Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Connie Lara Western Clinic, Part I

 Over this past weekend, I rode in a western clinic taught by Connie Lara, a friend of Laura's. Connie let me ride Annalissa, her bay six year old mule that is actually very horse-like. At the start of the clinic, I learned about riding a good warm-up. If you have a warm-up plan, you will be better prepared to ride, and you will be more prepared when warming up at a show. Connie has a list of several things she wants in her mule when warming up. She wants her mule to be responsive on a small circle, driving from the hind end with impulsion. She also wants to be able halt and reverse her mule, and to be able to control both the front end and the hind end. If she loses any of these, she goes back to the beginning.

 Everyone warmed up together, moving the hind end and the front end after circling. I had some difficulty moving the haunches at first, but once I relaxed I was able to do it. We next worked on circles, a very important aspect of riding because every pattern in riding consists of either straight lines or circles. The goal was for the mule or horse to have a nice bend and to be in the proper western frame, where the equine's head is low. She also wanted each rider to be looking two cones ahead(there were four evenly spaced cones on the circle). When it was my turn, I made sure to use enough inside leg to keep Anna bent on the circle. Connie thought I did a good job and commented that I made her mule look nice. Because I had done so well, she had me break the circle down into very small circles at each of the four points. I had no problem doing this either and made the circles.
Spiraling it in. Each layer of cones represents a circle. This is before the circle was made into the smaller version.

 Next, we worked on adjusting our mounts by spiraling circles in. There was a large circle marked by cones, with several smaller ones inside, the smallest being only several meters in length. I spiraled in and out of this, making a fill circle at each layer. Then Connie made the circles even smaller, with the innermost circle being just large enough to put a barrel standing up in the center. I didn't have much trouble with this either.
Heading around the box
Before the box was made smaller

 In yet another exercise, we had to enter a box made of four poles, circle a cone within it, then exit the box. I did it well the first time. Connie made the box even smaller, and I tried again. It was a tight squeeze, but I made the circle. However, I rushed getting of of the box, going out at a steep angle and heading over the pole rather than going in between the corners. The next time around, I focused more, making the turn and heading out nicely.
The cone exercise in which I circle around several cones. I go to the middle cone on the right after this and circle twice to the left.

 The final exercise of the morning was one in which we had circle around multiple cones set in a pattern. Basically there was a row of several pairs set at an angle, and we had to circle the top one in the pattern, head to one set at an angle to it, circle it twice and continue. To do it successfully, one had to go straight across and not right next to the cone that would be circled, making a wide turn around. I did well on the first two cones, but in two tight heading toward the third cone and couldn't finish the pattern. The second time, the same thing happened. The third time, however, I really focused and made nice turns around all of them.
Going between the tall poles
 After lunch, we worked on straight lines. The first exercise was a straight line between several pole-bending poles. It was very narrow, and I almost bumped my legs on the poles, but I kept Anna going straight. There were also several sets of parallel poles set in a straight line, with each of these chutes set in front of and a little off to the side of each other. The object was for each rider to use their legs to push their mule over into each chute. The first few times, I was weaving in between them rather than leg-yielding over. Then I tried to use more leg and was able to push Anna over when I wanted to. Next with did the same thing, except for with cones set close together(like pole bending). The object was to push the mule over, rather than pull them and weave around the cones. I did well for the first few cones, but then Anna rushed off and I couldn't use my legs to push her over. This happened a couple of times, so Connie got on Anna, and it turned out that it was something Anna was doing wrong, not me.
Moving sideways from the poles to between the cones
 When I remounted, I was prepared to ask Ann to stay at a nice slow jog. I went through the pattern nicely, and could even wind my way back. I later tried the same thing with even closer cones that had poles set between then. I tried the exercise at the walk first, doing it successfully, then jogged it. It went well! It's amazing how much better I was at using my legs to move Anna than I was when I started the clinic.

The figure-eight after the poles.

 The final exercises involved poles set in a step pattern. We had to do some circles over each of poles, starting at the top and working our way down, so circles got larger further through the exercise. That wasn't too hard after the small circles from earlier that day. next, the poles were moved into steeper angles. This time, we had to jog a diagonal across all the poles in one line, then turn left and go across the sharp angle made by two of the poles. After that, we would make a shape u-turn go across another angle made by two poles, the jog to two barrels and figure eight around them. This was challenging, but I could do it.

 It's amazing how much better my riding was by the end of the day. I was better and more refined at turning without relying completely on my hands. Laura thought I did a great job holding my own against adult riders who had been riding for much longer than I have. Stay tuned for part II, where I try reining. Also, another highlight of the clinic was meeting Olivia from DIY Horse Ownership. It's always fun to meet a fellow blogger!


  1. You look great! Glad it was a successful day :)

  2. that looks like fun! i might try to set up something similar for my mare to work on since we can only walk while she gets better

    1. You should! I had a blast, and it really helped me with my turning and circling. I hope Isabel gets better soon.

  3. It was great to meet you too. You did a great job at the clinic with Anna. It's always tough to be on a borrowed equine. She looked like a really cute little mule though. Hopefully I'll get to covering the second day soon before I forget everything.

    1. Thanks! Nice to meet you too. She certainly is a cutie!

  4. you look great! :) Sounds like an awesome day.


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