Sunday, July 3, 2011

Brian Sabo ICP Clinic Rundown

Prolly the longest post I have ever or will ever do. Bear with me...

DAY ONE-Dressage
Dressage day dawned hot. It was about 102 degrees all day with a H.I. of 105. We were dumb enough to hold the days lessons outside. What were we thinking?

The way this clinic worked was this, Brian was here to teach the candidates who will be testing for their ICP rating to become certified USEA instructors. What he did was give demo rides every day before the candidates were given a chance to test their skills on us guinea pigs. I was SUPER excited to have the chance to audit and ride for free. Basically I got 10 free lessons a day! Listening sometimes proved more beneficial than the actual riding, since the riding just frustrated me. I am not a fan of taking lessons for one, and definetly not a fan of taking lessons from people with DRAMATICALLY different methods than from what I was taught and don't seem to understand that.

Brian Sabo-the man of the moment, USEA President, teaching Jen and her 15yo warmblood mare. They currently school 2-3rd level.
Brian Demo-ing a leg

Brian is HILARIOUS and spending four whole days with him was an experience. For someone who is so high up in USEA, he sure is down to earth and just plain nice. He knows his stuff though, obviously and listening to him talk and give lessons was amazing. SOmeone as in demand as him have the craziest schedules! He said he is only home 2-3 days a MONTH! And only rides ONCE a month. INSANE! He is so legit though. I wish he lived closer...

The theme of the weekend seemed to be, GET YOUR HIPS FORWARD and GET OUR SHOULDERS OVER YOUR HIPS and DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE SIT TO a down transition. Whoa. Hold the phone? DO NOT sit? Whatnow? Everything I have EVER been taught, ever, has been to sit during down transitions, to collect, before a fence...etc. Am I wrong? Apparently. This is a hard concept for me to grasp. Yankee and I's little brains were blown. Into itteh bitteh smitherin-ehs.

Raquel and Herman, a 3 yo? (he might be 4) trek. out of Windfall. Schooling Novice/1st level dressage. He is SO nice, I want him...
Callie Judy and her training level stallion, Bada Bing. I want Callie's polo!

Callie by far was the best at staying back with her shoulders, but not sitting deep at the same time. She has taken prolly hundreds of lessons with legit people like Brian and Jon Holling and whatever, so obviously, she is up on the crrent methods of training. I want her life. She is competing in Rolex next year and she is my age! Depressing. 

The only dressage pic of Yankee and I :(

So our dressage lesson was DISMAL. Everything I have been taught or done to train Yankee was deemed incorrect and wrong by the ICP cand. perspectives. It sucked ass hard. The concept of NOT sitting deep into down transitions or collection was SO hard. So hard my friends. Oh and I was informed I have the "wrong" saddle. Awesome, since I basically broke the bank buying this one. 

Yankee was mega confused since I have trained him, the lighter the seat, the more forward we go, and the deeper I go, the slower or more collected.  I understand I don't want to be banging on his back, but I never thought I was since I sit, but use my core to keep from bouncing. Hard to explain, but I'm sure many of you dressage riders know what I mean.

So anyways, we started off just warming up then went straight to leg yeilds and shoulder-fore. Easy right? No. Not by a fat chance. Apparently, I use the COMPLETLY wrong aids for shoulder -fore, even though they work to get a good shoulder-in/fore on my horse. So, when I was forced to use the "correct" aids, all he did was stop or go was frustrating. 

I feel that not EVERY horse HAS to be trained the same way. He is an OTTB, not a warmblood who was bred to do dressage and has been classically trained since the age of two. I had to use crazy different methods inhis training, not only because he is off the track, but because he was SO freaking unbalanced from the get-go. I don't know if I can convince or relate my struggle with my differences on this issue to you all, but the instructors were not grasping that this is how my horse was trained and that he produces a pretty dang good shoulder fore with the aids I have used, which btw, are NOT that different-I just use my legs opposite than what is "correct".

So anyways after the horrid shoulder-fore, we moved on to counter canter practice. My instructor wasn't the best at communicating her ideas, even though she was very experienced as a rider, as a teacher she seemed weak. I was confused easily, since she seemed to have contrasting ideas. Anyways, after brian redefined the excercise, we finally had some beautiful work, but I felt slashed. Not only was I about to pass out form heat exhaustion, but I felt like I had been made an idiot. EVERYONE was watching me sucked.

Hannah on her half Perch/TB, Pronto. He is 9 and schooling 2-3rd level dressage. Hannah has ridden up to PSG and was working with Callie Judy, a 3* Young Rider who is also a ICP candidate. Taking a water break in the EXTREME heat. 
Fav pic of the WHOLE weekend.  Pronto, for being half perch, has an AMAZING trot (and canter).
Emily (Cheryl's assistant trainer) on Kallie, a 6 yo trek. mare, out of Windfall. LOVE this mare and her trot!
Emily working on her two point to give Kallie a lighter, more adjustable canter.

There it is!
Raquel and Actress, a trek., Grand Prix dressage mare turned broodmare turned project horse. She likes to make faces!
Raquel and Actress workin' that fab trot of theirs. This mare can extend and move like no other I have ever seen, even with that big belly of hers!!

Mostly all the instructors worked on lightness in the horses and how adjustable they are. Transitions and lateral work was a huge fav too. Yeah, I was the only one who looked like a complete idiot in front of the USEA president, countless CCI* riders, my friends and Cheryl and Tim. UGH.

DAY TWO-Flatwork for Jumping
Since it was so hot Thursday (102 without heat index.) we decided after melting outside the day before, that we'd try indoors. Even though it was stuffy, we weren't dying-just sweaty.
Again, Brian showed the candidates how to give the lessons by giving lessons demos. Today was all about position and how adjustable a horses gait can be when you use your body correctly.

 Again, I had problems with this concept. I am not stupid. I am not a horrid rider. I was just ALWAYS taught (drilled even) that the lower you are to the horse, the better. Granted that was 7 years ago and possibly styles have changed, but ever since I left Janice in Ohio 4 years ago, I have kept what she taught me all this time. Apparently, this is wrong. What a surprise.
Brian and Tori Holekamp and Angie, a 4 yo trek out of Baron Verdi? (I think)...discussing.
Callie Judy (3* rider and ICP candidate) and Brian discussing logistics. Callie is on her 5yo Holsteiner? stallion Bada Bing, he currently goes training level.
Callie and Bing working on turn on the forehand to loosen his butt
Cheryl Holekamp and Brian watching
Emily (Cheryl's assistant trainer) and Kallie, a windfall "baby". She is 6, going training level and in foal to Baron Verdi. Allie, from LA, the ICP candidate, using canter poles to lighten Kallie's canter.
Hannah a PSG rider, with her Perch/TB cross and Jim, an ICP candidate. Discussing how to use her seat to lengthen and shorten Pronto's stride.
Yanks and I

So, again, new f****** concepts were introduced to me Friday that I struggled with pretty hardcore. Callie taught me Friday, and even though she is a new teacher, she was pretty good.

Like I said before, I was drilled that because Yanks is an OTTB, the closer to his body, the better since he was (and still can be) a squirrely little bitch. The lower the center of gravity on a baby OTTB makes sense-its what they're used to and it helps with staying on! Well, I probably shouldnt've stuck with that method, but I can't afford lessons, I've just stuck with what I learned with Janice. Again, I know it was prolly proper at the time. But he is a big boy now and I have my big girl panties, so its time to become adult riders with proper galloping positions. Tis' most difficult after 7 years of galloping in the same, scrunched up fashion. Woot.

Callie set up "chutes" on a 20m circle that I was to make my transitions in. First we went from trot to walk. Shall we look at the complete fail that was this transition? Feast your eyes....
Yeah tthats bad...and I didn't even know it...look how horrific this is, hollow/collapsed/tight back, stiff joints, and open mouth. All from my seat driving into him like I've always been taught to do. Sit to slow, lighten to go forward, not lighten to slow and lighten even more to go forward...totally retarded concept in my mind.

So obviously, my methods are the root of my problems. Easy to identify. Easy to change? Not so much. However....
A HELLA better transition than the previous....isn't it? Yeah look at me sitting tall and light.

After a bit of work on that, Callie wanted me to practice the positions, which btw are freaking retarded hard to do when your muscles are programed to scrunch, not stretch. I lost my balance like a noob about every 3 seconds. Poor yankee.
Gettin' that canter extended but full of impulsion

So we kept working. Sitting tall without falling back, but NOT touching the saddle into down transitions is about damn impossible for I just tried my utmost hardest. It was a complete fail. Again. I couldn't even get a decent trot to halt or canter to trot transition. What am I, a beginner? UGH. Doesn't help that Yankee was confused beyond belief and was getting so frustrated. He started to anticipate the transitions and they turned to crap. He was all uppety and angry...he started pinning his ears, kicking out, carrying his head high, prancing...the whole deal. I TRIED saying that this was new and confusing to us and I can't help how we've been taught, but it was frustrating to both of us. Obviously, Callie's method works, but we both need to get used to it before everything gets better. I basically was crying by the end of the lesson. I felt like a complete beginner and was SO embaressed. AGAIN.
A better transition  from the canter to walk. His back isn't collapsed and he stayed active and relaxed.
Callie Judy (a ICP candidate) showing me how to use my seat and bring my body up. I laugh so hard every time I see this picture!
Jim and Raquel on Windfall. Jim showing Raquel the proper two-point position.
Emily demo-ing the counterbend to straighten

Overall, Firday was a hot, humid frustrating day for everyone. The Instructors were being pretty hard on us, and we were tired. Blah. I was excited for XC though...

DAY THREE-Cross Country
Also dawned seriously humid, but only 96 degrees! WHOA!
The humidity I think is worse than heat though. 
Again, Brian gave demo's and the goal of the day was rider position to improve horse's gaits and jump.
Brian Sabo showing Tori Holekamp the correct galloping position
Brian  teaching the group about something important, lol
Callie Judy (3* rider) on Kallie (6yo trek., out of Windfall, training level, in foal to Baron Verdi) demo-ing the perfect low (forward) gallop position and forward movement.

This one isn't so hard for me. Its when we are supposed to lighten the horse (prep phase) where we raise our shoulders/hands and push the hips forward without falling back. Yeah. Not used to it. Hard. Taxing. New. I hate.

A really bad take-off that Emily saved, Thomas is the horse.
Emily on Thomas (out of Windfall), a 4 year old trek. going novice
Emily (Cheryl's assistant trainer) on her prelim level OTTB, 60-60
Callie Judy (ICP candidate, 3* rider) on Windfall
Windfall making the intermediate fence look like cake

My XC day lesson sucked even worse than the flatwork, and I had the same instructor as dressage day. The was I compare her teaching is to a scene from Forgetting Sarah Marshall when the guy is teaching him how to surf. He says, "ok do less. Ok do more. Ok, no you're doing too much. No, do less than that. Do less. OK that time you didnt do anything, do more. Ok, no do less, just lay there" Yeah like that. Or the Yoga scene. The lady says "arch your back while keeping it flat." He says, "Um, I feel like those are contrasting ideas." She says, "No, see, you arch your back...while keeping it flat." YEAH, she was that confusing. It was like, "OK sit tall, but down. Ok, no, sit more tall, but don;t lean back. Ok, no move your hips forward but down" WTF!! I was so you want me up or down!? 

The whole position thing killed me and we spent like 30 minutes on it. I only got to jump one fence and it did not go well. I am not used to not driving, and yankee is NOT by any means used to me trying to find my freaking balance and not driving him to every fence. Something we need to work on I guess....AGAIN I felt like a total idiot since we only jumped one BABY fence and each time it sucked. WTF! We do not suck, these are just WAY too new of methods, way too fast.

DAY FOUR-Stadium
Day 4 started off super hot as well...and really humid. It was 92 by 10 am! Thankfully there was a slight breeze.

AGAIN, position, position, position, po-freaking-sition.

Tesa, BN level. I love action shots, yankees twin too btw! They look so similar in the face!
Yankee's twin captured mid-air

SO. I honestly did not think I was THAT bad of a rider. I knew I had a habit of jumping ahead, but I never realized how badly that affects my horse. he kept the fences poopy low, but he wanted me to fix my body-which again seemed impossible since I was a hunter for 6 years before I became an eventer and from that I've just never been able to totally cure that. Doesn't help that Janice had me scrunch low to Yanks in lessons.

Yankee was rather lazy for once, and I had to push him on rather than slow him down. Jim wanted me to hold my "balanced position" 3 strides before the fence, which is difficult for me. I felt liek it tipped me MORE forward, almost like I was throwing myself into position rather than letting Yanks push me into position. It didn't work. As you can see....
Trying to keep my body back while Jim looks on
Working on the canter, my position too far forward for anyones taste here this weekend.

So instead of forcing myself into position like he wanted me to, I just let Yankee push me into it, and kept my body very still...he was like "OMG so much better!". DUUUUUUUHHHH? Pitching yourself forward before a fence is not a good thing, DUH. Also, IDK about ya'll but doing baby fences at a trot is almost NOT even worth it. hike those bitches up and THEN we can work on position.
He says this is so boring mom...geez. Not easy to work on a jumping position when all your horse does is canter over the fences.
The biggest fence we jumped all weekend...sadface! WTF! So yeah, All this new shit addled with our brains and I am burnt out. And depressed. EVERY DAMN DAY I felt like an idiot, a worthless rider, misunderstood and a complete failure.

Callie Judy and Windfall and his funny tongue

Callie  and Windfall jumping the square oxer nicely

I considered the weekend GREAT for learning. It was SO cool to meet Brian and see how the legit people teach and all that they know. I will take away tons of information from this.

 But I think it was a fail on my part. Possibly I am being too hard on myself, though, since all of this is not my fault. I'm sorry I'm poor and can't take lessons with the most legit people ever. Or even once a week for that matter. Sorry I'm poor and can't afford the best of the best saddles that fit both of us perfectly. Sorry I'm poor and can't afford a 30k eventer who was born doing flying changes and extended trots. Sorry. Sorry sorry. can you tell I'm depressed now and totally down on myself? i was feeling GREAT the past 2 weeks with the "progress" we've made. I was confidant in myself and my horse. But, the whole revelation of the fact that EVERYTHING I know is outdated and/or wrong, I feel like shit. It doesn't help seeing riders like Callie who are already at the 3* level, major national/international champions, and going to Rolex, all before her 21st B-day. 

Sometimes I REALLY hate being poor. Its like I will NEVER make it just because of that fact.

So if you actually made it this far, congrats, sorry I'm a sad Sally.


  1. It is really hard to change old habits and like you, I can't afford lessons right now on a regular basis. All you can do is concentrate on the stuff that worked for you and try to duplicate it at home. Clinics can be overwhelming, they are trying to throw a whole bunch of stuff at you and hope that you get something worthwhile.
    Great report on the clinic, thanks.

  2. I think you're being too hard on yourself. And I think a lot of riders have been where you are, I know I have! And it does suck - but I think everyone does have a slightly different riding style and they're all "correct" but they just work better for different people and/or horses. It sucks that your intructor was so confusing! It makes no sense and I hate it when people try to explain stuff with contrasting ideas. And it's interesting that they were telling you *not* to sit down into the transitions because that's always what I've been taught too - maybe not sitting super deep because you don't want to push the back too far down, but still... Interesting. At least you learned stuff, right? And I've always been envious of your jumping position :)

  3. Ya know, I would not be so hard on yourself at all. A LOT of people (myself included) have big issues with some of the goods the ICP is pushing. There really is NO one way to ride/train a horse. If what you have done in the past works for you and your horse, I see no need to go reinvent the wheel. I have had people tell me mutually exclusive things. I have to go home, think about it, play around with it, see what works with me and my horse and THEN decide how much of it I pitch in the garbage and how much I keep.

    Just because someone bought an expensive horse and can pay for lessons with a BNR, doesn't make them better than anyone. You should be riding with someone who are compatible with, someone you have fun with and someone who brings out the best in you and your horse. This may very well NOT be ICP -- in most cases, it's not for me either. So cut yourself some slack and enjoy your horse for who he is and don't worry about trying to force him into some theoretical mold.

  4. actually you can make it poor. My trainer was shortlisted for the olympics twice but she couldnt go (once she had back surgery and once we boycotted). She never had a single lesson until she turned 25, she used one saddle for all 3 phases, used a bike helmet until prelim level, evented horses she bough for 75 dollars, and worked off showing by also being a full time groom! You will make it some way some day! dont get to hard on your self! consider yourself lucky for all the things u have! :)

  5. first off, I'd like to echo what everyone else said, don't be so harsh, you're great, and most importantly, yankee is adorable. (xxo!)

    One thing to consider is that you were getting lessons from people LEARNING to teach. If there's one thing I've become very aware of, its the fact that coaching/teaching/instructing is a totally different skill than actually DOING. I've met plenty of experts who lack the ability to effectively describe what they are looking for or coach in a productive manner. me thinks that might have been a contributing factor. A bad coach can frustrate even the most patient rider...

    Also, by your own admission you don't take a lot of lessons, and I think that might be part of what you're feeling too. I don't lesson much anymore, but my younger endless weekends of clinics (and weird college trainers) managed to dull my sensitivities to the rather unrefined bedside manners of more than a few random trainers.

    I definitely notice that I take things more personally (and more to heart) when I haven't lessoned in a while. Whereas when I'm regularly riding out with people, my filter gets better and I manage to stop being so hard on myself (and also to dump out the garbage that doesn't work for me or my pony).

    Regardless, I think you're a trooper for making it through the weekend, that sounds trying under the best of circumstances. I mean, wow.

  6. Windfall is absolutely freaking gorgeous! Okay, sorry, just had to get that out of my system hehe. By trek do you mean Trakehner? If so they sure are common around your area lol. We hardly see them here.

    Sorry the clinic didn't go as you had hoped. I'm with everyone else though. I think you're being really hard on yourself. I think the problem was that you were having lessons from beginner trainers not you. Don't take it personally. I still sometimes have trouble understanding my trainer who I've known for years and years and adore, so don't feel bad for getting confused by the beginners. Take what the pro had to say, use what you can and just toss the rest of it. It's not worth stressing over. Be proud of how far you've come with your beautiful boy and use was works for you. Training horses should never be cookie cutter methods for every horse. They are individuals just like us.

    Oh and just for comparison I totally learns to sit in downward transitions. That's the "dressage" way to do it. The not sitting thing must be something funky that eventers came up with. I've noticed there are a lot of differences between dressage riders and eventers. It sounds like your old trainer was a dressage trainer. Anyway I hope you're feeling better now. We think you're totally awesome. Who cares what a bunch of strangers think?

  7. AW THANK YOU :) I love all you guys :)

    As for trek, yes that means Trakehner, I just can never spell it, ha! Windfall is amazing, I can't believe I've gotten to handle him. Most of them are his babies, but yeah warmbloods (in the english realm) are more popular in MO than TBs or other breeds.