Lucky for me, and not lucky for my checkbook, several very good dressage clinicians come to CM’s barn. Tanya Vik comes almost every 3 weeks, Axel Steiner comes probably 1-2x a year, and Jeremy Steinberg comes about every other month. CM has been taking lessons with Jeremy for probably close to 15 years and she thinks of him as another son.
Just a bit of back story to set this post up right:
Several years ago, CM brought Muze to a clinic with Jeremy and he promptly fell in love with Muze. Jeremy loved him so much that CW let him take Muze home to train and show for several years. Sadly, Muze developed ringbone in his right hind later on and he came home to “retire”. Luckily, the pastern fusion surgery that was just supposed to make him pasture sound worked WAYY better than they expected and he was able to come back to being sound enough to be ridden.
I’ve audited several of Jeremy’s clinics, and have really liked his training methodology and teaching style, but didn’t think that Spot and I were at a place yet for a lesson with him. When I started to ride Muze, Trainer and CM immediately started to hustle me to take a lesson on him with Jeremy. I was pretty hesitant and not really down at first, as:
- JEREMY FREAKING TRAINED THIS HORSE FOR YEARS. He knows all of Muze’s idiosyncrasies, ticks, bad habits, tricks, and abilities. While I know that’s a really good thing since I’m learning on him, it scares the bejeezus out of me because then he would know when it was just me riding like a pile of poo.
2. I had only been riding Muze for like 2.5 months and just felt like I hadn’t had enough time to get comfortable with riding him. Oh, and you know…not being able to get the canter sometimes, no biggie.
3. That lesson is freaking expensive. Like, would I get a lot out of it? Would a lesson with him even be beneficial to me at my level of riding?
Anyways, after several weeks of hemming, hawing, and debating about it I gave in and signed up for a lesson during his next visit. I realized that nothing was ever going to be perfect, and if it was perfect what was the point of taking a lesson? If I want to become a better rider and learn more then going sooner would benefit me more than going later when I thought I had everything down.
The clinic came up quick and before I knew it the clinic weekend was here. Megan had come up the night before to hang out and have dinner with Nicole and I so we got a little blogger meet up. Yay for horsie friends!
We got to the clinic pretty early so we could watch a few other people first. My friend was riding her new horse and in that lesson was where “Screw Up With Confidence” was brought up. I have taken that saying to heart and right then and there I decided that I was just going to go out there and ride my little heart out.
When I got into the ring I really did feel like throwing up in my mouth a little. I was nervous but once Jeremy cracked a few jokes about himself and Muze I definitely relaxed and started to smile. I think Jeremy could tell I was a bit on edge so I’m thankful he tried to lighten things up.
We started with some simple exercises like shallow serpentines, 20m circles, and some shoulder fore to get Muze and I loosened up and so he could watch my riding for a bit before diving in. With Muze, his big thing is to get too low which of course then plops him on the forehand and makes him super heavy in the hand. It’s a bit tricky with Muze as I have to constantly keep him supple and not let him get too low and bracey while maintaining the quality of the gaits, not letting him throw his right shoulder out, oh and not lean on my inside leg while making sure my position is strong. Whew!! Like juggling and spinning plates, you let one thing go and everything else goes to shit. Jeremy talked about making sure to keep him higher up in the balance and to not be lulled into a false sense of him being soft and so round.You’ll hear him mention that in beginning this video:
Muze is even more tricky in the canter! Due to his pastern fusion on the right hind, he can get rushy and 4-beaty in the canter going right so I have to sit really far on the left to keep him balanced and straight while keeping his right shoulder up. Going left isn’t as tricky, but still takes work to get him going correctly. Getting the jump in the canter and really concentrating on the quality and balance of the canter was really emphasized.
After Jeremy got a good feel for my riding, we worked on the Canter-Walk and Walk- Canter and my position in those transitions. My timing in the canter transitions isn’t quite sharp enough yet, so he gave me some tips on how to think about and emphasize the aids. For the inside leg, he wanted me to think about a string tied to Muze’s inside hind and my leg so when I asked for the up transition to think about kicking that leg forward to bring Muze’s leg up and under him. Also, I needed to keep him more active in the hind during the walk so he would be more attentive when I asked for the transition. Position wise, Jeremy wanted me to scoot my foot back and keep just my toes on the stirrup to help allow my heel come down and knee to relax. Also, this would help my toes point more forward and allow for my body to sit back more and be strong in the saddle. He thought my position was good otherwise and if he was going to nit-pick that I could sit a bit straighter with shoulders back and down, with the chest up. Then again, he said that probably everyone could sit a bit straighter, ha! We ended up having several transitions that were really good! In fact, he said that our Canter-Walks were better than the average rider! WUT?! Better than average? I’ll take it! That comment is caught on video too!
At the very end of our lesson, Jeremy said the two most dreaded words: Sit Trot
I’ve been dreading the sit trot and haven’t really worked on it at all, but he wanted me to feel the motion and start practice working on it. Muze is such a darling and totally just let me bounce around on him for the last 10 minutes. The pointers Jeremy gave me on the sit trot:
- Embrace the Bounce! You’re gonna bounce, but once you relax into it and try not to sit still the more still you will look. The more you relax, the more you’ll start to feel how the motion of the trot pushes your seat forward.
- Don’t clamp your thighs down. Keep your thighs loose move along with the motion
- Practice sitting the trot starting from the walk. When going from the walk to trot, your body is more relaxed so the first few steps of sitting the trot are always the best. When you feel like everything is falling apart, transition back down to walk and start again. Then when you’re sitting the trot you can think about how your body relaxes in the walk and just thinking it can help get the balance back.
- Keep your lower body loose, but upper body strong. Let your ankles relax and move with the motion. I noticed as I did more sit trot, my ankles relaxed a bit and I felt more at ease with the motion
If you care to watch, here’s a long 10 minute video of me on the sit trot struggle bus:
I came out of that lesson with a huge smile on my face. It was probably one of the best lessons I’ve ever had and I learned a ton while having fun. I am so glad I decided to take a lesson with him on Muze, he had a ton of insights on how to ride him properly while working with my riding abilities. In my rides and lessons since my lesson I’ve been working a ton more on sit trot and working on my leg position while making sure Muze is balanced and working correctly. I really enjoyed Jeremy’s teaching and I look forward to taking another lesson with him again the next time he is back. I would highly recommend anyone to go at least audit his clinics.
Huge thanks to Megan for taking awesome photos and Andy for getting video for me!