Thursday, June 18, 2009

Matt Sheridan Clinic - Saturday

About 3:30 in the morning I woke up. I couldn't go back to sleep. I was going over the exercises in my head and reviewing yesterday afternoon's session. I had come to the clinic basically because Ranae had gotten it as an anniversary present. From my perspective Jessie and I were having a good ol' time working the the Downunder DVD's and trail riding. I hadn't really thought I was stuck in a rut, but maybe I was. One of the things Downunder teaches is "exaggerate the teach and refine as you go" and I came to the realization that I wasn't really refining anything. Slowly I came to the conclusion that a) I was not asking enough of her and b) I was not asking enough of myself in helping her to progress.

Now in fairness to me, I just don't know how much a horse can really do. Even though I watch a lot of good riders, I never thought the stuff they do was within our grasp. I mean, I can watch Tiger Woods shape a ball around a tree, negotiate a bunker, and land on the green, but all I'll be able to do is take aim and hope the ball goes straight (and that is not usually enough to make it go straight). Anyway, thoughts about where my horsemanship needed to go rattled around in my head until I fell back asleep.

We got to Matt's place around 7:30 am and fed the horses and mucked their stalls before having breakfast. It was in the 60's and a little breezy. Perfect weather for riding. Matt setup some cones and laid some posts down and we reviewed a bit from yesterday, then worked on weaving the cones at a walk and trot. We then worked on backing through the cones which were set up in a straight line and we had to weave between them.

Matt's very experienced in trail classes and I gathered he judged many of them. Melanie and Renee show in those classes so a lot of what he was teaching us was how to approach the obstacles as if we were doing a class. It's very exacting and we moved through the obstacles one step at a time. This was very helpful in helping me consciously direct Jessie's body parts.

We side-passed over a rail set up in a "V" pattern and he gave us some tips on how to approach and where to put our horse so we could negotiate the angle without ticking the rail.

Next was the tire drag. He showed us how to introduce the tire to our horses and then we each got to drag the tire around the arena which was great fun. He also had a couple of us track the tire (like tracking a cow) as he dragged it around and we were trying to get Jessie to rate her speed to his changing speed. She actually stepped in the tire and it tripped her up. I have a lot of confidence in her ability to keep her balance based on some of the stuff she's encountered out on the trail so this didn't worry me. When we approached the tire again she was much more careful about the speed changes.

He then introduced a 40" ball and we took turns getting to push that around. Everybody did pretty good at that. He showed us some roping tips and then it was time for lunch.

After lunch Matt brought out a bunch of different bits and bridles and gave us his philosophy on the various pieces of hardware. This kind of stuff is still like reading Chinese to me, but I'm sure it will start to gel somewhere down the road. Matt says he likes to progress from the snaffle to a Billy Allen bit. We may give that a try.

Water Obstacle

Walk Over Around a Corner

Wooden Bridge

After lunch we went outside the arena in a trail/obstacle course he had set up. He had a water hole (still a work in progress, but more than adequate), a wood bridge, some rails on the ground in a quarter circle, a ditch, another step over obstacle, and a "U" shaped backup. There were a couple of obstacles in there we didn't use like a cavaletti(?sp), and an elevated step over. We worked each of these for most of the afternoon and then we went back in the arena to play some horse soccer.

Horse soccer was pretty crazy. Renee with her half Arab was right in there getting after the ball. Her horse was pretty dominant and Jessie was a bit intimidated but, I kept her in there and she held up fairly well. I was yanking on her mouth pretty good though and felt bad about it afterwords. Matt said horses generally forgive you for tugging on them if you have a purpose or a job and chasing the ball was the "job".

I think we played for about 40 minutes or so and then it was time to put the horses up and have dinner. One of the things that was nice about the clinic is that Matt had a little 3"x5" piece of paper with about 10 things he wanted to get done. We worked our way through them, but if someone had a problem or got stuck somewhere we just stopped and fixed it. It was low key yet we still covered quite a lot.

I think it was after lunch that Ranae had mentioned the Julie Goodnight program and the stuff Dusty pulls one her. Matt asked if he still did it and Ranae said yes. After a little discussion Matt asked if he could see what she was talking about. This problem has haunted Ranae for quite some time and she'll try anything to fix it, so she got Dusty going in a circle and, sure enough he started to act up. I was in the middle of the arena and Ranae and Matt were on the near side where the "cutting dummy" is setup. Now all this happens in about twenty seconds, if that. Dusty starts humping up and it throws Ranae off balance. I've seen this before. Matt is about 20 feet away and I'm about double that. I see Ranae fumble for the reins. I wonder if Matt has a way to help her out. I know Dusty will likely go until he dumps her (like I said, I've seen this before). I see Ranae grab both reins and I know her brain has stopped. I yell, "ONE REIN! ONE REIN!" It's enough for her to gain control and then Matt was right there to keep them working and really make Dusty work for trying to dump her.

Matt has a different take on the one-rein stop and he had explained earlier in the day some of his reasons why he doesn't like to use it. I got teased a little bit for yelling "one-rein", but 28 years of marriage tells me when she needs a little help and it got the job done.

After a great dinner we got to watch Matt's acting chops as an extra in the TV movie, Deadman's Revenge, staring, in his comeback role, Bruce Dern. Matt had a lot of great stories about the actors and life on the set. I think it was about 10 pm when we finally got back to the hotel. We jotted down a few notes, took a shower and went to bed.
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