Oh, the off season. That wonderful time of year where we can kick back a little, not worry about the pressure of shows and just enjoy our ponies. That is, until you get bored and/or need help with your hairy, yakky mammoth horse. And your barn mates talk you into going to the upcoming Doug Payne clinic, because Doug Payne.
Yeah. You want to know why we have an off season? BECAUSE THE WEATHER IS BALLS. OH MY GOD, WHY DID I GO TO THIS CLINIC? Oh, because it was awesome.
It was seriously the most frigid weekend of the season. Teeth were chattering. I couldn’t feel my toes. But it was all worth it.
My favorite, Sarah, was here visiting from Atlanta. She was sweet to accompany me on Friday, before she went home on Saturday. We arrived at the clinic site around lunch time and settled the ponies in. I wasn’t riding in the private dressage lesson until about 4, so I got to hang out for a bit and watch. I was immediately impressed by how down-to-earth Doug Payne seemed, and I sighed knowing that it might not be my day to die. MAYBE. You just never know.
When it was my turn to ride – sharing a time slot with Melissa from my barn – we did the requisite introduction of “12-year-old Percheron/TB cross with the TB hiding, he’s always on the forehand, I’m a weenie, we need more from behind, OH AND SOMETIMES HE DOESN’T TURN.”
Yeah, Ollie’s really regressed there lately with the whole no-left-turny business. But we were going to straighten that out today! So we warmed up a bit, and then tried the whole turn-left-across-the-middle routine. And like clockwork, Ollie cranked his neck like boss, popped his shoulder, flipped me off and surged forward, threatening to run into people at the end of the arena. “FUUUUUUCK!!”
Yeah, I said “fuck.” In the Doug Fucking Payne clinic. I am so klassy.
So he asked us to collect and do it again. And he figured us out in those short minutes: keep the bend, but stop bending SO MUCH that you invite that right shoulder to pop out. And when I feel him start to resist, OH MY GOD SEND HIM SO FAR FORWARD THAT HE’S ALREADY CELEBRATING THE FOURTH OF JULY. Ok, maybe he didn’t phrase it like that, but you get the gist. And for the love of god, Wendy, freaking use your outside leg more.
So, progress was made, and I started mentally preparing for Saturday.
So I had the benefit of watching all the other groups go before us on Saturday, and there was I guess not quite gridwork, but the same principles applied for straightness and correctness, and proper striding. And there was an exercise of spiraling in and out of two sets of poles set on different-sized circles. It looked stupid easy. BUT IT WASN’T. Especially when you throw in the fact that your horse doesn’t turn left all the time.
What direction did we go first? Left. OF COURSE WE DID. Doug, if you are reading this, I want to let you know that I am on to your shenanigans and you totally did that to me on purpose.
So when it was my turn, we of course struggled. Even at the trot.
The struggle is real, yo. Hear him say that I was giving up? Yeah, because I was afraid that Olls would run into the other horses otherwise. Because Ollie ain’t got time for avoiding horses or people. So then, the most fateful question to ever be asked was posed.
“Can I get on him for a minute?”
WELL OF COURSE YOU CAN, DOUG FUCKING PAYNE.
His first comment? “Wow, he can be really strong, huh?” Yeah. Yeah.
And then he invited Ollie’s shenanigans with a looser rein, and opening the arena gate. LOL. And then, Ollie pulled his stunt. And proceeded to have his ass beaten. And he totally knew he was in trouble.
I got back on, and we made progress. AND HE FRIGGING TURNED LEFT. ::self-high-five::
And then we went on the the jumping exercises.
We started with this:
And in this clip at about the minute mark, you will see Ollie again NOT turn left, and so we accidentally jumped a jump we weren’t meant to. WHOOPS.
And ended with this: two jumps set at an angle, and we were to jump a straight line
It was great instruction, and probably the mental ass-kicking – and Ollie’s physical ass-kicking – that we needed.
We made it through half the day on Sunday for the stadium coursework day, and seriously, we could not make it any longer. My autoimmune shiz was acting up in the frigid cold, and Felicia was sick, so we decided to call it a day and bail, sadly. But we’ve since set up those exercises at home and MAYBE I HAVE DONE SOME OF THE BENDING LINES. Maybe. As soon as my balls warm back up, I will do more.
But overall? Fantastic clinic. Best I’ve been to yet, and he was so down-to-earth and approachable with everyone.
Plus, I got to have Ollie’s ass kicked by a Rolex rider. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Big thanks to Mandy and Melissa for taking video, to Felicia for not killing me for almost running into her a million times, and to Sarah for braving the cold just to watch her bitch ride.