Halo and I attended a Stock Horse of Texas (SHOT) clinic this past weekend. I was nervous, but we made it through in one piece!
Halo and I learned a ton at the clinic, and she got a lot of compliments from the clinicians. It was so good to have eyes on the ground. The clinic was almost solely focused on the horse, not the rider, or at least that was my experience of it. I only got nagged once to sit back when asking for the lope, which is something I know I have an issue with when I get anxious. However, from the pictures I do want to yell at myself to get my heels down!
Halo was super herd-bound at first, and screaming for her buddies like crazy when I took her out to longe her in the morning. I was pretty nervous getting on her, because she seemed wound pretty tightly, but as soon as I got her feet moving she settled down to work. We did have a few more herd bound moments, but it was a good opportunity to work on that by keeping her moving when she was being a brat, and letting her rest and stand with the other horses when she was being quiet and standing still. We definitely need to do more clinics like this.
I have a few pictures. Unfortunately the ones in the indoor arena didn't come out too clearly, but you can get the idea.
Warming up at the extended walk in the pleasure class. We made a lot of progress in this portion of the clinic, and it was a great place to start the day. The last horse I trained had a habit of not reaching into contact and sucking behind the bit. I always assumed that it was because I fussed with his face too much, so I've gone the opposite route with Halo. However, the pleasure clinician had me take up the reins about four inches, and WOW it was like I was riding a whole new horse! Halo is no dummy. She immediately started to flex at the poll and look for the release from that pressure. This picture is before he had me take up the slack.
By now she's figured out how to really step under herself. This was near the end of the pleasure portion. She's a little overflexed here, but still hunting for the contact. We spent a good portion of time at each gait working on rating speed, and the exercises were extremely helpful. The main takeaway I got from this portion of the clinic is that I need to not be afraid to take up my reins and help her find balance instead of letting her hunt it on her own.
Next we went outside for the trail class. To be honest, I didn't learn as much from this portion of the clinic as the others. Halo is for the most part extremely good about trail obstacles. She didn't refuse anything, even this very narrow bridge that caused problems for a lot of the older horses. The only thing we didn't do was trot over the very large logs shown below. I didn't feel comfortable doing it, so we stuck to walking them this time.
Here's the narrow bridge, and Halo being a very good girl!
The tilty bridge was also no problem. We have a much smaller one of these at home that she's practiced on, so this one was no big deal at all. We went over it both ways, even the "hard" way by stepping onto the raised part first.
They had some Extreme Cowboy Race obstacles, but this was the only one we got to try. Halo walked into this with zero hesitation, though she did try to grab a bite of grass since her head was right at grass level as we walked through!
The one bit of homework we did take away from the trail class is that I need to teach her a cue to stop when she is backing up. The clinician suggested pressing my hand into the top of her neck. We discovered this hole in our training when she was backing through an L made out of logs, and almost backed straight over the corner of the L. Oops.
Below is the only really clear picture that came out of the reining class. We mostly worked on walk-lope transitions, which I haven't done with Halo at home at all. This was a little stressful, as I didn't feel great pushing her, and she was a bit stressed out by being asked to do something she didn't understand. Even so, I bit the bullet and she improved a lot through the class. We have lots of homework from this class, mostly involving transitions. Can't wait to work on this at home! However, look how nicely she was using herself at the trot by this point:
Lastly, we got to practice tracking a flag for the cutting portion of the clinic. I didn't get to chase a real cow, but maybe we will have the chance next time. Halo was one of the only horses that kept her ears absolutely riveted to the flag at all times. However, I've been negligent in teaching her to turn swiftly off her haunches, so we weren't too clean at this. She did make a beautiful, quick rollback one time and it felt amazing. I feel like I have a much better grasp on how to teach her to do rollbacks now, so it is something we will practice at home as soon as her other transitions are all sharp. I want to have a strong lope depart before trying to teach her rollbacks. I also need to make sure to be able to move her haunches and shoulders in either direction at will. She's much better at moving just her shoulders right now. Need to get the hip engaged!
Anyway, we had a grand time. The clinic was well-run and the instructors knew their business. I'd highly recommend a clinic like this for anyone who wants to improve their horse's responsiveness and training.