Monday, April 19, 2021

Round, Rounder, Roundest - USDF Clinic with Bill McMullin

Last I left off (oh you know, 4 months ago) - I was working 2nd/3rd level movements getting ready for the George Williams clinic in April.  Alas, George Williams was unable to make it (dressage emergency?), but Bill McMullin was scheduled in his stead.  Bill trains half the year out of Wellington and half the year out of Boston.  He's an 'R' judge, gold medalist, and USDF certified instructor who instructs through Grand Prix.  I had never met Bill before and went into the weekend away clinic feeling queasy and impostery.

Bill wound up being a wonderful trainer and teacher.  He was soft spoken and kind, but also very firm in his direction.  I won't lie - I basically begged him to come back to Colorado whenever he could!

So, let's get down to what we worked on:

Improving the halt/walk

  • Walk four strides, halt, walk 4 strides, halt
    • When asking for the halt sit up and STRETCH up
    • Hug him (light squeeze) with lower legs to bring his back legs forward into the halt
    • Supple before and after transition (round, rounder, roundest the three strides before the halt)
    • Hold contact once he's halted to allow him to *really* give to the bit without fussing with my hands
    • Do this in front of a mirror to check his back legs (I had no idea he was parking out so much in the halt)
    • What did this exercise accomplish:
      • It totally freed up his walk, which is Gavin's weakest gait.  Still probably his weakest gait, but it went from a 5 to maybe a 7.
      • We ended with consistently good halts with Bill called a "10 halt"
Walk to canter

  • Start with walk/halt exercise described above
  • Throw in some reinbacks
  • 10 meter walk circle with a medium walk first half of circle, collected walk second half of circle
    • to the right - almost shoulder-in
    • to the left - haunches in first half of circle, switching to shoulder-in second half
  •  Before getting back to the wall/track ask for canter (whisper the aids or risk an extravagant take-off)
  • Supple before and after transition, the tension during the transition wasn't addressed, but I think the idea is that the suppleness during the transition will come on it's own with these bookends 
  • What did this exercise accomplish:
Canter to walk

  • 10 meter circle (don't make it too small)
  • Think rein back in the canter to collect, collect, collect
  • Sit up, sit back, stretch up, breathe
  • Ask for walk as approaching wall
  • Directly into shoulder-in 
  • What did this exercise accomplish:
    • Well... we really struggled with this one, but Bill seemed to think 2 weeks of consistent work would tighten these up
    • We were able to get a few transitions that were relatively clean
    • This is a movement that we struggle with and I can't say I totally understand why - Gav just kinda blows me off and trots through the transition.  This pony can collect, so I don't think that's the issue.
  • To the right I need to think of slight counterflexion - I really think this is just helping me get actual contact on the left (outside rein)
  • To the left, he seemed happy with them
  • What did this exercise accomplish:
    • the counterflexion really helped him let go of the tension in the base of his neck, which in turn freed up his shoulder
Haunches-in/Turn on the haunches
  • No comments - I consider that a win
  • Do shoulder-in, haunches-in on the rail as prep
  • Go down centerline and then shoulder-in
  • Pick a diagonal and ride haunches in on the diagonal
  • Give on the outside rein
  • Think of wrapping him around inside hip
  • What did this exercise accomplish:

Overall - I'm so happy with how it all went.  Gav warmed up great and was game for all of the exercises.  It was a heartening experience and I hope to ride with him again! :)

Here's a video of some trot work for no other reason than I like it.
And I'll end the post with a picture of Gavin giving me the middle finger after I cued the walk to canter a bit too hard. Pony has an opinion and isn't afraid to show it. :)

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh you guys look so good! Sounds like a great clinic ;)