The clinic was a week ago, and no, I didn’t forget to write about it. My Pivo Silver recorded an entire hour of video, and finding the time to sit down, watch it all, take notes, and capture relevant screenshots required more time than I had. Amelia’s feedback was so digestible though that even though I hadn’t had time to watch the video before now, I was able to ride all week with her suggestions replaying in my head.

Starting out.

First, some nuts and bolts stuff. I am the vice chairperson of the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of the California Dressage Society. We’re a small chapter located in the Tehachapi Mountains, but we also serve the Bakersfield area and beyond. Historically, the chapter’s events have been held at the BVS Equestrian Center, home of the Bear Valley Springs Dressage Club. Hoping to better serve our Bakersfield members, I volunteered to organize and host the October clinic at my own barn.

Photo courtesy of Chemaine Hurtado.

We could not have had a nicer day. Our smoky, hot weather broke just in time for the clinic. We were blessed with a chilly morning and blue skies. In all, we had nine riders and a good turnout of chapter and club members who came to watch. Amelia Newcomb was a gracious clinician who was never anything but encouraging and friendly as she helped each rider bring out the best in his or her horse and in themselves. She worked on getting the horses softer and rounder, quicker off the leg, and bending more honestly through their bodies. She had riders sitting more quietly, using their seat bones more effectively, and stretching their comfort zones while still building confidence.
Since I had to be at the ranch the entire day anyway, I volunteered to ride first. All but one other rider had to trailer out to the ranch, so being saddled and ready to go at 8:15 was a bit of stretch for everyone else. It worked out well for me to go first because by the time I was finishing my ride, Laurel was riding over from her place. Once Izzy was cleaned up and put away, I was free to direct traffic, get riders to sign releases, and point the way to the restroom.
I’ve ridden with quite a few different clinicians over the years. A few have made me consider quitting riding altogether, which is pretty hard to do. A few have left me feeling like I just drank a sugary drink – it tasted good going down, but afterwards, it didn’t really serve a purpose. And then there are those clinicians that stick with you like a good book. You know those books that leave you thinking about the characters days and even weeks later? Amelia’s lesson was a lot like that. She used lots of short, quick instructions that were easy to understand, but said at just the right time to be immediately effective. Here are some of the things I heard her tell me:
  • Get the neck a centimeter lower and a centimeter longer.
  • Really think about the diagonal aids.
  • Encourage him to reach out to the contact via the inside leg to the outside rein.
  • Start the change of direction with the outside leg to push him over onto the new inside rein.
  • Sit really connected in your seat (at the canter).
  • Instead of staying on the circle, stay straight on the rail for two meters and then circle around to the other rail for another two meters.
  • Regulate his tempo. When he wants to hurry, move him sideways.
  • Your half halt is going to be like a little shoulder-in feeling.
  • Keep bending and turning.
  • Focus on his ears. When he’s just staring out of the arena, try to get that inside ear to look back at you.
  • Hold your body and your legs still (in the canter).
  • Inside leg to outside rein (I heard that dozens of times).

Notice his ears.

  • When he starts looking like a giraffe, a little bend and a little shoulder fore.
  • Get his neck a centimeter lower and a centimeter longer (again).
  • Get the neck to go longer in front of you.
  • You have to will that neck to get a little longer in front of you.
  • More distance between his head and your face (I LOVE this!).
  • Slow down. Think haunches out (at the canter when he wants to swing them in).
  • Slow down the canter depart.
  • Activity isn’t the biggest concern. Suppleness and relaxation are the biggest concern.
  • Get him more honest behind.
Every horse is different of course.These are the things she suggested for Izzy. For other horses, she wanted more activity behind, she wanted the horse to react more quickly, and so on. Izzy doesn’t need quicker, and he doesn’t need more activity. He bounces off the walls as it is. Over the past week, I’ve been able to get some really good change in Izzy’s neck (it’s getting longer and lower) and in his willingness to relax.
We have a two-day USDF show this weekend. I’ve reached out to Amelia to see if she can give me a lesson on Friday evening; the show’s venue is in her neighborhood. She has a clinic and is waiting on the schedule, but with any luck, she’ll be able to help us warm up the night before. I will definitely be looking for future opportunities to ride with Amelia. If you have the chance to ride with her or audit one of her clinics, I strongly recommend it. And if you have time, you should check out her YouTube channel; it’s packed full of instructional videos.

If we’re a hot mess this weekend, Amelia, it’s totally NOT your fault!

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