This year I was lucky enough to receive the NCDCTA $500 scholarship, in the youth division. I planned on using the money for my trip up to Scott Hassler’s, for the Lendon Gray clinic.
Last Thursday, the day before departure, we were all rushing to pack the four-horse head to head for four horses and a three-day trip. Having to leave by 7:00 am left us in a pinch for time. The next morning we loaded everyone up, and headed off for the 6 hour journey. We had a total of 4 horses and 7 humans, so our caravan was quite a sight to behold on the trip up.
For those of you who have recently been to Hassler Dressage, you understand just how unbelievable it is up there. Scott and Susanne are phenomenal people and the facilities are amazing. Riveredge West, the older facility is where we were stabled, with beautiful indoor and outdoor arenas, great paddocks, and a handy guest house, where we roomed. Then, on the other side of the thousands-of-acres property, is Riveredge East.
There are no words to describe this new, state-of-the-art facility, all I can suggest is for everyone to take a weekend, and try to get up there to see it. Many have ventured to call it the “Greatest facility in the US” and some have even ventured, in the world.
The clinic began with Lendon on Saturday morning, with a group lesson in the morning focusing on position, and an individual in the afternoon. My group lesson was really fun, Lendon wanted to see us “leave the horse alone, like a hunter pony”. In other words, she didn’t care what frame the horse was in, just that it was capable of continuing to go forward without any interference. Most of the kids in my group had a hard time, and I had my own struggles as well.
My individual lesson on Saturday was very educational. Lendon knew Roc and I were planning on trying for the 2011 NAJYRC’s at Young Riders, so we immediately started with the PSG work. In our right pirouettes, Roc tends to get too small, so we mainly did schooling pirouettes, with a lot of focus on the adjustability. To the left, however, Roc tends to take over, so the exercise was very flexible. Instead of starting a pirouette and doing a half or full, Lendon suggested I not “ride a pattern”. We would come into the pirouette, but the second I felt any loss of “access” to Roc’s body, I would stop jumping around and do a few jumps forward. Lendon did stress the importance of keeping the same canter, and not going more than 3 strides forward before coming around again. It looked really funky, but by the end of the session, I had fluid, adjustable pirouettes.
Day two consisted of our second and final individual lesson. This time we worked on the canter zigzag and tempi’s. Roc is usually great in the tempis, his only fault is getting the hang of whatever line we were doing. Say I started on a long side doing fours, but half way through, I wanted to change to threes. Roc only knew how to do one line consistently, again, without adjustability. Lendon had me ride a 20m circle, and at each quarter of the circle, do a flying change. Very difficult for a horse who is only used to doing changes on the straight away, but by the end of the day, Roc knew the meaning of being on the aids in the changes.
Overall this experience was AMAZING and I would recommend Lendon (and Scott of course) to everyone. Both are amazing teachers, but Lendon really forces you to bring your A Game to her clinics. Any time I have an educational opportunity, I take it. Courtney King-Dye came to see Lendon while we were all there, and in her words “Whenever you get an opportunity, say yes. If it is to go to dinner, say yes. If it is to ride a cow, say yes. And you know what? Even that cow will teach you something.” When you are surrounded by greatness, inspiration is not hard to come by. This past weekend not only made me grateful for what I already know, but also for what is to come.