Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bittersweet; it's over.

After all the anticipation, the worrying, the sweating it ... it's over. And I'm oddly melancholy about it, haha. Jeff Cook was so wonderful. He had some great praise for me. I was a solid citizen this weekend; not good enough to warrant gushing praise, but did the exercises well enough that I pretty much earned a "Good, Jen", and that was about it. Here's a write up I did on COTH; will make another blog entry tomorrow describing day 2. It's my bedtime!

Well. Jeff Cook came to our farm to do a clinic. I'd never so much as seen a Youtube video of him, so really had no idea what to expect. I actually rode in this one for several reasons; it's at my barn, and I felt like I was finally ready. Audited George, Anne, Linda, and several other smaller name trainers, but never ridden in one. Felt like horsey and I both were ready, so threw him on the trailer and shipped him out to Patchwork!

My re-cap is mostly my group, which was 2'6-3'. The 2' group I didn't see a ton of, and the 3'-3'6 group I missed some today due to bathing, cleaning tack, etc.General impressions? Riding in a Jeff Cook clinic is like riding in a George Morris clinic without fear of scathing comments. Make a mistake? "Forget about it, it's ancient history! Nothing you can do about it now! Keep riding!"He gives such wonderful, insightful constructive criticism without making you feel stupid. The groups were 6 riders each, and had a mixture of pony kids, juniors, and adults.

I was flat out SCARED. I have been riding primarily on my own for the entire time I've owned my horse. I've brought him from the racetrack to where we are now. I've had a grand total of 2 jumping lessons from my boss, and 3 dressage lessons from the dressage trainer across the street from where my horse lives. I wasn't entirely sure we were ready, but here it is!We began by standing around Jeff in a semi-circle. Thanks to previous JC threads here on COTH, I had already switched out my stirrup irons for ones that DON'T have the black sure grip pads. He talked about how dangerous it is to have the martingales adjusted too short, and commented that we all had excellent length martingales. I should add that our clinic was comprised ENTIRELY of Patchwork Farm clients with the exception of one professional that shipped all the way down from VA because she really enjoys Jeff. She rode 2 horses; one in my group, and one in the highest group. I was the only "jumper", but it didn't bother him. He commented on how well we were all turned out. Went on his story about how he doesn't prefer the sure grip pads, and pointed out my plain ones. Then he went into another story about how he doesn't prefer plastic roller spurs (we ALL had those, except for one person), boo! Also mentioned how he prefers the buckles on the spur straps adjusted to the outside of the foot rather than in the center (guess who had painstakingly adjusted her outside centered spur buckles exactly to the center of the foot!).

Hmm, what else? No questions about our horses other than what divisions we usually show, which actually surprised me a little. I assume he wanted to come to his own conclusions about them.Off we went on the rail, and he stressed a forward, working walk, CORRECT hand position, and stirrup twisted correctly with outside branch forward. He picked on me about having too much foot in the stirrup until I finally told him my boots are too big for me in the foot! He wanted a "bright" posting trot, and picked on carrying the hands, thumbs up, wrists straight, shoulders tall, and head not poking forward. He was very exacting about wrists, and carrying the crop across the THIGH. He absolutely did comment that all riders should ride with a crop, and all horses should accept that crop. "If you carry your crop correctly, it should never bother your horse that you have it!"

One quote he said that I LOVED:

"We want our horses to be soft and bend and be correct. More often than not, they don't do it. But when they do, it's those MOMENTS we ride for! We must be satisfied with moments of greatness, and then we try again!"

That isn't exact, because I couldn't exactly write down notes, but that was the gist of it. I run Patchwork's lesson program, and Jeff knew it. He addressed me several times telling me things I should be stressing and emphasizing to my students. It was GREAT! He was very focused on the position of the ingate, and wanted us to THINK about that and use it to our advantage, turning before it, and constantly working AWAY from it.He complimented us on our steady hands. He went on a tear about riders that see saw, and was super happy that we all were able to maintain a nice, steady contact. He differentiated between full seat, half seat, and 2 point, and had us work in between the 3. We did the "zig zag" exercise, and he really was super picky about our horse's bend, and when he wanted us to change our posting diagonals. Always, he wanted our trot to be forward.Honestly, he was VERY kind during the day 1 flat work. We did NO no stirrups work, no lateral work, no 2 point at the trot, very minimal sitting trot, and no poles. We spent a good amout of time at the canter, just a plain 'ol regular canter. Lots of walk breaks, because we were blessed with the HOTTEST weekend of the year, yay.We warmed up with a canter into a crossrail in the center of the ring, focusing on STRAIGHT. That was all he wanted. Turn in straight, halt straight. We did that a few times, then added on a TIGHT turn in front of a jump down to a single diagonal jump. His focus was STRAIGHT, and pace. He did NOT care about flying changes; told us we could simple any time (and insisted to change through the SITTING TROT). Wanted us to turn away from ingate upon finishing. Wanted us to carry enough pace in. Did a LOT of single jumps, and one line with a "gallopy" 4 strides away from the ingate.Impressions from the day 1 jumping. Surprisingly easy; as I said, it was the ONE tight turn (which half the horses nailed, and half the horses had trouble with), lots of long approaches, and the one long gallopy line. NO lines of any sort other than the one. Things he helped us with, for ME, was to get up OUT of my full seat. My horse is still green to the jumps sometimes, and I tend to sit very deep and "chase" him. He had me come in in my 2- point, and drop down in half seat to organize and balance. Never had me full seat while jumping. Horsey never missed a beat; he was pretty perfect day one. For the other horses, he wanted them to be STRAIGHT, not be swappy, and carry enough pace. A few of the horses had trouble with the 4 strides because the rider just needed to make a decision and "stay on it!". Day 1 over, for me! I felt super confident. Was a LITTLE sad that I didn't get a TON of feedback. All of the riders in our group were capable, wonderful riders. Some had a few more issues and problems, and he addressed those problems, and had the riders repeat the exercises. I guess I was *just* good enough for him to give me a, "GOOD, Jen!", but not brilliant enough to earn more than that, lol. He wanted me to understand how my 2 point affects my horse's stride; it really lengthens it!

Geez, any one still reading, lol?

The higher group came in after the lunch break. This group was made up of the pro from my group, Janet's daughter, and 4 very talented juniors from our barn. Flat work began with a simple trot on the rail, again focusing on steady hands. They did a little more sitting trot than we did, but not by a whole lot. They stayed on half the ring most of the time, and eventually moved into a little haunches in. He talked about direct and indirect reins, and was very picky about the kids NOT using the indirect rein so much.

Talked about lateral aids vs diagonal aids, and had them apply those aids. Their warmup was a variation of jump the center crossrail, canter in a diagonal away from the ingate, and come back to the jump on a STRAIGHT line, NOT a slice. Worked with the individual horses on not anticipating their lead changes. Threw in some random turns and halts depending on what each horse needed. Actually really worked with Lauren and had her change a few things in the interest of REALLY helping her horse jump better, which was awesome. She is such a talented rider, it's amazing he could pick up ANY bad habits, lol!From what my exhausted brain can recall, the jumping wasn't MUCH different than what we did, once they'd warmed up with the back and forth over the crossrail. Long approaches, the gallopy 4 stride, and turning AWAY from the ingate.In each of our divisions, the jumps didn't get very big at all. The oxers had the front rails dropped to make them ramped and inviting, and the verticals were on the small side.

Day 2's recap will come tomorrow, after I've had some sleep, lol! 5 COTHers participated in it, other than me, so maybe some of them will chime in with anything I may have missed. Suffice it to say, I WILL hunt him down and clinic with him again; he was WONDERFUL. VERY kind, very correct and classical, and if we made a mistake he had us repeat it. Stressed NOT to "overdo" a "punishment". If the horse ran through a halt, he did NOT want to see ripping the horse up. No one used their crop the entire time, and wanted us to USE the spur once, then sit quietly and still so as not to make the horse dull. He had no problem with simple changes, and insisted on proper hands and legs at all times. Loves the half seat and 2 point for jumping, and likes the rider to switch in between the 2. He prefers the rider to carry a little pace to the jump, and not ride for the add all the time.


  1. Sounds like a ton of fun, and informative too! He sounds a lot like the first Olympic winner in '68 (and waaaay to many other accomplishments to go into here), William Steinkraus. If you haven't read his book 'Reflections on Riding and Jumping' I bet you would enjoy the heck out it! It is for the advanced jumper, but surpringly, I still got SO much out of it, despite starting out a greenie and being a novice myslef! I did a review on it on my blog a few months ago --I was so impressed by his teachings!!! Give it a gander, even if you don't normally read books on jumping, etc. this is SO WORTH IT! In my top three, and beats Morris out of the water in my humble (very humble) opinion! I am envious of your ability to ride in that clinic, it sounds like his teachings would be right up my alley. Classical, down to earth, and he sounded like a NICE guy! Good as!

  2. Sounds as if you had an interesting time, and learned a lot, judging by the length of this post!

    I really liked the quote that you added, and it reminded me of something that Pat Parelli has said: 'Expect a lot, but accept a little...' the times when the horse genuinely yields to us, and becomes a part of us, are what make horse training worth it!

    I would be interested to know why Jeff Cook recommends always riding with a crop, do you know the reasons?

    Kerrin Koetsier
    Parelli Central

  3. Hi Kerrin. I'm pretty sure it has to do with George Morris' belief that EVERY horse, ALL the time must accept artificial aids. George is pretty adament about that. Jeff trained with George, and of course has adopted some of his theories. Also, a crop can get you out of trouble: if you're riding down to a spooky, big jump, and your horse tries to say "no" at the point of no return, you effectively use your crop behind your leg, and hopefully it's enough to save both your hides!

    My horse doesn't love a crop. I hate to carry one. I DO, however, see the point, and try to carry it for that ONE time I actually have to USE it. 99.9% of the time, it just stays in my hand, over my thigh where it's supposed to stay:)

  4. Hey Jen

    That's interesting. I think that a crop can be a useful tool, but rather than a disciplinary tool, I see it as an 'extension of my body.' Of course this can be used for both firm and friendly reasons. For instance if I wanted to rub my horse in a place that I can't usually reach, I can use my crop or stick to get there. And likewise, if I needed to use my stick to back up a request (ie I've asked the horse to do something, but he needs an increase of pressure) I could use my stick too.

    I think it's really important to have a balance though, because many horses assume that a stick means go faster, when in actual case, they should be responding the the rider's request - rather than the pressure associated with the stick. Does that make sense?

    Parelli Central