SAFE’s volunteer riders and their horses spent last weekend working with Joel Conner. Here’s a report from Erika S about her session with Gracie:

gracie_11_20_2016_01My first time working with Gracie was two nights prior to the clinic. She seemed anxious, and seemed like she was constantly trying to predict what I was going to ask her to do. Saturday morning, during our first session, I noticed that she had some stickiness with hindquarter yielding, which caused her to fall in on her shoulders and crowd me. This turned out to be partially my fault though, and I figured out later that I wasn’t being clear enough with my requests. As soon as Joel helped me clarify my asks, and suggested that I slow down my motions, Gracie and I got on the same page.

Saturday afternoon, Gracie was still a tiny bit anxious, but the riding ended up going really well. We ended the session having achieved both a nice even “threading the needle” trot, and the elusive soft feel. It felt great to get to that point with Gracie after just two rides!

Sunday morning, we picked up where we left off, and worked a lot on getting a soft bend in her neck. I wanted her to be more relaxed all over, and I really wanted to be clearer with my requests. We did a lot of backing circles, which she picked up very quickly. That seemed to help her with not falling in on her shoulders going forward, too.

Sunday afternoon, the riding felt really good. We got the soft feel right away, and we even added in more tasks. We started working on stopping when I sit deep in the saddle, gathering reins quickly and backing, getting the soft feel at a trot, and yielding hindquarters through a corner (and at a trot!). Although everything we did during the clinic was wonderful, my favorite part was definitely riding on a loose rein. It was really empowering! My personal takeaways from this clinic are learning to communicate better with my seat, resulting in being able to ride on a loose rein without fear of losing control, and being concise with my asks.

Here are some photos of Gracie and Erika working together at the clinic: