Wisconsin winter is here! Luckily the brutal cold and snow has not graced us with its presence, it is definitely soggy outside. Which only means one thing…indoor arena work. A lot can be accomplished when you are stuck inside but we all have a tendency to get “Cabin Fever”. Invisible horse-eating monsters start lurking in the corners and the walls start closing in. A 60 feet by 120 feet arena can quickly feel like a shoe box. It can become difficult to find ways to entertain while educating both horse and rider.
But this past weekend, I had the opportunity to do both at Barryridge Equestrian Center. A special thank you to dressage trainer, Nicole Trapp and barn owner, Kathy Schlehlein for hosting a “Fun with Ground Poles” clinic. Eighteen riders divided into five groups learned the benefits and fun of ground pole work. It was so much fun for me to see a variety of different level riders and different breeds of horses navigate through a variety of different beginner pole exercises and finish off their lesson over a course of ground pole patterns. Each hour and a half lesson covered the importance of safety, including correct materials and how to prepare your horse for ground pole work. Riders learned the importance of taking their time with each exercise to instill confidence in their mount. I carefully adjusted each exercise for both rider and horse’s level and ability. Many of the riders struggled with straightness through the poles. With the use of cones, I was able to help them understand the feel of straightness through the exercise and then address how to correct crookedness before each exercise. Each rider figured out how creating impulsion with the hindquarters while maintaining steady contact helped create “the boing” through each exercise. They also learned how supporting with leg and seat helped carry their horse through each exercise.
There was a mix of dressage, eventing, hunter, western, and endurance horses. Each horse and rider showed vast improvement after their session. I think everyone came out of the clinic with some new “tools” in their tool box and a better outlook on the upcoming winter months. There were quite few “aha” moments. The rider with the older Arab started out stumbling over the poles due to the horse’s high neck set. Once she allowed the gelding to relax over his topline and sent his hindquarters up to her contact, they danced through the poles with ease. The smile on her face at the end of her ride said it all.
There was a great turnout of auditors that ask some very intelligent questions and were given new ideas to take back to their own barn. Not to mention, it was a great opportunity to promote the Ebook! Tristan wished he could have come to sign autographs! I made a whole lot of new connections with members of both NEWDA and WDCTA and looking forward to the upcoming clinics that have been scheduled.