Year in Review: De Novo

Im beyond excited to be finished with my competition commitments for 2012! Every year, for the past 2 decades I get tired of the driving, tired of the gas money, tired of long weekend away from home, and ready to have a weekend with no horses in sight. I am now at that point in the year. Last weekend was the final clinic held here at Polestar (except our monthly Jen Verharen vitamin) with Grand Prix show jump rider, Scott Keach. Weekend before was the clinic with Kim Severson. And the weekend before THAT, was Margarito and Angela’s wedding here at the farm! Its been busy!!

My goal for this blog is to describe the growth and training of my young horses, De Novo, The Boogieman and Cochlear. But before I start with how they are doing now… I have to remind you where they have been.

Dino (DeNovo) is my 6 year old homebred who has not competed since April 2010. Back then, he was 4 years old and went to California for his first few shows… and ended up with tendonitis in a hind leg. The boy is just too bouncy and too hot to rush along, so I viewed his rehab and therapy as the long, patient road to get an edju-mu-cation. Dino has always found leaving the ground quite easy and fun, and he does it in whatever capacity as often as he can! Rehab was not always the best of times, and I can say that he was definitely challenging.

By mid-summer 2012, I found him to be well off the vet’s radar and free to train as a normal 6 year old should. I delayed the jumping for at least 8 months longer than I needed to. But, honestly, I was having a lot of fun with his dressage and I didn’t feel like I was missing the jumps at at all. He was becoming more confirmed in his half-halts, learning the beginnings of collection and understanding half pass and counter canter much better.  His topline was changing by the month in great ways, but, eventually, Dino needed to bounce around over jumps. We didn’t get to any recognized shows due to me being busy and me also emotionally full to the brim with difficult horses (wait for the Boogie article), therefore Dino had to wait for this fall to go do some outings.  In the last few weeks he has gone to Upson Downs to clinic with Kim Severson and he also rode here at the farm with Scott Keach. Both clinics were SO fun!!  Both Scott and Kim found similar ways to keep Dino mentally busy and productive, but with different means to the end. Kim and I needed two days of jumping to finally get him to focus and be in a learning mood. His boundless energy is impressive, but it can be exhausting to work through. Kim had me do lots and lots of interesting lateral/flatwork in between the jumps to keep his attention. Leg yielding to a jump, counter canter to jumps and lots of transitions helped him stay productive and focused, rather than silly, bucking, overjumping and goofing around on landing. Her overall lesson for me was to find ways to put my leg on Dino, have him accept it, and ask more of him. She felt that on both Boogie and Dino, I need to ask more of them with my aids and that I am too quiet of a rider at times. However, I’d much rather be a quiet rider and work to be louder than vice versa!

The most exciting part of my Kim lessons is the jumping – I always seem to ride better when there is more expected of me. I have two awesome videos from Julie Thayne that I am watching repeatedly to help me absorb all the good nuggets that Kim threw at me.

I am beyond excited to take lessons from two such highly skilled coaches, who have similar messages but different techniques. Above all, both are extremely good horsemen and they relate to my problems with my young horses as if they were riding them as well. They teach methods that make sense to a rider – not just bookish advice. Kim is deeply rooted in classical dressage and fundamentals of eventing (US Olympic team ’04 Individual Silver, team Bronze, World Equestrian Games ’02 and ’06). I always thought that she would be an excellent US team coach, and maybe someday she will be. She is an exacting teacher, whether it is over fences or on the flat, and demands perfection and great understanding.

Scott’s background is extremely varied and he draws from a wide variety of experiences: working on cattle and sheep stations in Australia,  eventing (Aussie Olympic team ’88) and Grand Prix show jumping. He is a dash of cowboy at heart and very creative in his problem solving. Last year he told a group, “You wont read this in any jumping book, but this works for reiners.” And proceeded to teach us a technique that I use nearly every day since.

Dino showed fabulous consistency with his difficult and distracted behavior on day one of this clinic too. Like Kim, Scott also had me finding ways to put my legs on him and have him accepting my requests. We did endless turns and changes of direction and gaits. Eventually, Dino started to flick his ears back to me more than he was looking at everyone and everything else. It was pretty exhausting to realize that I have months and months of this with him. Possibly its something that I must do at every show he will go to, but its worth it. Because the end result is a listening Dino who was receptive not reactive. One of my most favorite Scott messages is that we don’t nearly reward and praise our horses enough. He gives a masterclass on patience and praise at the right moments.

Next Kim clinic is November 17 and 18, and I encourage more people to audit. See you with the next installment: The Boogieman, just in time for Halloween.



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