Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stephen Bradley Clinic

The Wednesday between the two horse shows was our first lesson with Stephen Bradley.  I've heard a lot of great things about Stephen, the trainer I'm currently working with has ridden with him for years, and his reputation is well-known.  Also:  he is the nicest human being on earth.  Fact.

I lack the energy to go into all the details, but it was a busy jump lesson, very productive, and he loves Soon.  He also said I rode well.  Which, coming from an Olympian, is always nice to hear.  We worked mainly on what Katie had been correcting me on the last few jump lessons:  closing the leg and keeping my hand soft.  I need to keep Soon coming forward from behind to the jumps and allow my hand/arm to remain soft to allow him to find the base of the jump on his own. 

We jumped through a pole/jump combo placed in the corner, as well worked on jumping fences on the angle (both verticals and the oxer).  There was a two-stride to two one-strides (four fences total) in a line down the centerline of the arena, which Soon stopped in the middle of the first two times through.  I told Stephen his one real problem is that he doesn't look down a line.  He either gets physically too low in front and doesn't see it properly, or when he does see it, he can't figure it out.  We've always build up gymnastics and line so he's never presented with a full one cold; that's good, but now that he's more beyond that and we're looking to start really showing, he has to be able to have the confidence in himself  to look down that line and know where to put his feet.

Stephen put everything down to about 2' (it was all up around 3' at first) and plainly told me to "stuff him over it."  So stuff him I did - in the backseat with one hand on the reins and one hand with the crop behind my leg down the entire line.  After that first time through, which wasn't pretty, but it was effective, he got it and we were able to put the line back up.  He jumped it beautifully the rest of the session in each direction, even jumped the big oxer in the middle of the combo on a somewhat steep angle as I took it across the diagonal during another part of the lesson. He felt great.

It was a very hot day, so we cut the lesson short by nearly 30 minutes after we got to a good stopping point.  Stephen was lovely to work with, his instruction completely on point and corrections clear and easily understood.  It was fun.  I already signed up to ride with him again in June and July, so I'm excited to work with him somewhat regularly moving forward. 

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