Cindy Ishoy Clinic

What an experience. First I have to tell you how impressed and appreciative I feel after participating in this past weekend's clinic. Cindy Ishoy is very dedicated to helping riders and their horses. Here are some examples - it's Dec. here in cold, damp Nova Scotia, and barns / arenas are notoriously cold and damp. We don't have heated arenas here. Yet Cindy worked through her lunch hours and stayed in the evenings to either give people extra lessons if they needed it, or extended the lesson they were in by half an hour or more. Let me tell you, when there is a choice between a warm kitchen with a fire crackling and food lined counters, or staying in a freezing barn where you've been for hours - what do you think most people would pick? She flew here from Ontario for the clinic and will continue from here to Europe. It sounds like there are pretty well no days off. And yet she'll stand and teach as long as there's a student and horse who need her. She's a Pan Am and Olympic medalist, but no diva!
Then there are the results - each horse improved through the ride. Some of us (I was one) were brought back for 'detention' :) It's hard to feel bad about being in detention when you are getting more instruction from such a talented teacher.
I outlined in my last post that Rogo's been giving me a hard time in the canter. Asking for more engagement and impulsion really tapped into his willful side. I'm given to painting Rogo in a very favourable light, and he deserves it a lot of the time, but I mentioned in the past how incredibly difficult he was to back. We spent months getting him to go forward - he'd stand and refuse to move and then we'd have to lunge him or work him in a round pen. This recurred twice after lay offs, but hasn't happened in a long, long time. I thought it was a thing of the past until asking him to canter with a rounder frame and then it came back over a period of days until he was in full blown rebel mode just before the clinic. I wrote about it last time - wrong leads, racing, balking, bucking, head shaking, etc., etc. We'd just started to work through it when Cindy came and she did a few great things for us.
I'll discuss the trot first - I haven't done sitting trot with Rogo. I sit to other horses but he was just too bouncy. Also, forwardness and impulsion have been our nemesis. Cindy's clinic, building on the work I've done with Sue and Jane over the last month have made huge improvements here. Rogo is going forward and, ta da, with a rounder frame I can sit his trot now! Cindy had me do long periods of transitions on a circle - walk / halt, walk / halt, trot / walk, trot / walk, for minutes on end. She had me employ a little shoulder fore at times and also remember to put my legs on and push into my hands for the halt. I'm going to pause on that piece for a minute.
I've known to push into my hands for a halt almost from the beginning of riding Savanah, but riding Rogo, who was being challenging, helped me understand it in a bigger way. He didn't want to halt because it's harder to halt and start again than to just jig and go back to trot. So I'd pull because he just wouldn't stop. Wrong. Put your legs on even more strongly and then he's pushed harder into your resisting (not pulling) hands and voila - a nice engaged halt quickly. It's counter intuitive - to get a crisper halt push harder with your seat/legs, but it works.
Cindy also helped me work on accuracy of the figures, and she points out frequently to many riders that the benefit of the figures is in accuracy. Rogo has always fallen in on left hand circles, no matter how hard I tried. They'd be fixed for a while but then go back to that. It would probably be more accurate to say I go back to holding too much with the inside rein and not riding him into the outside rein as I complete the circle. With some focus on getting the steering fine tuned in the new frame we were soon doing better circles, figure eights and serpentines - it's such a balancing act between all of the aids - inside and outside legs and reins, and the seat as well. One thing I learned was to move the hands together to the inside or outside at times, as needed. For example if you move your hands together to the inside, it puts more tension on the outside rein (good) and bends a bit to the inside (good). Of course this HAS to be accompanied by inside leg pushing into the outside rein and outside leg holding / supporting the quarters on the circle.
After riding lots of transitions on circles and going large Cindy told me to do sitting trot. All of the transitions had him using his hind quarters and raising his back more and just like that sitting trot worked, after two years of eluding me.
From sitting trot we were able to work on getting the canter under control (see how the pieces are building through the lesson?). As a reminder right lead canter, which had always been super easy for Rogo was the area he rebelled in - he wouldn't take that lead. Although we got a couple of good right lead canters in, I really had to work at it and I was told to come back for another lesson in the evening - my detention :).
We worked on it more in the evening and Jane Fraser, Sue's sister, rode him as well to help with the training. She's a very good rider but even she had difficulty with him at first as he tried to intimidate a little bit and refuse to respond to the aids. She stayed quiet and patient though and quietly the right lead canter started coming more consistently.
My lesson the second day was similar to the first but now we also had to work on slowing him down - can you believe it? The horse I've struggled to get more forward for two years was out for this third intense lesson in 24 hours and he wanted to GO. It wasn't a racy nervous go at all - he was calm and much softer and nicer the second day, but also the hind quarters were doing their work now. It seemed almost miraculous to me :) He was much different to work with the second day. He was getting back to sweet Rogo who wanted to work with me and not agaist me. I could feel him respond to light aids and it was so joyful! He took the wrong lead once or twice to the right, but I got two good right lead canters without too much difficulty and then Jane rode him again. She got consistent right lead canters with light aids and easy steering - it seems the canter rebellion may be almost over.
SO that was my two days of lessons with Cindy, helped by Jane. They were two of the most intense learning days of my dressage life. I found it hard to sleep the night after the first lesson because my mind was racing with all I've learned.
I watched most of the lessons that others had too and learned tons from that. I'll write about some of the key points I picked up in a future post.


Wow - sounds like a really good clinic! And I love instructors that put helping the horse and rider above everything else.

Congratulations on your breakthroughs. You've really worked hard and you deserve them! Looking forward to your auditing notes as well. Any pictures?! :)
juliette said…
Oh, my goodness... I am sweating now reading that post. I can see why you couldn't sleep. It really is great to have help and such caring, knowledgeable help. You and Rogo deserve the best and it sounds like you got it! So great - hooray! Enjoy your forward, helpful, round boy.
wilsonc said…
Pushing into the halt! I've recently read something somewhere about this...maybe in USDF Connection, and now you've brought it up too. I can't wait to try it. I am also grateful for the reminder that transitions will help get my horse using his back end. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have riding instructors like Cindy Ishoy on a regular basis?
Oak Creek Ranch said…
It sounds like you accomplished a lot in the clinic. I have to admit to being more than a tad envious!
Val said…
What an amazing clinic experience! I am very impressed with all your hard work and hard-earned accomplishments.

My horse used to rush as his evasion. It took me a really long time to realize that I had to put my legs on to slow him down. Legs on make a slower horse. Riding paradoxes. Gotta love 'em, because you can't beat 'em!
TBDancer said…
And isn't it WONDERFUL that Rogo WANTS to go forward?? I think it means he feels supported by your "receiving hand" and he knows where you are. My biggest problem is dropping the contact--I think I have contact, but the rein is flopping. Loved reading about your clinic. Lucky you, and fabulous ROGO!!
Lori Skoog said…
What a great experience.
Margaret said…
Two days! Wow, so much learned in a short time. It all sounds exciting and I wonder... do they have videos of themsleves teaching for sale? I'll have to google it.
Carol said…
Great feedback and insights you guys. Thanks. I hadn't thought about him feeling more supported with 'receiving hand'. Interesting. Margaret I'm not aware of any training videos unfortunately.
Yes, we're really lucky in such a small Province to have these opportunties.
Jan said…
Carol, (sorry my comment is so late), what a great clinic! Such wonderful lessons and tips you got! Isn't it great to have a good teacher who can see things that we are doing, perhaps tiny things, and they can correct us, and then our horse responds and it is wonderful! Do write more!
Great clinic. You and Rogo really learned a lot. I'll bet he seems like a totally different horse than the one you're used to riding. Wish we had clinicians around here like her, she seems like a gem. Glad you two accomplished so much and have lots to build on.

Merry Christmas to you and your family and critters and good riding in the New Year.
Achieve1dream said…
Wow, sounds like she's an awesome clinician. I'm glad you got so much help and that the rebellion seems on it's way out. :D
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