With frigid temperatures outside, the large heated indoor arena at University of Tennessee in Martin was a welcome surprise and made a huge difference to everyone’s comfort level. Robyn and I, along with friends Steve Thaemert and Jamie Caton, arrived at the campus with temperatures registering 15 degrees. We had driven my car so were able to pile in extra layers of clothes but fortunately didn’t need them.
As the clinic began, Robyn articulately explained groundwork principles in her usual sequence and Steve and I assisted her in checking out each student’s practice. After the riders bridled up and mounted their horses, Robyn successfully led them through the exact exercises from the horses’ backs.
The short serpentine was the next exercise Robyn introduced in the normal progression. Setting orange cones in a designated pattern, Robyn asked the riders to connect several straight strides with united half circles alternately turning left and right. This exercise allows horses to relax and become more comfortable in new surroundings because they are able to see things from both eyes and work through their blind spots in front and behind. It also works on lateral suppleness and balance through all four quarters.
As I took over and continued the flatwork warm up, I found the riders were now very in sync with their horses. I had fun adding gymnastics that incorporated rails on the ground and eventually small jumps in patterns that mimicked Robyn’s serpentine exercise with cones. Our mutual goal was to help the horses softly flow through the turning patterns by responding to the lightest aids from their riders. We call this “following a feel.”
We left Martin feeling very happy with the students’ progress as well as the 60 degree temperatures outside. What a difference a day makes!
Happy Horsemanship to all!