Thursday, April 16, 2015

Connie Lara Western Clinic, Part II

 The second day of the clinic was a lot about reining and western pleasure, and I learned a lot. We started by learning some of the warm-up exercises that Connie does. We combined both arenas for more room. One of these exercises was one in you ride down the side of the arena, making a large circle at each corner. This is one way of getting the horse to be responsive to the aids. We did the exercise at the jog and the lope, working both ways. Another exercises Connie uses is the counter canter. Counter canter is difficult, but it helps the horse to become responsive and more balanced. First, we started on the left lead, cantered down the side of the arena, made a diagonal, circled, then headed back. This was very difficult, and the first time I intentionally counter cantered. Nevertheless, I could keep Anna in the counter canter without her falling into the trot/jog. the next exercise was more difficult: we had to ask for canter right away, rather than making a diagonal. Connie said to think of it as just asking for a right lead or left lead and not asking for a "wrong lead." Since I was heading left, I used my left leg when asking for the canter(from the walk) so that Anna would ice up the right side lead. She picked up the counter canter, but I difficulty maintaining for the circle and across the diagonal. It was great that I was able to get the counter canter right away, though.

Next, we rode some western pleasure. Western pleasure is a discipline that is very different than dressage. In western pleasure, you the horse to be in a low frame and you want the horse to take short, slow steps, rather than the big, expressive strides of dressage. I did a pretty good job at this,  except I need to lower my hands a bit to allow Anna to stretch down like the horses do in western pleasure.

 We also worked on reining circles. There were lots of cones that were it up into one large circle and two small circles within the larger one, and we would ride the big circle, then break it down into smaller ones. The practice of the day before had prepared me for this. I tried the exercise in the jog and the lope. However, I had a little trouble when I returned to the jog because I didn't continue to make a wide turn all the way out to the edge of the arena. I instead let Anna cut the circle small. I loped off and tried again, this time continue to focus as I returned to the jog, making a good, wide circle.

 In the afternoon, the riders who had done more reining practiced the reining spins. Since one other rider and I had never done this before, we watched the other riders instead. Then, we rode a mulemanship pattern. This is something at Bishop Mule Days where the riders ride down a koine of cones, following a set pattern where they have to walk, jog, and lope, circling some of the cones. I think the rider is judged in this one, as well as if they do do the pattern correctly(of course) and make even circles. The first pattern was simple: walk from the first cone to the second, jog to the third cone, lope off, circle to the left, return to jog and halt at the last cone. I did pretty good, except I came into the circle a little tight and halted a little early.

The next pattern was similar, except the lope circle was a figure eight first to the right and then to the left, with a simple change in between. Again, I cut the circle tight rather than going deep into the turn.  It's harder than it looks! The last time I did it, though, I did really well. I made transitions at the right moment, and made a great figure eight with large circles. Connie was so happy and proud of me for doing so well with her mule, especially considering that I had only ridden western a handful of times before that weekend, never before trying reining, western pleasure, or trail course. Furthermore, I was new to the mule, who isn't green but is only six and doesn't have much experience. I was the only teenager there, and held my own against experienced riders, many of which had been riding for 20+ years.

By the end of the weekend Anna and I had gotten the hang of each and my riding was greatly improved. A lot of the exercises I had done that weekend really helped me make better circles and to ride much less with my hands. Plus, I got to try a lot new things. Also, I just turned 15 on the 8th.


  1. happy birthday!!! and what fun - i love the idea of trying out so many different disciplines

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I think it's great to try new things.

  2. I hope that you had a great birthday! It's great that you are experiencing so many different disciplines. They can all contribute to each other and it will make you a very well rounded horseman :)

    1. I had a wonderful birthday, thanks. Being a well rounded horseman is exactly the reason I try different disciplines.


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