The Rebecca Cowden Clinic

*Can I just say that I have the best readers EVER! I was a little worried about yesterday’s post, but I had no need to be. You all are WONDERFUL. Thank you for being supportive and understanding!*

So when the signs came up at Gen’s barn for the Rebecca Cowden Clinic at the barn I was a little hesitant to sign up. You see, last time we had a clinic at the barn with a trainer I had never heard of I had a good time, but I did not feel like a learned a ton. At the time I thought I was going to be dropping $2,000 on shows this year, so a clinic was just not high on my priority last. That was until I started asking around. Everyone had really good things to say about Rebecca Cowden. The more I heard the more excited I got to sign up. She sounded like the perfect mix of support and toughness, which is just what Phoenix and I need right now.

After I signed up I thought about PJsMom and decided that she should come to. It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing for her to decide that it was time for her baby horses first field trip. Gen’s farm is super low key and this clinic was shaping up to be the perfect place for her to go out and try something with him. I showed up at the barn bright and early on Saturday morning to find that my sweet Phoenix had decided to take a nappy in his poop over night so even though it was cold the poor thing got another bath. Once he was all clean it was time to go.

Phoenix had a little trouble with the trailer (which is unusual for him) because he was not used to getting on the right side. Seeing his pasture mate hop up gave PJ the confidence he needed to get right on as well. We had loaded a 6 year old and a 4 year old on to the trailer in about 3 minutes flat. I pointed out that even if nothing else went well, we still had already had a really good day! We were the first people at the clinic so we got a chance to unload the boys and let them look around the ring. They were both a little up, but nothing to be worried about. Once I let Phoenix hand graze (a treat he is NEVER allowed have when we travel) I had a very happy pony on my hands.

By the time the first rider showed up PjsMom and I decided to turn them out for a few minutes and watch a little bit so we would know what we were in for. Since it was Gens barn (so obviously they know me) and Phoenix and PJ are buds they got to go out in the dog field instead of having to hang out in a trailer all day. (Are they not the most adorable pair).

I left the decision of time slots up to PJsMom and her comfort level. One of us was scheduled to be the 2nd ride of the day. It didn’t take long for her to decide that she needed a few more minutes to gather herself so I went and got ready to ride. Phoenix was still feeling up and was totally cold backed getting his saddle on, but with the help of PJsMom I was ready to go in no time. I had only seen a few minutes of the first ride, but I was already excited to get on. Rebecca Cowden had been really good with the first horse who was very hot. I could not wait to see what she made of my Fat Spotted Pony.

I got on and he felt tense right away. In fact, he felt almost exactly as tense as he does before he starts his bucking fits. Rebecca could tell and right away we got to work. After a little while at the walk she told me I could trot when ready, so like the obedient student that I am, I trotted right away. Rebecca grilled me on why I had asked for the transition upward when my horse was not over the back at the walk yet. I told her the truth, because I never really thought about it. I just assumed that I could not get him over the back until after I canter. I was in for a treat! She got us to focus and me to steady my hand.

She could spot my HUGE issue of inconsistent rein contact right away. She explained it to me in a way that no one else has. We are always told to ride a horse back to front right? Well, I had decided that meant 80% back and 20% front. Instead, I should start thinking of it more as closing gates on both ends. The most amazing thing in the world happened once I got steady. Phoenix came over the back at the walk!! It is just a really cooling feeling when a horse comes underneath you, so to get it at my warm up walk was fantastic.

She then gave us permission to trot and reinforced the idea that a slower, but steadier trot over the back is much better then an out of control, yet impressive looking party trot. That was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. She also got after me for my nagging, and even kicking leg. It is not something I even consciously do so to have someone notice it and really get after me about it was just what I needed. Then it was time to focus on my arch nemisis. My hands. I do NOT have steady hands. If I did not get what she was talking about she would come back and say it in another way. She worked on getting to understand what I should be feeling all the time, praising me when I got it right, and making me think about things when I got it wrong.

She also reminded me that if I stay consistent it is impossible for Phoenix to pick a fight with me. He threw his face in the air after a walk break, which normally signals a battle of wills. Rebecca was able to diffuse the situation quickly and after that moment it was THE BEST RIDE EVER! She made me think of things that I know in a whole new way. By the time we cantered I had Phoenix constant and over the back. It was a wonderful feeling. Look at that picture at the top. The best part is, we were so consistant I have about 5 more pictures that look almost exactly like that at the canter! I felt like I was floating on air by the time we were done! I cannot say enough good things about the ride. I swear that I made a ton of progress in that short ride. I know everyone else agreed. PJsMom said she ahd never seen Phoenix and I look better…EVER.

It was like little light bulbs going off in my head the whole time I was riding. She really tied together everything that my trainer and PO tell me. I had the background knowedge of what, but I clearly was not understanding the why or the how. Rebecca, in a very short amount of time, was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together with me during the ride. She even said that I was a very good rider! Many times! She also pointed out that I needed to think of myself as a trainer, not just a rider. She really gave my confidence a boost.

Do we not look like the happiest horse and rider pair ever! We were both exhausted, but it was an amazing ride. Look at the drool coming out of my Fat Spotted Pony’s mouth! I was on cloud 9 as I untacked Phoenix and put him back out in the field. I only saw bits of PJsMom’s ride, but she looked fantastic as well. By the time lunch came around all the morning riders were smiling with that post good ride glow! I am so glad that I went to that clinic! It was the perfect bump I needed to remind myself that I have a lot to learn. Even though my time with Phoenix is coming to end, I still need to keep riding and learning. Prior to this clinic I thought I needed to take a break after Phoenix. After this ride (which words cannot do it justice) I called up my trainer and set up a lesson already for the first weekend in June. That was how good this ride was. If anyone out there gets a chance to ride with Rebecca Cowden, do it! Not all Grand Prix riders can teach, but she is one of the few that can! I hope to get to ride with her again someday. Maybe with Gennyral next time (just teasing).