A Great Shiny New Pair: A Clarke Johnstone Clinic Recap


So this weekend, Clarke Johnstone came to our barn for a clinic. I admit I didn’t know a ton about him besides the fact that he is from New Zealand, has won a  bunch of stuff, is always fashionably killing it at the jog, and he has a bunch of extra Es in his name. So, naturally I signedE up for the clinicE.

We ended up doing XC first, as the weather for Sunday was questionable. So, I had to really prepare my ballsE and give them some tender loving care and a shot of XanaxE. I immediately was put at ease by ClarkE’s demeanor: on the quieter side and not at all scary. And in looking at his tall, thin athletic figure, I realized I probably outweighed him and might be able to take him down if things got ugly. That was comfortingE.

So we began with very smallish jumps in the field, and things were going wonderfully. Just popping over some logs and a skinny stadium jump. No biggie.

We did a variation of that exercise a few times, trying to land on the proper lead each time. I felt like I was doing great. Warm balls, I wasn’t totally losing my shit, and I felt at one with the world.

And then, ClarkE said, “OK, we’re going to go over that cabin, left turn and back to this jump right here, up the mound and over that jump at the top, left turn to the logs by the fence.”

And there was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I feared something terrible was about to happenE.

That mound jump and the one before it are…. huge. Like shit your pants, don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, cry to your mama or just go ahead and die hugE.  If you only could have seen the collective look on all of our faces. I felt like in unison we were all internally screaming, “Did you forget we are the BeginnerE Novice group and some of us are CertifiedE WeeniesE?!?” I sat there debating my options:

1.) Tell ClarkE OH MY GOD NO, SON, THAT AIN’T HAPPENING.

2.) Slowly start backing up while the others were going. I could probably make it back to the barn in like ten minutes that way.

3.) Fake deathE.

4.) Weenie out of the first jump and just try not to eat shit on the mound jump.

I went with Option 4. I felt like AngelaE would beat my ass if I didn’t at least try. So while the first person was going, I meekly spoke up with a look on my face that expressed the feeling of holding in my shitE, pure unadulterated terror and with a hint of innocent eye batting to try to get away with this.

“Um, I have to say…. that jump there is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay bigger than I’m used to, and I am afraid I’m going to shit all over it and/or I am going to make my horse clobber it and/or I am going to scream my way over it and scare children in the next county….. so can I just try to have a slightly less pants-shitting experience and try to make myself go over the mound jump?”

OK, I didn’t say it like that, but that was the not-so-veiled translation. ClarkE agreed to my plan.

 

I DIDN’T DIE, OMG. And then he immediately said, “Well that was perfect. There’s no reason you can’t do that jump. Go try it.”

FuckE you, ClarkE. OMG. OK, not really, I actually quite like you, but Christ on a cracker, why you gotta do this to me? This is not in my contract. I mean, that was like a max Novice jump. But, again, I feared embarrassing Angela at her place of business, riding her horse and being her student. DAMNIT TO HELL.

So I squeaked out an “OK.” Actually, I’m not sure that my mouth truly made a sound. But I internally started screaming, and then I channeled Star Wars yet again: I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me. I was like that blind ninja priest whatever dude as he knew he was marching to his death, but had to accomplish his mission first.

 

AND I MOTHERFUCKING DID IT.

And then we did that a few more times in variations.

 

After that, we played with a skinny, and moved to the next field to go over a couple jumps at an angle and such. At that point, I was on cloud nine and maybe would have jumped a stack of children while riding bareback if you had asked me to.

So at the end of Day 1, I was so full of ballsE that it was hard to walk. I shocked myself. And that jump? IT WAS ACTUALLY TRAINING LEVEL. OMG. So, like any good hunter, I had to pose with my kill before I went back to the barn.

That evening, we had a group dinner at Angela’s house, and for once I was NOT the one to initially devolve the conversation into InappropriatE ThingsE. As it was an adult rider clinic, we could do that. And, it being Texas, he got to hold a gun (TOTALLY UNLOADED AND WITH THE CHAMBER OPENED. Safety, first, kids.)

I did not take that as a threat for stadium day, but I probably should have.

On Sunday, I watched other groups go, and it looked like they were jumping very level-appropriate heights. I learned a lot by watching, and this gem stuck out to me: “Pulling back is not your friend.”  Indeed.

We started off with pole exercises, working on adjustability of stride moving up and down. I only missed once to the first pole. HOLLA. Then we moved on to trotting into a jump, and landing on the correct lead. I was surprised on how well I did this. It’s almost as if OMG IF YOU ACTUALLY RIDE AND TELL THE HORSE WHAT TO DO, THEY WILL DO IT. Maybe I should remember to, you know, askE.

 

Then we started doing little courses, and things were still going well. I wasn’t really getting much in the way of comments or corrections. I was on fire, on the Wendy scale. ClarkE told me I HAD A GOOD EYE FOR DISTANCE. WTF? That might be the first time anyone has told me that. That’s been a super struggle.

Then the jumps went up a little bit. OK. I am handling it. Imma survive. Things are good. I’m an amazingE rider today, so jack that shit up! Yeah!

And I felt pretty good about that. Though it wasn’t perfect, I was riding like the best version of me. I know I still need to kinda go with him more, but I’ve made progress on so many levels. I was so happy with how the day was ending.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. I thought we were about to be done. But then I saw ClarkE make the jumps go up a liiiiittle bit more. And again, I started internally losing my shitE. At our turn to go, I tried to get Cabot revved up a bit and in front of my leg.

Me: Hey, Cabot. The jumps are a bit bigger. Think you can kind of, you know, move out a bit?

Cabot: I am tired.

Me: I know, buddy, but can you just kinda take one for the team and do one last course with the right pace?

Cabot: No.

Me: JESUS CHRIST, CABOT, WE ARE GOING TO DIE IF YOU DON’T.

Cabot: FUCK YOU.

So I not only was monkeying and kicking to try to get Cabot to just freaking GO, but my nerves make me revert back to a lesser form of human and flail my arms around like a crazy person.

And, despite it not being pretty – and, as you can hear ClarkE saying, I forgot how to ride because the holes went up – we survivedE. And measured at the end, and some of those bad boys were .95m. OMG.

 

In the end, it was a great learning experience for me. I know the issues I need to work on. But the biggest takeaway for me is that I realize now that I am not only a better rider than maybe I thought, but I’m capable of more than I realized. I think I’m going to come out of this weekend a much more confident rider than before, and my balls are astoundingly large and nearly uncomfortable. Gotta get some new breeches.

But the bad news? Now Angela knows this information too. My fuckingE life is over.

(And if you noticed I have the same shirt on both days, well bully for you and your sharp eyes. I unexpectedly stayed over so I didn’t have to drive over an hour to/from the barn, and AngelaE was kind enough to wash my shiz for me.)