Monday, August 20, 2012

Sher Gillespie Clinic

Wednesday afternoon BO asked if I had enough money to do a clinic on Sunday with one of her former students. I said no as I couldn't procure clinic money out of my bum on such short notice, and I didn't even get a name on who the clinic was going to be with. However, a couple of the girls from the barn were excited to be riding in it so I figured I'd watch them and take some notes and pictures.

The clinician turned out to be Sher Gillespie, a H/J rider and head trainer at SGA South. She started riding with BO before moving to NC and she comes up once or twice a year to do a two hour clinic at a ridiculously discounted cost.

I got to the barn as everyone was finishing tacking up and BO was like, "I really want you to ride in this clinic. I'll float the cost until you can pay me because I think you'll really like it." Well....okay. It's not like I wasn't in dire need of some jumping tips. I was, of course, dressed in jeans and a rather obnoxious t-shirt so that was a bit of a bummer, but at least my horse and tack were clean.

We started off with the usual introductions of horse and rider and what our goal for the clinic was. She looked a little taken aback when I said I was an eventer. She had a look on her face that was either, "What are you doing here?" (good question) or "Oh, great. One of those." It's all about overcoming adversity though, right? My goal was to have a smooth round over a course as things fall apart quickly if we have a bad fence and I can't get my shiz together to finish like a decent rider. Sher nodded thoughtfully then poked at my bridle a bit before calling it ugly and moving on to the next rider.

bobby was happy to tool along aimlessly.

Our instructions for warm up were to not worry about headset at all and instead focus on keeping an equal distance between the rider in front of you at all times. No circling allowed, just adjusting the stride as needed. With nine riders in the arena this was tricky but managable, especially with a horse that has a naturally big stride when called upon but who likes to go slow. We alternated between half seat and full seat at the w/t/c and worked on extending and collecting the gaits.

trying to collect the giant beast.
Sher said Bobby had a very big, bouncy canter that probably got us good marks in dressage. BO has said this to me too and I've yet to see anything above a 7 on our tests. Fail. She tweaked my two point a little and told me to sit in the saddle a little more with a more open chest as I'm a tall rider and Bobby is narrow. She also said that because I rode xcountry my stirrups were going to be shorter than everyone elses. I gave her a rather sideways look because I think my stirrups are pretty friggin' long for jumping. Eq riders--what length do you ride at? Pretty long or pretty short?

We did flying changes across the diagnol a couple times each way. I told her that Bobby didn't know his flying changes yet, but she said we'd get them anyway. The first two times we didn't. Sher said that he wasn't paying any attention to me going across and only switched in front when he was about to fall over. So we got to go twice more and she told me to let him go and stop protecting him by letting him do a simple change. We got it once with zero effort from me which I didn't count as a success because I have no idea what the change was that got him to do it.

thank goodness for release boot camp.

We split into two groups and started off trotting in two point over a tiny oxer. Sher told me to keep my hands low and quiet as I approach the fence as I want to lift them up and that makes Bobby get a little quick. After trotting and cantering over that a couple of times, she rolled out a ground pole and had us repeat the exercise.

We watched the second group go, and then did a line of a vertical to the barrels before halting in the corner, turn on the forehand, canter off, circle over two ground poles to make ten strides, and halt at the gate.

that's not pretty.
Bobby backed off a hair at the first sight of the straw bales, but he wasn't forward in the slightest as we had a fifteen meter circle to get a canter and then about five strides to get to the fence. Bobby's a big dude and I usually use one short side and one whole long side to get him revved up before starting a course. His first halt was good, we got the ten strides, and his final halt kind of fizzled into a walk. Feed back? "Ok, good. Next rider."

i love this pic. kidd tried to canter mid-air over this and killed the jump.
olivia took it with good humor and got it right the next time.

The next exercise was a big xrail to the other straw bales then turn left and go over the tiny vertical.

The line rode well for us, but Bobby almost always lands on his right lead no matter what direction we're headed. He swapped in the front when I turned him left. Sher had told another rider and a green horse very similar to Bobby that she should let him go on just a front change because that was better than nothing for now, so I did the same and didn't get a correction or comment on it.

The other group went and then we strung all the jumps together for a course. On the left lead come up to the tires, go down to the barrels to straw bale line, turn right and come up to the oxer, xrail to straw bale line, turn left to the vertical. It was flowing pretty well for us because I gave Bobby a lot of room to get going. He chipped in to the xrail, but I put my leg on and kept him moving and we finished so-so. He gets better as he goes along because as long as I leave him alone he picks up steam and obviously jumps better going forward. Feed back? "That was good. You thought he was going to chip into that X so he did. I bet he jumps a lot better xcountry, doesn't he?" Bingo! No advice though.

pm bm and her very green but very game pony pebbles.

bennie the bully wanted nothing to do with this jump so sher
dropped half the rail and chased him over with a big growl.
jen, who i took up to the xcountry field awhile ago, and her
greenie kaluha.
katie's big tb mare threw a shoe so she rode dreamer.
We finished with each of us making up our own course. Everyone seemed astounded at this suggestion. I guess riding only under a trainer means you have no independent brain cells? That's definitely what it means when you ride under BO as your trainer. It's her way or no way. Fortunately, I jump by myself all the time and I made up a rather nice, flowy course if I do say so myself. Right lead down the tires, turn right to come up to the oxer, xrail to straw bale line, left turn to vertical, barrels to straw bale line.

please land on your left lead....
The turn from the tires to the oxer was a little tight and I had to give a pretty sharp tug to compensate for the lack of steering power a running martingale gives you. Everything was going smoothly until the very last line where I failed to look past the first fence and completely blew my line, doing some crazy scrambling to get Bobby on track and over. Feed back? "Not bad. I liked your two point. Who else is ready?"

bobby's girlfriend tasha was rather enthusiastic to the jumps.
She gave some final feed back for each rider and asked when our next show was and gave some pointers for that. Her comments to us? "He's cute. (Which is always code for, I have nothing nice to say about your horse but I'll keep that to myself.) Work on getting that xcountry canter in the arena or you're going to have a hunter horse."

I don't want to sound ungrateful, or like I didn't enjoy myself--because I did--but I don't feel I got anything out of the clinic at all. I liked her teaching style and I liked how encouraging yet no-nonsense she was, but it was geared for the hunter and eq riders and I was just kind of there taking my turn around the jumps.

Something that bothered me was that Hubby started off sitting in the bleachers with BO and a couple of moms and she was giving a running commentary the whole time; I could hear her a few times too for the other riders. Hubby said it was like an episode of Dance Moms. Her comments for me? "She doesn't have enough money to take regular lessons with me so she's doing such-and-such wrong."

bo's star rider: i don't want to ride like this.

Honestly, I made the decision pretty much as soon as I moved into the barn that I was never going to take a jumping lesson from BO. I don't like the way her riders jump and I don't think she has anything to offer me for a jumper round which is essentially what a stadium course is. Not to mention the fact that she teaches from her booth or the bleachers and if you knock a rail, you have to get off your horse and reset it yourself. After that comment, I'm even more solidified in not taking any more lessons with her, period. I don't want a trainer that thinks her way is the only way and you're not a good rider if you don't take twice a week lessons with her.

So while it bothers me, I'm going to shrug it off and be secure in the knowledge that I somehow keep coming home with top-three ribbons and high dressage scores, don't I?


  1. I don't blame you for not wanting to ride like bo's star rider...I have very little experience with jumping of any sort, but even I know that looks ridiculous.

  2. As an Eq rider, I can't tell you much about stirrup length other than, they are short enough that I don't feel like I'm reaching but long enough that I don't topple over, the stirrup length is a daily comfort game. And definitely never take lessons with someone who tries to insult you to convince you to take lessons with them. I've had some trainers try this on me. "When will you stop ducking, you look terrible. If you rode with me i'd get you to stop ducking."

  3. Huh. Sounds like a terribly unproductive clinic. I like to get my butt kicked if I'm paying for a lesson. Still, you got some cute shots of Bobby and it really does sound like he's coming along.

  4. aye laying on the horses neck.. yuck!

    Your stirrups are pretty much a personal preference in my opinion... just saying.

  5. Star rider? Barf. She's doing that horribly trendy duck and push style you see on the cover of Dover Catalog. That's the same style that will get you a broken nose or a concussion a horse that's not so game.

    Bobby looks like he's coming along quite well. He seemed to be finding better spots!

  6. bo does not sound like an instructor 'doing it' for the horse and rider, but more the profits.
    I hate those kinds of coaches, they just try to milk you for all the money you've got.

    As far as the stirrups go, I agree with everyone else. It's personal preference! However, I do measure with my arm length, and shorten an extra few (2-3) holes..
    But whatever is comfortable I say!!

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