Last weekend I attended a hunter clinic with Hunter Jumper rider and instructor Mike Pegg. I thought this would be a good opportunity to get Parker off property and see what I could learn about working him towards the hunters. I am not a hunter, nor will I ever be one, but I love learning about different styles and opening myself up to new ideas. I had not heard of the clinician before which can always be a bit worrisome, but Parker is such a good guy I knew we would make out ok.
To start the clinic off with a bang I forgot my bridle. I was cleaning it that morning and got distracted and forgot to put it in the trailer. Oops. I borrowed one and the best bit they could find was a ported Myler - a bit stronger than his fat full cheek but luckily Parker isn't too bothered by bits or small changes. I have been riding in a running martingale but at first search there wasn't a single attachment in the barn. Not to worry. Later we did manage to find one. Yay!
We started out with introductions and worked the horses in warm up at the end of the arena. Parker was noticeably "up" but even so his "up" is still quite tame in my world. Mike commented we would need to trot around quite a bit more to kill some energy before we started jumping. I kind of laughed because I thought he was being rather quiet! A lady in my group commented that her horse was very lazy and Mike replied "we like lazy horses here", and that's when I knew we certainly were not going to be the class favorites LOL.
After warm up we worked on a rectangle, squaring our turns. We worked on shortening the stride on the short side and allowing him to lengthen on the long side. Parker did this nicely as this is something I work on regularly with my guys - changing length of stride. He had me work on straightening him and ensuring my leg was on more. Big barrel and tiny legs = hard work. I enjoyed being pushed to keep my leg on more more more. This is something I work on but easily forget once I get going at home.
Once we were capable through the waiting line we started onto courses. Mike had us ride the 6 stride canter feel throughout the course and did not want us pursuing changes. He said when you come to a fence and don't see a distance it is better to hold and wait wait wait until the distance comes then to arrive and either chip or be long. He had me sit up to the fences which is the polar opposite of what I normally practice. I have learned to ride in a more forward seat since my naturally tenancy is to be left behind and the forward seat has fixed this problem.
I was thrilled with Parker - he jumped around all the scary fillers, got all the distances and waited like I asked. I am not at all a fan of this idea of riding and holding into a fence as it feels very backwards to me. I am curious if this is how the hunter riders who are reading are also taught? For me I much prefer to allow a more forward flowing stride. The distances find themselves and the changes are always much easily and fluid. I did as I was told though and Parker listened. I think Mike saw that Parker wasn't a crazy Thoroughbred but actually a very good boy by the end.
I'm not sure I will continue to ride this way at home in my training but it was certainly an interesting learning experience. This is something Penny could benefit from to slow her down and encourage her to wait for the fences. Overall I had fun, it was good to have Parker out to a new place and he behaved fairly while waiting in the middle of the ring. Would I ride with him again? Maybe if I was showing hunters, but I don't feel I took much away from the clinic other than a different way to ride into the fences and it wasn't a comfortable way to ride for me. I liked Mike though and would recommend him to others.
I am almost more excited for the fall winter clinic season than I am for show season...