Horse Life

Push or Wait

So last week, I’m talking to Trainer B via text and he asks how P is doing. I say, “Fantastic! Look!” and send him the video of P rocking through the bounces. He says, “Awesome! Now spread them out and raise them.”


But I say, “OK,” and I mean it. I will.

So a couple days later, I stick the same video on IG/FB because I’m proud of P- and me, because bounces seriously gave me a complex. And immediately the comment that comes in is, “Raise them up.”


So I did.


And some other stuff.


He’s just a super cool guy.

Why he has to wear a sheet no matter the weather

Saturday and Sunday I went to go audit the Clayton Fredericks clinic. He comes pretty regularly to this farm, and knowing nothing about him, I was curious. I went for the BN/N and Prelim groups and both were pretty eye opening, reassuring, and educational.

Saturday was SJ and the first thing he focused on was the riders’ positions. That made me wish I had been riding because that’s a serious struggle for me. Sitting in the saddle- not hovering or bouncing, getting the horse connected without excessive use of reins, etc. Then he had them go through tiny raised cavaletti- starting with 2 rails, then once they were quietly trotting through, going down the line of 6.

Some takeaways (for me) to think about when warming up/riding on the flat:

  • To get the right amount of bend, turn your shoulders to the inside (without leaning). Shoulders should be even. You want to feel the horse’s inside hind leg under its belly. Make sure you don’t block with the outside leg.
  • At the canter, seatbones should stay in the saddle. Lower leg forward, balance on seat.
  • Warmup exercise: laps around the arena, with small circles in each corner. Drive through the turns.

Next he had them go over a ground pole, then 5 strides to a small cross-rail, and quietly halt in a straight line afterwards. Once they could do that, he sent them down an exercise I’m going to shamelessly copy:


You really had to have a forward canter from the start, otherwise the distances wouldn’t work out. One of the riders reminded me sorely of me in that she consistently under rode it and kept adding a stride everywhere. Another participant had the opposite problem and her horse flew through- literally THROUGH- taking down every single jump with poles flying. So while, yes, I need to always remind myself that forward is better, at least we’re no longer that pair that runs at/through everything.

I stayed for the next group, which consisted of 3 Prelim riders. And wouldn’t ya know? They had some of the very same issues I struggle with- not getting the right strides, leaning at jumps, pulling before fences, swinging legs, getting left behind…not that I was exactly cheering when they’d make mistakes, but honestly sometimes it feels like I’m the ONLY ONE who struggles.

The next day was XC day, but since it was pouring they ended up moving some of the portables into the arena. The name of the warmup game was to get the horse moving forward and straight from the get go. And to test that, they started with this barrel exercise:


He went with the theme of, “Let’s see how little everyone can use their reins,” by having them trot the barrel on a loose rein. The riders needed to get straight early on so the horse had time to assess, and then keep them straight using their seat and legs. No need to pick a distance- let the horse choose and stay with them. In the BN/N group, only 2 of the 4 from the day before remained so they both got much more personalized instruction. One of the horses was a saintly old pro that did everything perfectly the first time around. The other was a pony that wasn’t so keen on the big black object in the way, and he chose repeatedly to take the guide poles down instead.

One thing Clayton zeroed in on was that rider was a bit meek in the last couple strides, when instead she needed to toughen up (cough, cough, oh the familiarity). And her choosing to lean forward the last couple strides in her attempts to stay with him should he choose to jump were having the opposite effect- she needed to sit back, shoulders behind her hips even, and kick all the way up to and over the barrel.

Sounds quite familiar indeed. Almost as if he were channeling a certain Trainer B…

A good tidbit I found helpful was: “3/4 of the horse should be in front of you. If 3/4 of the horse is behind you, they can do whatever or go wherever they want.”

Again I stayed for the Prelim group with the same 3 riders from the day before, and again it was a total eye opening to see more advanced riders with some of the same issues I have.

“Your upper body in front of the fence will tell you how the horse will jump the fence. Tall upper body will help him jump up, leaning will cause him to go on the forehand. Carry the hand to keep your body upright. Low hands encourage leaning.”

That was what he said to one of the riders who would drop her hands right before a fence and lean.

Ok, well there’s an incentive to sit up.

The same rider also picked her way to fences, pulling all the up to and over it, especially when she felt like her horse was rushing. So I listened closely to how he instructed her.

“Don’t pull to or over the fence no matter what. Let the horse learn that running to jumps is uncomfortable. If you pull, then you’ve interfered and now the horse is going to blame you for the bad jump. Do nothing, let him learn his lesson, and he’ll figure out how he can make the jump comfortable.”

My personal favorite mantra of the day: “Either push or wait to the jump. NEVER PULL.”

And it really did work. They started over the same barrel exercise the BN group had and the horse initially was running and launching over the barrel, with the rider tugging every stride. By the end, he was quietly getting himself over it with the rider on the buckle and one hand on her thigh.

“Sit in the right spot and everything falls into place.”

Another rider was struggling with using his body correctly. He was practically contorting himself to correct his horse (again, sounds familiar), and overusing his leg/rein. The horse was twisting over the jumps and on landing, so Clayton had him focus solely on sitting evenly on his seat bones with both stirrups equally weighted and not do anything else. And…uh, that worked, too. That made me realize that, like this rider, I’ve been doing WAY too much of the work. Trainer J always tells me that.

All in all, I really enjoyed auditing the clinic- he was entertaining and funny, but serious about what he was teaching. I liked that he focused more on the riders and what they needed rather than the horse. I would definitely ride with him, even just for a flatwork session to get everything in the right place.

Super lucky for P- we’re going to do the barrel exercises today after work. I’m sure he can hardly wait…

29 thoughts on “Push or Wait”

  1. Glad you had such a great time at the clinic! And I feel ya on the it’s nice to see that other people make mistakes 🙂 No one wants the other person to fail but gosh it’s nice to not feel alone in your problems!!!


  2. sounds like a great auditing experience, and so many great notes – thanks for sharing! i love the title too, “push or wait.” i definitely start pulling when things look dicey and it’s such a bad habit…

    and isn’t it also always so reassuring to see very advanced riders still struggling with some of these riding fundamentals? it’s just plain hard, apparently!


  3. ugh low hands = leaning. YEP i am a textbook case there (ASK Sally LOL). Sounds like a great clinic and look at P GO!

    And yes as much as you dont want others to fail it helps when you see other people have issues too 🙂 ha!


  4. Riding to that barrel would be tough for me on Dante right now. Love auditing clinics! Do you will ride with this clinician in the future. I also like the mantra, I’ll have to get that burned into my skull.


  5. I audited a clinic with Clayton a few years ago when he came home to Aus for a bit.

    I loved it. Very logical and low fuss and I couldn’t believe how many advanced riders got tripped up by having to drop the reins. Very eye opening.


      1. I’m lucky that my boy is new enough he hasn’t really figure out that running out is a thing he can do yet haha


  6. this is so cool. love all the tidbits you were able to share with us.

    however i have perfected the art of lifting my hand AND leaning (and pulling) so i’d like to see him have a shake at that 😛


  7. Wow he sounds like a REALLY great clinician! A lot of what he said sounds exactly like my trainer- especially the “let the horse make the mistake and don’t interfere, so they realize if was their fault, and not you”. It is so hard for me to let bad distances happen sometimes!


  8. Auditing is so great. Sometimes I learn way more auditing than riding. But.. those times you ride and have an aha moment make it worthwhile. Since you have lots of clinicians you can pick and choose, which is awesome! Not quite the same here in Idaho lol.


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