The second "Ride-A-Test" clinic at Southern Oaks Equestrian Center, Tallahassee, FL. It was a rainy and damp winter day, but we had riders all day with a good range of tests from Introductory to Second Level. Marsha Saap (owner/trainer of Southern Oaks, and my good friend) rode three mustangs- Onyx, Cobra, and Oconuco at Training Level. Each of these mustangs was a part of the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition, competing in a national competition after only 100 days in training.
We had a 3-year-old mare, Chelsea, that really liked to step over the chain fence during her warm-up. During the clinic, I had her rider, Ali, keep the mare on the quarter lines, performing figure-eights and serpentines to prevent her from continuing to step out of the ring and forming a bad habit.
Due to the chilly weather, some of the horses were a little tense. When a horse gets tight and "jigs" in the free walk it can be difficult to maintain a clear walk rhythm. I helped Marsha to envision that she was riding through molasses to help maintain relaxation. It is better to have a clear, slow walk with some stretch and get a 6 rather than have an energetic march but keep breaking to the trot and receive a 4. In Training Level Test 1 the free walk and the stretchy trot are multiplied by two. It is important to show that the training is correct and the horse is reaching through his top-line.
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with Sandra Beaulieu, a USDF bronze and silver medalist with competition experience through Grand Prix, USDF "L" judge, freestyle designer, bit-less instructor, dressage and liberty trainer, equine artist, and author: