It was back-t0-basics at a clinic with Grand Prix jumper rider Dani Grice in Minnesota. Emily Kelly, Jessi Derry and Maura Daugherty fill us in on what we missed.
Hey there HN!
As much as we all hate cold, frozen, dreary winters, we have to admit that they do provide a great opportunity to get back to the basics of our riding again! No dressage tests to memorize, no jumping courses to prepare for… it’s a great time to put in those dreaded lunge lessons, no-stirrups work, and allow your trainer to kill you over your position for a few months (sounds fun, right??)! But the cold winters do offer one benefit… winter clinics! Taking clinics while you’ve been stuck in the same indoor for the last four months is hands-down the best Christmas/Hanukkah/New-Years/
A local tack shop, St. Croix Saddlery, recently hosted one of these terrific winter clinics at the University of Minnesota’s Equine Center, with Grand Prix jumper rider Danielle Grice. Dani was originally from this area and is also a former employee of St. Croix Saddlery, so she graciously came back to help pass on some of her wonderful knowledge to riders of all ages and levels in the MN/WI area. Two of my fellow riders, Jessi Derry and Maura Daugherty, trailered their horses down for the two-day clinic and sent me back an overview of how the clinic went along with some pictures!
I really enjoyed Dani Grice as a clinician. She has a very relaxed style that puts you at ease right away. I knew from the get-go that we were there to learn and improve, not feel like I had to perform or impress her in anyway. She was in the barn right away in the morning greeting people and helping out which formed a sense of camaraderie.
The U of M was a fantastic location! The footing is from the show Cavalia and it’s such a big, bright, open space that you really feel like you have a lot of room even with four horses in the ring. There were plenty of bleachers for spectators and big viewing rooms if you wanted to be inside. We were lucky that the weekend was unseasonably warm for a Minnesota January but even at that we were only riding in one layer–a nice break from the usual 3 or 4!
The two quotes that stand out to me are “Fix the lead!” and “Get it done!” Obviously, fix-the-lead says more about my riding than Dani’s style, but helpful none the less! Get it done sticks out because she helped us find a place in our heads where we were confident in what we were asking of our horses. If we wanted to do the line in 5 strides we were gonna get it done! We’re the rider, we’re in charge of setting the pace. We don’t let our horses bomb all over and get sloppy–we do what we need to do to ride a nice organized round. Although I’ve been around horses for over 20 years I’m new to eventing and have only had my current horse for a little over a year. Sometimes the whole competition part feels really new and overwhelming and takes over the part in my brain where I’m the rider and in charge of the ride. Dani helped us find the correct feel of our horses and then make that feel happen throughout the ride.
The most helpful and eye-opening exercise for me was a related distance where we trotted both fences. The fences were set up about 7 or 8 strides apart so after we trotted to the first fence we had to come back to the trot by the time we hit the second fence. Not an easy task for a 16.3 OTTB event horse! The first time through Kelso was absolutely confused about why I was asking him to trot again before a fence. I could feel his brain saying, “Trot?! Why on earth would I trot again? We always canter!” Note to self–I need to get in the driver’s seat! The key is adjustability, I’m in control and can ask for what I need and he need’s to listen to me. Another point that Dani made that sticks out to me is that when you have a problem fence on course–a weird distance, too flat, too fast, etc.–you may not have a rail at that fence or even the next one but if you don’t fix the problem you’ll have a rail somewhere. Time and time again we saw that happen. Sloppy fence, rail up–next fence, rail down. It’s all about getting organized after each fence and keeping to your rhythm. She stressed being aware that horses will tend to get fast throughout the course so often you need a decrease in speed in important places. Use the design of the course to help you, not hurt you.
For me personally it was a great clinic to get back to basics and jump small fences correctly. Dani’s focus on being soft and waiting for the horse has helped me back at home both in the jumping and dressage. I also am much better at following through on the backside of the fence and I’ve noticed a big difference in how fast I am able to get organized to the next fence. Overall it was a fun, low-key learning experience.
Back to Emily:
After talking to a few people that went and audited or rode in the clinic, everyone seemed to have had a very favorable impression of Dani and would love to have her back in the area again! With only a few more months of winter left, hang in there. Go on an intense YouTube search for videos from the top clinicians in your discipline–let me tell you, this is a great boredom fix for the weekends–plus its educational!
Photo Credit: Sadie Luetmer. Top photo is of Jessi Derry on Kelso. Bottom photo is of Maura Daugherty on Cappie.