Ruach was able to participate in this month’s Joel Conner clinic, thanks to volunteer Scott B, who worked with him all three days in both groundwork and riding. Here are Scott’s reflections on the clinic:

The clinic with Joel was really an amazing experience for me. I loved it, loved being a part of it and loved how much I was able to learn and apply during the three days. As I said to Joel at the end of the clinic, this horsemanship is a dream come true for me. I always wanted something like this but never knew where to get it. The whole experience is fantastic for me and I am grateful to SAFE and Joel Conner for allowing me to participate!

At this clinic, I participated in groundwork and riding for three days.

Focus areas for Ru
1) Front quarter yield without rearing up
2) Respecting my personal space
3) Stopping when I stop; on a lead and under saddle
4) Backing up on a lead

Extra Credit
1) We worked on getting a soft feel in the trot and when slowing to a walk
2) Worked on the half circle yield exercise
3) “Squeeze” yield exercise between the arena wall and me

Joel quickly helped me get Ru to yield his front quarters from either direction without rearing. Ru reared during the clinic and Joel kept at it until Ru got comfortable. When the lead was returned to me I had learned when and where to apply pressure to get Ru to move over and help him through it. By the end of the three days the rearing was gone and that continues after four more sessions since the clinic.

For the week leading up to the clinic and during the clinic, I was getting to know Ru. It became clear he did not respect my personal space because he “tests” me with gentle nipping or turning into me too closely when leading him or yielding his hind quarters. With some bumps and firming up on Ru a bit, I saw a huge improvement in this area. But I also notice it is a work in progress. He is better, but not perfect and needs to be reminded every time I work with him.
On Sunday 7/1, I arrived to the barn around 4:30 to work with Ru and found him galloping around the turnout with the other horses. He was pretty excited so I waited a few moments before approaching him to put on his halter. From about 10 feet away, he saw me coming and reared straight up. I was not in danger, but it was quite a sight! He calmed down enough to be haltered and taken straight to the round pen where we did liberty work and hooking on exercises before proceeding with GW and riding. That helped a ton and he began respecting my personal space better, but I also sensed that he had regressed a bit. So I’ll keep at it. The tips Joel gave me during the clinic were helpful.

I definitely feel like I got a change related to stopping and starting with me on a feel. Not perfect, but better and getting better. We just need to do it 1,000 times together.

Backing up got better during the clinic but only from a distance. I am not yet backing him up yet with my hand under his chin. Instead I am in front of him by about 10′ and he is learning what it means when I raise my hand while holding the lead. I plan to work on backing him up more over the next two weeks.

Soft feel: He’s definitely a former race horse and very “forward.” From a walk he immediately goes into a very fast walk. We then work on coming down to a soft feel at the trot and down to the walk. Lots of work needed there. His speeds are fast and faster and I am working on getting him to go slowly. We made progress but have a long ways to go.

Half circle yield exercise was terrible because of me. I just don’t have it down yet but will continue to practice it. He had a hard time with the exercise but got better with Joel leading him. But it is hard for Ru to yield his front quarters so we will continue to work at it.

Ru gets “stuck” when he is asked to pass between me and the arena wall. He does not like the pressure. We got some improvement during the clinic and Joel worked with me a bit on it. I need to work on my timing which should help Ru. I tend to be “late” after Ru passes me before I ask him to turn and come back through again. We are both trying to get better there.

One of the improvements under saddle with Ru and me is the hind quarter/front quarter yield exercise. It’s a bit hard for both of us to do the front quarter yield but we both definitely improved during the clinic. And even since the clinic we have been practicing. He gets better each time. But Ru is so forward that he has a hard time staying back on his hind end when yielding his front. 1,000 more times!!

Photos by Jessica Farren