Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kathy Casey Clinic

Well the video refuses to be loaded. I'll put it up eventually because it's a great comparison to see how much she has improved since the last video that I posted and you can hear some of what Kathy was working on with me.

I really enjoyed the clinic, it was very helpful. I'm not sure that Kathy really liked me, she was pretty strict and severe in her judgements on me, but I liked her. I've gotten used to dressage trainers being really strict. I think the only really "nice" dressage trainer that I've worked with is Clay Wright and I just love his teaching style.

I've ridden under Kathy several times for shows and she was really lenient in her scores (first time I got a 70% at a recognized show!) and gave great feedback that was effective and clear.

Anways she commented (well, a better description was that she complained) that I was being too nice to Jetta and was riding in a manner like "Oh I don't want to get in your way or make you upset." So I need to start demanding more of her and now that she's coming five we get to work on the "real" stuff, especially making her do an actual working walk, trot and canter.

She had us warm up by doing leg yields with the nose to the wall. Then she had me shorten my reins waaayy up to force her to work in a rounder frame so that she could lift her back and develop better muscling and she wouldn't have her hind end trailing. She wanted the neck to drop slightly and for her head to hang straight down from the poll. I could definitely feel when Jetta was doing it correctly because her back came up, she didn't lay on my hands and I could feel her stride become freer and more swingy.

She really picked apart my position, for which I was really glad, but she hated how I rode. I needed to have my elbows back by my side (funny story there, I know that I need to work on keeping my elbows closer to my body. Two years ago working with Clay he actually ended up duct taping my elbows around my waist. He recommended I polo wrap them to myself in order to help myself remember where they need to be. Maybe it's time to break out the polos again...) I also needed to "drape" my leg around the horse, turning my heels out and stop squeezing with my heels, which by the way was super hard for me because Jetta was getting really tired by the end. She lamented my hunter position (which funnily enough my jumping trainer complains about my position in that I'm not riding huntery enough) and had me really thrust my hips forward and shoulders back which felt super odd, but I'm sure I was sitting straight when I did it. I also needed to really sit up and back for the canter in order to keep Jetta from falling on her forehand.

Kathy said that Jetta was really cantering on her forehand which "wasn't natural for a Thoroughbred and should have been prevented much earlier in her training because it's easier to prevent than fix later on" though I must say it's been an uphill battle ever since I started cantering her to get her off the forehand so I'm not sure how I could have prevented it. It would be something good to know I'm sure.

One thing that bugged me a little was her comments on my bit. I've heard Mylers being referred to as severe by dressagy people simply because they are a little thin but she was kind of passive aggressive about it, saying at a rest when she was rubbing Jetta's forehead "I know baby, I'm sorry, that bit is just so severe for you, poor thing." Umm, really? That's pretty rude. And I could have picked a bit that was way more severe. I mean, it's an average diameter, the most common bits that I see are that size and it has the comfort barrel in the middle so at least it doesn't collapse on her bars in the way a single joint would do with the "nutcracker effect". I'm perfectly happy to try another bit, I do have a hollow mouth french link I've been meaning to try out. At least I didn't have a twisted snaffle or anything right?! Oh and she didn't comment on anyone else's bits even thought they were all the same size as mine... Humph.

At least she seemed ok with my saddle. We had lessons in pairs and the other girl riding with me had a close contact saddle that Kathy didn't like because it put her in a bad chair seat position and didn't allow her to ride effectively in a dressage position.

I think the reason she was so hard on me was because I had a young horse. She wanted to help me train her correctly so I can see where she was coming from. She did apologize afterwards for being so harsh, saying that she only had an hour with me and she just wanted to try to fix everything that she could in that short time period. Overall it was an enjoyable and educational experience. Jetta tried really hard and behaved very well. I hope to be able to clinic with her again, maybe by that time Jetta will be more developed and we can give her a better impression!

Oh and a great quote from her, "Where are your spurs? You're not riding with enough weapons!" Which makes me laugh every time I hear it. I think the first time I heard it was from the Dressage through the Levels clinic with Debbie McDonald and Janet Foy...

So because there are no pictures, I'll just leave you with the gorgeous sunset that we've been having every night.


  1. Hi, I'm new here, but I'm a little confused: Thoroughbreds were made to gallop and are naturally thrown on the forehand. Most of them are built a little downhill because it actually makes them faster. It absolutely makes sense to me that your youngun' canters on the forehand. She probably doesn't have the muscles to be collected- because she's 5.

    Ugh, I know nothing about this person but from your description I don't like her at all.

  2. Haha, I know. I didn't really get it either. She said it was a balance issue and I guess I should have been working harder to help her balance herself by sitting back but I wasn't doing it right. I liked her, but yeah, she was pretty strict. At least it was helpful! Jetta's been doing great since then :)

  3. Ack! Forgot to add this to my other post about the bit (obviously i'm going through your posts, I'm having fun!). It's an old thought that thin = severe and fat = mild. Some horses have small mouths, and a fat bit would be way more severe then the thin one. I love mylers, and I also love the fact that I'm not jamming a bunch of metal in my horse's mouth! She MAY have been commenting on the bit because of your mare's reaction to it when you took hold of the reins the way she wanted you to... I'm not really a fan of pulling them back and pushing them forward (horse 'compresses' the body by dropping their chest)--if you're curious about french dressage, I follow more of their principles of 'when hand, no leg; when leg, no hand.' No need to confuse the little beasties. ;)