It’s no secret that I’m a fangirl of Bobby- if you’ve met him, you’d know why. The guy knows his stuff, is funny as all get out, and somehow inserts both serious knowledge drops and biting humor into every lesson. Or in this case, clinic.
So when my friend Ali decided to participate in a January clinic in Southern Pines, I was immediately on board as groom. I was stoked to pick up new tidbits and more than happy to return the favor of videoing, since Ali filmed my lesson with Bobby last summer.
Any memories of a warm summer day when we had last been there quickly were replaced but what could, by North Carolina terms, be called the blizzard that started as soon as we rolled up. The snow was coming down at a hellish pace, but when we saw the first group of riders hacking to the cross country field, we started up our toe warmers (and donned every layer of clothing on hand) and prayed for the best.
Thanks to the elements, it was occasionally hard to hear everything being said, but here are three key takeaways from the day.
First – shoulders over hips- do NOT get ahead of the motion.
In cross country, where terrain is often part of the question, it’s important to sit back and allow the horse the balance to do his job. Also, the adoption of a more defensive position can make for a safer ride and being with or slightly behind the motion can channel a nervous horse more easily. I loved the visual of “shoulders over hips” as you can immediately see it in other riders as well as use it as an alignment cue for yourself in the saddle.
Break down the elements.
With every group, whether Beginner Novice or Prelim, he started combinations or exercises with the most simple approach, and then added elements from there. Each session started with working on the gallop position, and then over a small vertical, before moving onto the day’s work. For the bowl combination, first riders went through just the bowl, followed by adding in a small vertical, and then putting together the vertical, bowl, and hanging log to finish off. Bobby was great for instilling confidence in both horse and rider by taking this approach to combinations.
Push outside the comfort zone.
You don’t learn anything new by not trying anything new. Bobby asked each pair about any weaknesses or sticking points. And if a rider said their horse was ditchy, that didn’t mean they avoided ditches. It just meant that they got a little bit more vocal support as they worked on it, or for each group there was an advanced rider that they could follow on the heels of to get through the exercise (an awesome feature!). Watching each rider overcome their cross country demons made for a fun day where each horse and rider combination walked away better than they came.
Following the clinic we found the one place open in Southern Pines for Sunday lunch and swapped stories as we thawed and congratulated Ali on her first proper outing since “retiring” Baron two years ago. Looking forward to tagging along with her for her private lesson with BC next month!