If you would have told me a few months ago that soon Knight and I would ride two days in a clinic with an Olympic show jumping coach I would have laughed at the preposterous idea. Yet it happened thanks to my trainer who hosted the event. Here I present to you the Rob Gage jumping clinic re-cap for Day One.
Rob owns an impressive riding/training resume such as having jumped 7 foot 1 inches, I believe he said multiple times. He won the Hits Million Grand Prix before it was called that and before it was $1 million. He was at the Rio Olympics with Team Venezuela as their Chef de Equipe. Rob’s also one of the judges who provides jumping and equitation feedback for the site Judge My Ride.
Rob’s style is gruff, his use of language colorful, and it took a little getting used to his manner of training during Day One which was a private lesson. For example, this was one of his first questions which I thought rather odd:
“Do you have kids?”
“I like you already.”
I told him I was a middle school teacher so technically I had over 100 kids and he said I was brave.
“You’re brave! “I said. Brave for jumping fences taller than himself.
He spent the first few minutes talking about entering the ring at a show, in an under saddle class staying away from everyone else, and he corrected my hand placement–they should be up higher and angled in more.
We trotted around, then cantered and he asked, “What’s a nice lady like you doing riding a horse like this?”
That question hit a nerve and I shot back, “I’m a poor school teacher!”
In hindsight I realize this is partially true. I am technically not poor, but I am not one of those who has the luxury of buying a made show horse with a long string of zeroes at the end of the price tag.
I was ticked off but kept riding.
How could he disrespect my sweet horse he didn’t even know like that? He didn’t know about Knight not spooking at the helicopter when I first got him or more recently at the peacock we met on trail. He didn’t know this horse has never bucked or reared with me on his back, but in turnout his favorite thing–besides rolling–is to buck and rear.
“Does this horse do flying changes?”
“He does, but I don’t really.” I have a timing problem with lead changes–getting my limbs and weight and all the parts cued together mid-stride. Rob told me go across the arena in a hand gallop, explaining it’s easier for them to change while they’re forward. I barely cued him and Knight got a clean change. (Phew!)
And then the jumping started.
We began with a small single fence on a circle and all was well. Our major problem (my major problem) is Knight likes to overjump and when he does that it is too exhilarating and so I ride defensively, sitting up straight like a dressage rider and my hands get grabby on his mouth.
Rob quoted the late Jimmy Williams who said the saddle was not for sitting–or something to that effect. I tried to hover over the seat instead of making contact.
Then we switched to a gymnastic with an X to a small vertical and a couple of strides away another vertical. I thought, “I can’t remember the last time I did this. Does Knight know what to do? Is this going to work?”
And so Knight stopped at the puny X. He refused an X he could walk over from a standstill.
I fell forward onto his neck in front of the pommel, but was NOT about to actually fall down.
Thankfully Knight stood still, and did not fling me off with the toss of his head. I shimmied back into the saddle, picked up the reins and patted him–patted him for standing still and not dumping me.
(Did I mention there were a ton of spectators at the arena rail? My faithful groupie Carey and her pup Thule came to support me. We gave quite a show. Especially that one time one hand lost the reins at the end of a line and my free arm flew back uncontrollably. My trainer said I looked like a bronc rider.)
“I’m so sick of these spoiled horses!” Rob yelled.
Circling around to approach it again, I fumed, “He doesn’t even know my horse and that he’s only stopped one other time since I’ve owned him! And that other time was when it was getting dark outside and I don’t think he saw the fence well. This is an honest horse! It’s my fault.”
Something about this adversarial relationship that was developing made me more determined than ever. I wanted to show him–prove I had a good horse.
And so we jumped and jumped and jumped more than I’d done in years. Some of it was good, but some, maybe most was ugly. Rob’s mantra became, “Do it again.”
Eventually I heard, “Why’d you hang on his mouth that time? He was being a gentleman for you.”
At the conclusion of the lesson Rob said he would wait to give me his opinion on my horse until after the second ride, and that he wanted my horse tired–really tired. He also said that Knight takes off from the appropriate spot but then he lands long and that it was something only a trainer at his level could correct. And my interpretation was that he didn’t think it was worth it.
Later in the tackroom Carey, my trainer and I chatted. Carey thinks I should do jumpers–the fun 2 foot classes.
I declared no interest in blazing speed and possessed no confidence I would remember a longer, more complicated course.
“Even if I remembered the course, if I had to do a jump off how would I remember that too?”
They vetoed my concern. “You’ll remember.”
Carey upped the challenge by reminding me that I could wear fun colors of jackets in the jumper ring. She even told me about a pretty berry color she saw recently and said if I showed in the 2 foot jumpers class at The Oaks this summer, she would buy me the jacket.
In the end my trainer paid me the highest of compliments by saying I was badass. Followed by, “I think I’ve been babying you too much.”
Carey and I went out to dinner where we debriefed the entire lesson over Brussels sprouts, deviled eggs, and a soft pretzel. I felt proud that I stayed on and apparently rode like a badass, but had a slight sense of dread for the second lesson which was going to be two days later.
Would I fall off for real next time? Would I be the only one in our group who would ride off course? Would Rob insult my horse again?
(Check back for Day Two re-cap tomorrow on the blog).
I heart your comments! What experiences have you had riding in or auditing clinics? Have you ever been insulted which propelled you toward better riding?
Thanks for reading. I’d be flattered if would follow Knight and me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest! You’re also invited to subscribe to our email list too and stay updated on horsey happenings! Just fill in your name and email addy below. You’ll hear from us via email a few times a month (and we promise no spam).