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Virtual Lesson Recap: Find Fresh Eyeballs

Virtual Lesson Recap: Find Fresh Eyeballs

Justine Griffin

Unlike so many others from different parts of the country, the summertime is my slowdown period when it comes to riding.

The months of June, July and August…. heck, halfway through October some years, are just downright brutal in hot and humid Florida. And my big, 17-hand Thoroughbred gelding doesn’t handle that 90-plus degree heat coupled with the high humidity so well.

So with no horse shows or clinics on the horizon for the next few months, it can be pretty difficult to stay motivated.

My horse and I had a banner show season in the 2019-2020 year. We moved up in jump height and debuted in a new level in dressage. We competed at our first recognized shows together, and we took home several pretty ribbons to show for our efforts. It was as if everything finally clicked – the years of training and logging the the green miles were paying off.

While my horse has earned a well-deserved break, I don’t want everything we’ve accomplished, from fitness to training, to fall to the wayside. I’m hoping to build on the great winter and spring seasons we had, and pick up where we left off in the fall. Three-to-four months from now, the plan is to be back in the show ring.

But this slowdown period has left me feeing…. unmotivated. I’m pretty sure my trainer was beginning to notice our lacking effort in our lessons, too.

I was letting little things slide, like a popped shoulder here, or a lazy canter depart there. I took my stirrup leathers off my saddle to motivate me to use this time to strength my seat and lower leg. But most of our rides lately have been mediocore at best.

When I saw a viral Facebook post about FEI Level II and USEF “R” Eventing Judge Amanda Miller circulating online… my interest piqued. Maybe this was just the kick in the butt I needed. Amanda was scoring dressage tests FOR FREE based on videos submitted by email.

I had taken a virtual riding lesson before – 5-star eventer, Lainey Ashker had offered instruction based on submitted videos for a short while and I really enjoyed getting feedback from a top rider I really admired.

So I dragged my poor husband to the barn, posted him up at “C”, and rode down centerline. The First Level test I shot was not even close to the best I’ve ridden. We were rusty and lazy. I cringed as I watched it back on the drive home and considered not sending it at all. But that was the point – wasn’t it? To get constructive feedback to help us through?

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Amanda scored the test in just a couple of days. And the feedback was exactly what I was looking for. It was great to get a judge’s viewpoint and a fresh set of eye balls on what we look like NOW, not necessarily back in our prime from winter. She easily picked out our problem areas and gave me some suggestions on how to improve.

My horse likes to drop in the poll and get a little on the forehand during extensions, for example, and she had some ideas on how to help create a more uphill lengthening. She reminded me of little problems I’ve just stopped trying to fix – like on the long sides of the arena, my horse tends to push his haunches in somewhat at the canter. These small tips and reminders were enough to get my head back in the game.

Now I’m feeling like I have more of a game plan on how to proceed, advance, and fine tune through the summer months.

And yes, I’ll still be keeping those stirrups off my saddle for a few more weeks.

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