Monday, September 17, 2012

Spending the Day With Rodney, George, and Buck...

I have somehow managed to contract a stomach bug and have decided to give myself a break and take a day off from work today.  While I await the loss of 5lbs due to the fun aspects of this illness, I am indulging in a day of DVDs.  Remember when you were young and sick and Mom put you on the couch with a cup of tea and let you watch TV all day?  Well, I'm doing the adult version of that, horse geek style.

While I admit I did indulge in one chick flick (Leap Year), the majority of the day has been spent with my Three Masters:Three Legends DVDs.  The footage was filmed in November of 1998 at the non-profit Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center where Susie Schoellkopf is executive director. The center serves special-needs children and relies on funding from donors. Proceeds from the sale of the series were earmarked to assist in the center's efforts.

There are three volumes with two DVDs in each, 4 hours of footage in each volume for a total of twelve hours all told.  I've watched all twelve hours, but I could watch all them another twelve times and still learn something new each time.  Today I started with Volume Two, Disk Five.  It starts with Rodney Jenkins discussing his thinking on Hunter classes.  Several rider/horse combinations circle Jenkins, and they're not just your average clinic riders.  Nope, the riders in this clinic are Beezie Madden, Aaron Vale, Melanie Smith Taylor, Jenifer Alfano, and Scott Stewart. 

Rodney does not just comment on the rider's position, he does an almost forensic analysis on how it affects the horse.  He teased one rider, calling her Mister Lock-Hands, and told her how her tendency to "grip" a horse with her hands created tension in the horse.  "You grab that horse in the mouth all the time and it gets him upset. Learn to relax your wrists a little.  Yeah, look at that horse!  All of a sudden he came back to you, didn't he?"  Sure enough, there was an immediate and visible change in the horse.  Jenkins then told her to wrap her legs around the horse while keeping her wrists relaxed. "Look where his head came?  See how he got polite with his head?  He got kind in the eyes."  I didn't see the eyes get kind, but I saw the other bits.

Rodney Jenkins recently served as a judge in the
Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show at Pimlico Race Course.
Rodney gave one girl a series of what must have been six instructions on her hand carriage.  By the time she complied with the last instruction, the horse's head had dropped into a much better hunter frame.  Rodney then concentrated on Scott Stewart, saying how everything Stewart does is intense and how he never takes his mind off the horse.  Good thing, right?  Not always, according to Rodney.  He said sometimes horses can't stand that kind of single minded pressure and get upset, and begin to look back at the rider with their ears.  Judges don't want hunters with ears laying back.  Rodney told Scott to take the pressure off by pulling the horse's head to one side a bit to give him something else to look at to refresh his attention and get his ears forward (obviously when the judge isn't looking).

Melanie Smith Taylor cantered by on a grey horse.  Rodney reminded the audience of what he'd pointed out the day prior in the confirmation section - the horse's short, straight pasterns.  He pointed how the horse's weakness behind created a tendency to travel with his hind end to the inside.  He had Melanie perform a shoulder fore to straighten the horse. Rodney agreed you'd never do that in a hack class, but you'd better practice it at home if your horse has the same issue.

Rodney on the great Idle Dice, one of my favorite combinations ever.
Rodney is the first to admit that, for all his emphasis on form, his form was never the best.

Maybe everyone else knows this stuff, but a lot of it was revelation to me.  Rodney pointed out that all of riding "is body position and balance." After all, those would be the aids, right?  He asked the audience to recall an exercises George Morris, one of the other Master Clinicians, had shown in a prior demo.  George had asked riders to purposefully duck on their horse's necks while going over fences.  Rodney asked the crowd, "When he told them to duck at those horses what did they do?  They got flat. George was making the horse jump like the body.  That's the reason all that flopping and ducking makes horses quick."

Rodney asked another rider to bring her shoulder back and then pointed out how the horse stopped stabbing the ground with its front hooves and how it's head came up.  He said that ideally, the flat class should be a prep for the jumping classes, and you don't want a horse with his head so low it's level with the bottom rail of the jump because then the horse will have a poor effort.

Sorry that I'm just rambling on here.  I'm gonna blame it on the tummy bug.  I know I'm geeking out, but I love this stuff.  It's like taking a PhD course in horsemanship.  The stuff I mentioned?  That was all in the first 5-10 minutes of the clinic. That's NOTHING, especially when the clinic progressed into jumping portion.  I rewound the DVD so often to listen to something a second or third time I was lucky it was DVD. Had this been VHS I'd have worn it out.

The set is a bit of an investment, I'll grant you, but if you like this kind of learning, well worth it.  Maybe ask Santa for it?  I'm moving on to Buck Brannaman after Rodney, and am actually hoping I'm sick tomorrow so I can OD on George's segments.

Here's a peek at Rodney back in the day:

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1 comment:

  1. Now I need to go out and buy this series... thanks! And, I love Buck Brannaman!