Monday, September 5, 2016

Griffin & I Clinic with Stephen Birchall

This past weekend Griffin and I headed to Maryland to attend a clinic and ride with Stephen Birchall.

When Stephen was last at Austen's barn in June, I also attended. I had liked the past reviews Emma and Austen wrote of his clinics/lessons and LOVED his teaching style in person when I watched both Emma and Austen ride with him. So, obviously, as soon as I was able, I hopped aboard the Birchall train for a lesson of my own on my own horse!

Arrival Day

I had originally planned to head to Maryland on Friday, but it was the last day work for one of my coworkers; we threw her a going away party - complete with dunk tank because we believe in total shenanigans - that evening. So, instead, I struck out for Maryland with a whopping hangover early(ish) on Saturday morning.

I'd bathed Griffin Friday and left him in the barn in preparation for Saturday's AM departure. He's been really odd behaviorally lately due to the herd dynamic change and a dislike of his job as a lesson horse (this has been/will be remedied this week). He pitched a royal fit about the hose during bathing and broke a lead rope and scratched his nose and also pitched a royal fit about getting on the trailer the following day. But after we had a bit of a knock-down drag-out disagreement over loading, he got on and we were off.

The 4 hour drive was relatively uneventful and Griffin hauled well - minus the whole whinnying EVERY time I slowed down. Sorry residential areas we alarmed/disturbed, he's needy. The worst of the drive was definitely the final two hours when I was into the more urban areas and the temps were HOT. I don't have AC. Kenai and I were a little miserable.

I pulled into Austen's fancy barn right around 1p, found one of the barn managers, and got Griffin settled in his stall for the weekend. Despite swearing up and down that I would take a picture of my janky 2-horse stock trailer hooked up to my 2001 Toyota 4Runner parked at this ritzy mostly-dressage barn, I forgot to take the photo. I did have a really good giggle about it though. Country Mouse goes to the City!

Nicole showed up as I was getting Griffin settled. She lives very nearby and was also interested in his clinic. The more the merrier! We headed to the arena to watch Stephen once Griffin was settled. Austen's lesson with Stephen was at 2p and we knew we could wait for her there (she was getting Pig ready at another barn on the property while we'd been settling Grif).

Uncertain of his living arrangement for the weekend

Austen and Pig entered the arena shortly after we'd settled. Nicole took the role of filmographer and I had my DSLR so we set to work documenting her lesson. I know she'll ultimately tell the story of it, but the nitty gritty was that she got a bit of a personal training session in the saddle and then Stephen hopped aboard to work through some things with Pig. Each intensely focused part of the lesson looked incredibly hard! Both Austen and Pig were sweating bullets by the end (ITWASSOHOTANDHUMIDOHMYGOD), both did AMAZINGLY though.

After Austen's lesson and after she'd tended to Pig, I changed (Nicole didn't recognize me in my tall boots and Kastel sunshirt because I "looked the part" so well. This was highly amusing to us both at the time.) and tacked Griffin for a ride. Goals? Go down to the jump ring (because JUMPS) and then introduce Griffin to the indoor where we'd have our lesson the following morning. Yes, I hiked up my stirrups on my dressage saddle for jumping. #noshame

Nicole and Austen followed Griffin and I over to the jump ring and we proceeded to have a fantastic little session.

Zoomies. Correct lead optional.

The heat was absolutely OPPRESSIVE. Griffin and I were both affected by it. Regardless, we had a great little ride.

This was Griffin's first really big trip off property and first trip out of state. He's never been in a trailer more than an hour! I threw so much at him this weekend and he handled it all with relatively effortless aplomb. He's the very best.

Griffin and I had the very best time (minus the heat) jumping on this day. Nicole played jump crew and changed up the jumps and sent me around a small course while Austen photographed. I felt so spoiled! I cannot express how grateful (and excited) I was to not only have a photographer (I usually set my phone on a tripod at home) and a jump crew (I usually get on and off and on and off and on and off at home to adjust/fix jumps). It was such a luxury to have friends present and to have a legit jump ring instead of a field!

Griffin giving me some try while still saying "WTF"

Griffin wasn't totally certain of the new-to-him jumps/colors at first, but he did jump everything he was pointed at the first time, except for one jump which was totally different in appearance from anything he'd seen before - so I'll credit his hesitancy on that. The only other major problem we encountered outside was that he was not picking up the correct canter lead consistently. I'm embarrassed to admit I have issue telling this quickly from the saddle - it's definitely something directly attributed to NOT having lessons most of my life. Experienced eyes on the ground are invaluable.

Take aways from the session? 1) I need to get more red colored things to jump at home and I need to get other ridiculous colors/obstacles to jump (a fact I've been aware of for a little while now). 2) I can  jump in a dressage saddle. 3) My position is pretty strong over lower heights considering I've still had no formal instruction, but I definitely can stand to tweak and perfect it more. 4) My little grey gelding is a Very Good Horse and he really loves jumping. 5) No amount of light-colored clothing makes this kind of weather easier to endure. The progression of my red face is amusing to see in the photos though lawlz. #redheadproblemz

He really likes this job

With a semi-successful venture around Nicole's course, I lowered my we all headed up to the indoor to see how Griffin handled that.

Verdict? Minus the initial entrance into the indoor, he could have cared less. The windows didn't cause him stress, the other horse riding in their didn't cause him distress, and the mirrors didn't cause him distress - but he was very fascinated looking at himself.

Obligate mirror selfie in the fancy indoor

Austen had me ride him a bit more just to be certain, and I tried to get him to be as responsive and wonderful as he is at home with failed results. Clearly he WAS affected by the new area, even if he wasn't demonstrating that fact very dramatically with his behaviors. He objected to the bit (a French link snaffle vs. the usual Myler combination) a LOT and did NOT want to halt/transition with any grace, additionally, he was still picking up the wrong lead basically every time I asked for it. I became increasingly irate over him casually flipping me the bird (despite trying to correct issues based on recommendations and support from Austen and Nicole). Ultimately, my irate attitude resulted in Austen jumping on Griffin in boat shoes and my sweaty helmet that was way large for her. Because why not?

Griffin did better for her, but didn't LIKE that he had to be better. Still, it was a better note to end on than what I'd been getting from him!

Opinions, Griffin has them.

I let him be done once Austen finished riding. It was hot and he'd given a great effort in a very new place. Good boy, Griffin.

Once the pony was bathed and settled back into his lush stall and I was showered and not the stinkiest human ever, Nicole and Austen and I checked on Pig once more and then headed home for the evening.

Lesson Day

Nicole and Austen and I woke early on Sunday. My lesson was at 9a, Austen's was at 10a, and Emma's was at 11a. We'd originally planned to watch one of Austen's friends have a lesson with Jeremy Steinberg at another nearby barn at 7a, but some thrown shoes overnight eliminated that plan! Instead, we caffeinated, grabbed a bite to eat, and headed over to Austen's barn so I could get Griffin ready for our lesson!

I may have never had a dressage lesson (hell, I haven't had a *real* lesson since I was a child and those were a lot of "heels down, toes in, eyes up" and not much else!!) and I may not be a dressage rider (yet), but damnit we (Griffin especially) were going to do our damndest to look the part! Kid was bedecked in black and white head to toe and looked sharp. White polos (thanks, Austen!), white saddle pad with black piping (purchased used from a blogger years back), black Wintec bridle (purchased used from JenJ years back), black/white browband from his Distance Depot halter/bridle, black Ansur dressage saddle, and Toklat woolback girth. I wore a polo and black tall boots.

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He's pretty cute.

I warmed Griffin up outside, working him through every gait and making certain he was moving okay and that the hamsters were on their appropriate wheels for the day. Satisfied he was his good self, I dismounted to walk him into the indoor.

Stephen finished up with his first lesson for the day and then asked me to tell him about Griffin. I told him he was given to me as a project as a long yearling and all of his training was what I'd done myself from the ground up. He loves to jump, has completed a 30-mile ride, and has an absolutely insatiable need to please. I've worked on some dressage concepts with him and I do think he'd be very good at it.

As I told Stephen these things, he looked Griffin up and down and all around. He sympathized with Griffin's rough beginning, sympathizing in the right places and then nodding in accord with all of the good points. He asked about my saddle and I was really surprised to hear how much he approved of the treeless Ansur. "They're so good for their backs," he noted. Agreed. And I can feel the horse more through them - so with Q who likes to be Queen Spazz and Spook I can feel the muscles in her back drop before she actually wigs out. Fraction of a second of warning beats no warning at all?

I told Stephen I really hadn't had a far as a formalized lesson goes. I know some, but not a lot in the grand scheme of most people he probably deals with, and I was a blank canvas for him to paint for the day. Whatever he deigned, we'd do.

Attentive learners, we tried to be!

If you're so inclined, videos of my entire lesson can be watched on a playlist on YouTube right here. Nicole is the greatest ever and filmed the whole thing for me. I'll insert screenshots from the lesson below along with photos Austen and Emma nabbed for me. Bloggers are the best because they fully understand the need for All The Media.

Stephen gave me a quick overview of how he usually has his lessons go and it began with me warming Griffin up as I'd usually do so he could see his way of going. As I did this, Stephen praised me for just letting Griffin do his thing - I didn't ask a ton from him, just let him warm up into his way of going without forcing him to accept a lot of contact or go into an immediate frame. He also said that he really liked the base I'd put on Griffin's 3 gaits. He went over the dressage pyramid of training, noting that rhythm is the base of that pyramid and that Griffin's got a good steady rhythm to each gait. Moving steadily along in each gait was one of the first things I really focused on with Grif once he was under saddle - so I'm thrilled it's evident to a professional.

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Stiff, hollow, on the fore

Things Stephen noted to me in the beginning are as follows:

  • Need to change direction a lot in warm up and keep a steady rhythm throughout
  • Hold the reins and keep even contact with a good seat; be passive and stay out of the horse's way, then apply elbow grease and get in there and get those muscles working as you get into their mouth and teach them how to accept the contact
  • Ride tall, shoulders back, work on abs
  • Always keep him forward and push him on (Griffin's biggest problem was sluggishness on this day)
As Stephen assisted us through our warm up, he lectured about the basics of dressage. I loved hearing this from him. I've certainly read a LOT about dressage over the years, but having those things narrated to me live, by a professional, in a lesson? It was the finishing touch on the house of knowledge I've been building for myself. 

GriffinDressage (7 of 13)
Stephen teaching as we warmed up

Stephen noted how dressage is all about making the gaits better. The idea is always to make the horse more elastic, submissive, and collected to improve the gaits. Take a 5 and turn it into an 8. You want the horse to be more balanced through use of your aids. Add more leg to have him track up more, but pull him back in so he's more collected at the same time. The terms MPH and RPM are used in dressage to mean how fast the horse is moving and how quickly the hind leg is moving. A correctly trained dressage horse is like waterskiing behind a boat. As the boat speeds up or slows down, your connection with the ski rope will change. You want to steady that contact all the time and learn to work with it. A well-trained horse understands steady contact and how to work exceptionally with it. 

I was pleased, though I'll admit a little surprised, to hear Stephen praise both my riding foundation and the work I've put into this grey horse. He liked the way I was sitting his trot and how I was staying out of his way. A theme of improvement for myself throughout the lesson would be to open up my shoulders more and steady my upper body so that I can provide better guidance for Griffin as I teach him (and myself) what I want. Stephen noted that Grif has a great foundation and stays relatively straight, but he needs to work on his topline so that he becomes more dressage and less hunter. He said Griffin was conformationally relatively well put together - not too high or too long in any one area, he is pretty level. To help Griffin be "more dressage and less hunter", I need to close up the contact, make my reins shorter, and do all I can to become a human side rein. Achieving this will help develop new muscles all of his body; the C3-4 are of his neck especially needs to build some new musculature to help him work better in the contact.

GriffinDressage (4 of 13)
Thinking about working through behind more

So, to begin this work to improve the horse, I need to have more bend on my circle, or as they say in Germany, "more inside eye". To do this, I need to squeeze and release with my inside rein to ask Griffin for more bend while we're on the circle. Stephen walked alongside with us at this point, accentuating the point by taking the rein into his hands to show Grif and I how it was supposed to go. Stephen noted that the clip on reins I had weren't the most ideal for teaching Griffin contact as they provide a little gap where they clip onto the bit. This makes TOTAL sense and I should have known better and brought the proper gear! (I have since put better reins onto the bridle for our work at home!) 

GriffinDressage (9 of 13)
Square dancing? Dressage? Verdict is out.
GriffinDressage (10 of 13)
Griffin isn't so sure about this man
"Like this. Right here."

We continued this exercise into our trot. Stephen noted that a horse cannot be round until he is in front of the leg. Griffin needs to learn to take contact and move forward; he needs to be more submissive and soften when he feels contact. This is something that takes time! 

My seat and legs will create the frame in which Griffin moves while my arms and reins will dictate how high or low, long or short, I want Griffin's neck to be. My leg and seat will cycle the energy; eventually Griffin and I will find a "sweet spot". I need to be cautious throughout this to keep my hands steady because my hands going up and down due to the horse's motion breaks the contact which makes learning much more difficult!

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Uncertainty on all fronts.

In addition to the squeeze/release of the rein to encourage more bend, I need to keep my shoulder open and add more inside leg. Every time I seemed to apply more inside leg, my inside shoulder would collapse. Griffin has a harder time going to the right than the left, and my shoulder would collapse more to the right than the left. We seemed to feed off of each other's weaknesses. 

Stephen then asked if anyone else had ridden Griffin before. "Yes. I mean, Austen was on him just yesterday." Hell, basically everyone has been on this horse. I trust him a ton - he even gives lessons to a 5 year old! Stephen asked if I would mind if he got on? He noted the differences in learning styles and how sometimes SEEING someone else do something could help drive points home better. I agreed enthusiastically. I am 110% a visual learner. Give me a visual and then guide me through doing that on my own. Seeing and doing are what I learn best from.

And so we lowered my stirrups and Stephen climbed aboard.

Screenshot 2016-09-03 10.16.12
Griffin is NOT certain about this arrangement

From the saddle, Stephen was better able to show me where he'd like to see Griffin's neck right now. Griffin would go behind the vertical a lot, but it's because he is weak and he can evade working harder by going behind the vertical. As his strength builds, he'll stay on the vertical more. 

Griffin's uncharacteristic sluggishness was at an entirely new level with Stephen aboard. I'd been riding him with a dressage whip for basically the first time ever, but Stephen declined the use of it noting that Griffin needs to learn what the leg means. He put a LOT of leg on and really kicked Grif a lot. Grif basically flipped him the bird for a good while, kicking his hing legs up at Stephen as if he was kicking at a fly on his belly as Stephen continued increasing pressure and adding vocalizations to encourage Griffin forward. Eventually, my little grey gelding got his shit together and WENT.

Screenshot 2016-09-03 10.12.41
Kicking at the evil pressure being applied to his sides

Stephen praised Griffin's forward motion and narrated how a horse needs to respect the leg because leg and seat are what get the horse to truly connect with the bridle. By closing my leg, Griffin's frame should change and he should swing more through his back. This was "the hole" I needed to work on. When I close my leg, Griffin needs to move forward. It will take time, but he will get there. I just need to be patient. 

I noted to Stephen how out of character it was for Griffin to be this dull to the leg - just the other day he was making attempts to canter if you so much as brushed his side with your heel! But, at the same time, I was really happy Griffin was having such an issue today because I was learning how to work through it! And learning that kind of thing is invaluable. 

Stephen continued to work with Griffin in both directions, focusing on having him accept the contact and move FORWARD off the leg. If Griffin let go, he needed to be pushed forward to keep him going. When Grif goes forward and accepts leg, his back swings more and his trot is more comfortable. Stephen noted that he's kicking Griffin so much not because the horse is bad, but because he needs to move forward into the contact and stay there - if he slows, he gets kicked, if he stays where he should be, Stephen rides quietly. Give and take, pressure release. Having Griffin understand everything perfectly can't be done in 20 minutes! (Stephen rode him for about that length of time.)

Screenshot 2016-09-03 10.56.16
Working harder, but trying to get out of the contact by dipping BTV
Screenshot 2016-09-03 10.56.44
C'mon little grey guy!
Screenshot 2016-09-03 10.57.03
Werk it!
Screenshot 2016-09-03 10.57.25
Starting to have some break throughs

Stephen dismounted and turned Griffin back over to me. I had a different horse under me already! 

There was a lot of great lecture and the difference in Griffin was so visible, I'll bullet the high points below, but just watch the video of this piece of the lesson:

The high points from Stephen's lecture during the segment above:
  • Forward and downward transitions should be INTO the contact. The natural instinct/tendency is to give, but the correct action is to take the contact and use the leg to teach the horse to work INTO the contact and recycle the energy.
  • Continue to visualize being a water skier behind a boat and maintaining your speed by maintaining your contact. Cluck, kick, use what you've got to do this! Kick him forward but keep those hands STILL. Ride the horse back to front while keeping your hands STABLE. 
  • I've got a much different trot from this horse now! He's listening better to my seat because it means something to him now. Still need to ask for more bend though.
  • Once he knows that my leg means something, everything else will come easier because he will work off the leg.
While I definitely had a different horse finally, my body wasn't being as great as it could have been to support that new horse. The fatigue of riding the sitting trot so long and WORKING was getting to me. Oi! 

Before we finished though, Stephen had me take the whip back and use it to reinforce my leg to get a bigger reaction from Griffin at both the trot and the canter. I achieved a much more active trot which made Stephen exclaim, "That's RIGHT! You've got it! You just need a little polish." 

GriffinDressage (3 of 13)
Trying to replicate what Stephen had
Screenshot 2016-09-03 11.07.49
There we go!
Screenshot 2016-09-03 11.07.15
Even had some happy ears during that active trot
Screenshot 2016-09-03 11.06.48
Serious horse is serious...and TIRED.

Stephen noted he'd love to have 5 days in a row to mold Griffin and I because he knew this was a lot to take in in one lesson! I agree. I wish I had 5 days, too! Stephen pointed out how my position suffered a bit during the lesson as I began to lean too far back, but Rome wasn't built in a day and I can't fix everything in one go. The big take away for Griffin was that he was now in front of my leg and much more reactive to the leg than he'd been less than an hour ago. By being in front of the leg, he was a lot rounder - and that's what we wanted to accomplish!

Beginning vs. end of lesson. My upper body needs to be more upright at the end, but Rome wasn't built in a day!

As I finished my lesson and dismounted, Stephen noted to me that Griffin was rubbing the side of his mouth on his leg because those muscles were sore from learning to work in the contact. He likened it to a musician (trumpet, sax, etc.) learning to improve their embouchure the more they played. I'd never thought about this before but it makes total and complete sense to me! I played alto sax for many years in both marching band and jazz band and often had the same experience so far as soreness of the muscles around my mouth went - especially after an intense practice!

Take Aways

I loved my lesson. All of it. It was exactly what I needed and what the horse needed.

I've never been super interested in horse shows because I get really nervous riding in front of people. I knew I'd have some of that feeling going into this lesson-clinic setting, but I was really surprised and please how calm I became once we started working. I was grateful that no one else ventured to ride in the indoor during my lesson (I don't know that Griffin could have handled that) and I was surprised how completely unbothered I was by the 6-8 spectators during my lesson. Overcoming this mental hurdle was subtle, but huge for me.

I love Stephen's teaching style. It works so well for me because in addition to delivering so much knowledge and lending more skills to my library, he makes me feel COMFORTABLE learning and inevitably making the mistakes that come with learning.

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Soaking in the learning

Griffin definitely worked harder than he ever has mentally and physically and I am really proud of how well he did. He was in a totally new environment doing something very complex and relatively new to him and he excelled. Seriously, what a good horse! Additionally, I was impressed with how well I did considering I haven't had a legit lesson...ever?

I honestly cannot explain how good it felt and continues to feel to have heard the praises I did from Stephen - a professional - about my riding, my position, and most of all my horse. This little horse I have trained up from nothing. To have Griffin complimented like that was HUGE. It isn't the first time he's been complimented, and I doubt it will be the last, but hearing how wonderful he is will never get old - especially if it is from a professional who doesn't know me or my horse from Adam and has such a huge knowledge base from his many experiences. I paid Stephen to teach me things, I didn't pay him to deliver compliments.

I will work on the concepts I learned in my lesson with Griffin multiple times a week (I already have been). We will get better with time and patience. I want nothing more than to go back to another lesson with Stephen next year with this horse and demonstrate how much better we have become. I'm certain we will have a whole new slew of problems to work then! And that's kind of exciting.

Be more accepting of contact, respect my leg and get in front of it, understand what my seat is asking, more inside bend, stable hands, steady contact, no collapsing the inside shoulder - these are what I'm focusing on right now. Each time I ride Griffin, he gets a tiny bit better! It is such a fun puzzle, dressage. I can't wait to see how far I can go with it.

Thanks to the Maryland Blogger Contingent for your bad influence and support pushing me into this new realm of riding. I love you and hate you for it ;-)


  1. I had so much fun watching your lesson!! Griffin is such a good boy and it's so clear that you two are both very open and willing when it comes to learning and developing new skills! I pretty much adore riding with Stephen too and try to do so whenever possible haha. Perhaps we will be seeing you at one of these clinics again? :)

    1. YES. I do intend to come to one again! I'm pretty sold on it all.

  2. What a great experience. And Griffen is adorable.

  3. May I ask a question? I noticed the "keep your hands stable" line and I'm wondering if that's something I should work on. It seems so much in training is to "release pressure" (meaning the REINS) when something is done correctly, that the release tells the horse he just did something right. To me that doesn't seem correct because it meant that pressure (ie: contact) meant you're doing something wrong. Did he touch on contact/release at all?

    1. Stable meaning my hands were going up and down with the movement of the horse and not keeping a steady constant contact with his mouth. He was getting micro-releases which didn't help the learning process at all. Ideally, a horse that can accept the contact will be soft and light in the bridle because he will be using his body in a proper frame with a level of collection that allows him self carriage. Griffin doesn't have the strength to do this yet because his muscles haven't developed to that point. Keeping my hands stable and not allowing micro-releases will help encourage him to use himself properly, reach under himself more and swing through his back. The contact I'm keeping to encourage this isn't quite a pressure-release thing because as he works well into it, he should become lighter in the bridle as a result which, I imagine, lends itself as a reward, albeit a reward during work because he's still working. The release-reward he gets from doing a good job (beyond verbal praise) are walk breaks on a loose rein where he can (ideally) stretch down with his head/neck to stretch the muscles along his topline.

    2. The release is a reward, yes, but it doesn't mean throwing away the contact. The release should encourage the horse to stretch further into the contact (meaning, he follows the hand and maintains the same pressure, lengthening the topline). If you are releasing the reins too much, you're creating unstable contact and the horse has no way of getting clear communication from you.

      Think about it this way: Contact should be light, but it should be a conversation. You can't have a conversation if the signal keeps bliping out every other word. But a great conversation often benefits from a pause by one party to see if the other conversant would like to dig deeper into the subject at hand. Don't be inconsistent, instead allow the horse the occasional freedom to add to the conversation or say "yes, I understand, I am with you."

  4. What a neat experience for you and the greyling! I'm right with you on the whole lack of formal riding lessons thing- I learned/taught myself to canter on Quest and spent awhile training myself to feel out canter vs. counter canter. For me it's posting diagonals- I still have to peek down to make sure I'm on the correct one. And the waterskiing analogy is a perfect visual illustration- I might have to borrow that for myself.

    It's not easy to put yourself front and center in front of a professional for intense scrutiny. You definitely should be very proud of yourself and Griffin- all the work you put into him and his game attitude for trying and taking all the new stuff in. Nice work!

  5. Look at him all braided up! <3 Major kudos to you (and Griffin!) for doing something so out of your comfort zones with such a good attitude -- and so much success. Well done indeed. :)

  6. Oh my gosh. What a great clinic. He sounds like an awesome clinician. Also, I love his position in the first few jumps where he's trying to look at them while going over top of them. Such a cutie.

  7. You guys look great all done up! Sounds like such a good lesson, so glad you were able to take advantage. Can't wait to hear about the next one. I'm excited for you two!

  8. I have been eagerly awaiting this write up and you didn't disappoint! It sounds like Stephen has a great teaching style and I found myself really nodding along to everything he said. This post was great for me personally because it helped me find new ways to verbalize concepts I already use in lessons. You and G definitely looked the part, and I am sure that Stephen enjoyed having an attentive rider and a horse with a solid foundation and willing nature! I laughed pretty hard and Griffin kicking out at the annoying pressure. I see that a lot with horses I work with! The downside of having a horse that is super safe and can be ridden by all kinds of people is that they end up tuning out certain cues as 'white noise' and then get to be behind the leg or uneducated to the contact. The trick is teaching the horse that certain riders are 'white noise' and certain riders know what they're asking for, and how to react to each. I have no doubt that Griffin is the type of horse who can do both! He'll learn which riders are consistent (or, as Stephen put it, strict) and which ones are just noisy. I am so excited for your future with this little gray horse. You know I love him (and you!) You should be VERY proud of the base you've put on him and yourself, and I am betting there are no limits to how far you two can go. I wish I had my own sound riding horse because I would love a clinic like this.

    1. I really like the analogy with "white noise". I hope he can get to the point where he can tune out especially newbie riders like that. For the mean time though, he just isn't giving lessons for a multitude of reasons - primarily being, he can't handle them right now and I've noticed his efforts to communicate that with me and am choosing to listen before something 'not good' occurs.

  9. Geeeez! I thought I'd commented on this, but apparently it didn't stick. Ack!

    Loved watching you and Griffin work with Stephen. It was clear how much work you've put into him, and how proud you are of what a great little horse he is. Super fun to sit on the sidelines and hear all the auditors and passers by remark on your lovely position and natural ability. Definitely a highlight. Telling them you'd completed a 100 on your mare, and wanted to see what this horse could do in dressage blew their minds. So fun!

    Sad I missed the end of the lesson to tack up, but definitely enjoying trying to catch up in the videos. There's lots of great tidbits in there that are good reminders for riders at any level!

    1. This made my day (multiple days actually as I kept meaning to come here and tell you that and then, well, didn't). Thank you so much for sharing && for letting me know about this clinic. SO wonderful. Stephen is amazing -- and he blew me out of the water *after* the lesson by sending me a hand-written thank you note for coming and riding with him! THAT is an amazing human being right there! Just won me over [more than before].