!" was thrown around a lot.
    • Most tack and apparel made by people who know nothing about horses.
    • "You people missed the mark with these dumb half-breds. Half-breds think backwards and are spooky. Thoroughbreds think forwards." He really, really praised thoroughbreds the entire weekend.
    • Riders hate the short distance like Ebola, Zika, or AIDs.

One of the most interesting things from this past weekend was the presence of a male rider that they brought in to school clinic horses that were being particularly fussy. During every session George would direct him to hop on one or two horses that were having a particularly hard time.

The first horse he rode, he nearly fell off and the horse wasn't even being particularly bad. Another horse he rode he basically slammed into a fence and they nearly fell. He spurred another horse so badly he made it bleed and hopped off with the inside of his boot completely coated with blood (he pretty much marked up every horse he rode with his spurs). Interestingly enough, George only ever bitched him out for not taking the short distances (minus the times he practically rammed the horses into the fence).


I did a little sleuthing (as in, walked up to him and asked him what his deal was), and learned that George had just met him and had seen him ride for the first time on the first day of the clinic. Yeah. Not a single person was happy about that (nor about his riding), but everyone paid a lot for the clinic and they weren't about to excuse themselves over some guy very poorly riding their horses.

Overall the clinic was very interesting to watch. George was quite nice and dolled out lots of praise when people got his exercises correct. A couple of times he yelled at the audience to shut up, including an incredibly rude woman who answered her cellphone during a session. He was prone to generalizations - if one person screwed up, suddenly everyone in the class was an idiot. And he did move one girl out of the 3'6" session to the 2'6" session. His primary lesson was that of discipline - he stressed that this sport is entirely too dangerous to have an undisciplined horse and to be an undisciplined rider.


I didn't find him particularly intimidating in any way - I think a lot of the internet stories about him are wildly exaggerated. If you're in the hunter/jumper world and ever get the opportunity to clinic with him - jump on it! Or at least go audit for a day. If anything there are sure to be some moments of entertainment :)