Friday, 13 February 2015

Lucinda Green 2015

Wow, I'm unbelievably knackered. I have completely hit the wall and am barely able to raise the energy to move my fingers to write this blog, let alone go lock the chooks up or yell at my kids when they get out of bed!

What a great clinic! Yet again, Lucinda showed what a world-class trainer she is and made 21 riders very happy Vegemites at Canberra for two days. I am still a little amazed more people aren't beating down my door to go to her clinic since she is pretty much a game-changer for all of us. We are now, if we choose to forge ahead with her somewhat simple yet seriously effective method of training cross country, on the path to have the cleverest and most confident cross country horses around. And I, for one, will be forging!

Lucinda works on a pretty straightforward principle; it's the rider's job to get the horse to within 3 or 4 strides of the jump on a good line, at the right pace and in balance, then it's the horse's job to pick the take-off spot and jump the jump. Sounds easy? It actually is. When you leave your bloody horse's mouth alone on approach to the jump and train it to be in front of your leg and obedient to the bit. That's the hard part, I guess!

Organising a clinic is not a picnic, and I put in a shitload of work to make sure it ran smoothly, that the riders who had paid a comparative fortune to attend got the most bang for their buck, and that Lucinda was well looked-after. With a lot of help from my amazing husband, I think we ticked all three boxes. In return, I met some great people from as far away as the Hunter Valley, Melbourne and Sydney. Less than half the participants were from the Canberra region - says a lot about Lucinda's reputation outside Canberra.

The groups all had different issues to work on which was really great for those watching. The baby horses had trouble with line and go. The Intro/Prelim horses (like Annie) had problems with their riders! The Prelim horses worked on finesse and the PreNov/1* group had the most problems of all! It's so interesting what the first day of Lucinda's clinic (nominally called showjumping but really a skills session to set you up for the next day) shows up, especially regarding the gaps in training and especially in the horses moving up the grades. A lot of the more experienced or senior horses had real confidence issues, problems with stop and go, problems with the connection they had or didn't have with their rider. Fascinating.

Lucinda dealt with every combination individually, giving every single person and horse the time and attention to work through whatever was the core issue. She is a big believer in giving a horse time to work out the problem of the obstacle you're asking him to jump - learning to 'read' it. As she says, you can't give a paperback to a young child and expect them to speed read it in the way a teenager might. Slowing things down, coming back to trot if necessary (and the PreNov horses showed just how big a jump you can get over with ease from a trot!), and giving the horse enough rein to stretch its neck out and READ the jump, are all things she really hammered. It worked a treat too, with horses that had previously looked harassed or even scared looking comfortable and like schoolmasters.

Amongst all the excitement, Annie and I had our lessons and I couldn't be more over the moon about that horse. She really showed her potential over the clinic and Lucinda was effusive about her too, which of course makes me even prouder! Annie is starting to look like a grown up horse now, building a little topline, getting more confident, using her back and core a bit more. She tried so hard to go where I pointed her, reading those jumps as quickly as she could and just trusting that my hand will always allow her to look but my legs will always give her the answer if she questions!

She was just super and Lucinda had us jumping down the PreNov water, over the Prelim jumps and feeling like we could do anything. Such a great feeling on a new young horse! Such a great advertisement for the Irish Sporthorse (got lots of enquiries about her breeding), a breed Lucinda knows a great deal about.

Annie bravely leaping out over the barrels.

And putting an enormous leap back in!

Totally lost my knitting but tried to keep Annie in my 'tube' of legs.

She never really got the hang of just jumping normally over the barrels.

But I did get better at riding it!

But look at us stylin' over the prelim ditch to house!

And the second time over was even better. I'm over-releasing but she jumps so powerfully I get thrown back in the saddle so I think I feel I need to throw the reins away to make sure I don't catch her mouth. Need to work on that!

There was a lovely horse and rider from the Hunter - a very conflicted thoroughbred and his rider who had been together for four years and had only just been able to come out without the horse getting so dangerous, rearing and bucking, that he had to be simply led back to the float. There was a lot of confusion in the horse and Lucinda was convinced Andrew Mclean would be of great benefit. I talked at length with his wonderful rider (who could, coincidentally, sit anything!) and described the basics of learning theory to him. He sounded really interested and I hope he can get somewhere with his talented horse. After four years, he deserves it!

It was through talking with guys like that, and Lucinda too, that I am reminded how lucky, DAMN lucky, I am to have grown up with the Mcleans and their approach to horse training. It is second nature to me to train my horse to stand, to be clipped, to load and float well, to not swing its head around or stuff around when tied up, to lead easily without charging off in front or dragging along behind, to be saddled without biting, the put its head down to receive the bit or have the halter taken off, to stand to be mounted and not just walk off as I'm getting on.... Forget the riding stuff, I am amazed how many people seem to just assume their horse will be either well-behaved/quiet or it won't with no input from them. I am damn lucky to be in a position to know to train that stuff and to know how important it is. It's a lot of work but it's bloody worth it - especially when I have to deal with other people's poorly-trained horses and I realise how easy mine are in comparison. Easy? No, just drilled!

Anyway, enough of the soapbox! The clinic was simply brilliant and it was, again, an unbelievable pleasure to be breathing the same air as Lucinda Green. I still have to pinch myself when I see her there the first morning I pick her up - it's like seeing Meryl Streep or Glenn Close. She's RIGHT THERE! LUCINDA FREAKING GREEN! You know that feeling, right?

Next comp, Canberra in 2 weeks. I'm going to take Lucinda's advice and bring Annie on nice and slow. She's a big girl and needs time to harden and fill out and I want to avoid injuring her. Lucinda thinks if I can nurse her through the next two or three years, she'll be coming out guns blazing by 7 or 8 years old. And Lucinda said, Annie will take me as far as I want to go. It also turns out, Lucinda is a bit fan of barefoot, but also quite in awe of those who do it. She just doesn't see how it's possible. I'm guessing that's a common view in the elite equestrian world. I wonder if anyone's ever competed at WEG barefoot before.....Annie get your guns!