Ashley Adams Clinic – Levi Dressage

KEL Equestrian organized an Ashley Adams clinic at her barn this past weekend. Although I initially eagerly signed up, Levi’s recent bit issues and his behavior at the dressage show had me kind of dreading the clinic in the days leading up to it. While I’m certainly not unfamiliar with embarrassing myself in front of professionals, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I also really didn’t want to be “that” rider at a clinic – the one whose horse is such a pain, the clinician has to take time away from other participants to deal with them. Luckily, The first day was a private dressage lesson.

Ashley started with the usual questions about what we were working on and issues we were having. I told her about our contact issues, the temper tantrums, and how Levi and I don’t really get along. But horses are nothing if not good at making liars of us… And Levi was out to prove me wrong. To be fair, I’ve never said the problem isn’t me. It’s more that my issues and Levi’s issues don’t mesh very well. He wants a rider who pushed him forward. I like a horse that pulls me forward.

We began with walking.

Ashley really wanted me to use my thigh and knee to ask for turns. We spent a while on walk and then trot doing square turns with the emphasis on turning using my thigh and knee and keeping contact with the outside rein. I think about my seat and my lower leg a lot (I don’t always get them correct, but I think about them), but I rarely think about my thighs and clearly I should be.

I like this picture for how similar Kate and Ashley are in their simultaneous head tilt as they scrutinize me.

This isn’t a particularly “pretty” picture. However, aside from the simultaneous head tilt, what I like about it is the straight line from my elbow to the bit. As I’ve discussed before, Levi does not like his mouth touched. We usually look like this:

slack reins, ducking behind the vertical to evade contact, and angry, gaping mouth

As we continued working on going straight, doing square turns, lots of changes of direction and transitions, he got more and more forward. We were aided in this by him being a bit “lit” with the new environment. Then we moved on to canter and the focus was again on straightness and transitions. Of course, it wouldn’t be Levi if the initial transition wasn’t excessively uphill:

After a few circles in each direction, Ashley had us spend a lot of the lesson on a giant figure 8. We would canter to the left, trot across the diagonal with the focus on going straight, then push him over with my inside leg into the outside rein and ask for the right land canter, then canter right, trot across the diagonal and repeat.

canter left? ✓

It turns out that if I hurl my self forward and really drive my seat into the cantle of the saddle while shoving my hands forward, Levi will shockingly not pick up the right lead.

canter right? ✘

But if I trot across the diagonal with my right leg actually on the horse:

and sit the hell back, he might pick up that right lead.

And then get lots of pets (with my outside hand because try as I might, I cannot teach myself to praise with the inside hand so that I’m not giving up the connection every time).

We didn’t spend the whole time on the figure 8 though. Ashley would have us circle, and serpentine and sometimes just go down the long side and push him to open up.

It was very important that I stare at the ground on the inside the whole time though

At one point she asked us to leg yield across the diagonal and Levi was like “oh, lateral work? I love lateral work!”

so sad this is out of focus

He’s not very good at leg yield as he likes to trail his hindquarters and overbend, but he really likes it. We only did that the one time and then we went back to the things he struggles with: lots more canter transitions and going forward onto the bit.

By the end of the lesson, I was exhausted. It was intense, but fun. My husband even managed to capture a picture of my smiling while riding my horse. Honestly, I’m not actually that miserable, but I have a general resting b*tch face and when I am riding – especially during a lesson – I am usually concentrating way too hard to think about smiling. But Levi was being SO good and I spent a lot of time patting him and telling him “good boy” that I apparently was smiling.

At the end, Ashley basically told me off for complaining about him. While I’d obviously rather have him be good and have a nice ride than have him be a jerk just to prove my point, it is frustrating when your horse makes you look like a liar. I wanted to be like “I’ve got judge’s comments that agree with me,” but obviously I didn’t. Because Ashley is old school and scary and does not like back-talk.

Stay tuned for Day 2.

21 thoughts on “Ashley Adams Clinic – Levi Dressage

  1. Emma

    Sounds like she had a lot of really practical and effective exercises for helping the horse understand! And yea my first trainer was super old school and kinda scary too lol and basically would not tolerate ppl complaining about the horses or blaming the horses for poor performances.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I actually really like this type of instructor. My instructors growing up were like that. I learn better if the person instructing me just demands that I do the right thing and yells at me if I don’t. But that doesn’t mean they’re not scary.

  2. Carly

    I also like to employ your tactics for right lead canter departs. I don’t know why they don’t work!

  3. Teresa

    I also have a very serious/frowny face in a lesson- I call it my ‘thinking face’. 🙂 I think that you are doing well with Levi. he is not easy and riding a horse that doesn’t always respond even when you do it correctly can make things really really hard.

    1. Olivia Post author

      Thinking face is much more polite. But it’s the same idea. It’s just unfortunate because I never look happy when I am riding even though I usually am.

  4. Liz

    So glad to hear you had a good day with Levi – though it is frustrating that you couldn’t get the feedback on how to work through the bad times.

  5. Karen

    I have the same issue with throwing my body and hands forward in the expectation that Ashke will fly.

    Its a very bad habit from when I was young. Its amazing to me that muscle memory from when I was twelve can still trump focused, deliberate behavior now.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I think it’s that cowboy/old western sort of maneuver; just push yourself forward and go. Dressage is so much more difficult.

  6. Stacie Seidman

    They will make us look liars every chance we get! Sounds like a great lesson though. Hopefully some takeaways that will keep you two getting along. Can’t wait for part two!

  7. KC Scott

    I have RBF also when riding, but I’m (usually) having fun! I can’t believe your horse also doesn’t pick up the correct leads when hurl yourself forward- what are we doing wrong? Sigh. Glad you had a good lesson though, he looks awesome in those pictures!

  8. martidoll123

    oh so jealous of your clinic i would love to ride with her. Glad Levi behaved (I know you don’t want him to make a liar but what a great ride with him!) AND at least you don’t stick your tongue out while concentrating. UGH I do it all the time. LOL Can’t wait for part 2 (SO GLAD I HAVE INTERNET AGAIN I saw this post this am on my phone and was like ooh i am waiting till i can read on the computer :)!

    1. Olivia Post author

      Oh no, I definitely stick my tongue out too. I have a lot of pictures that look like that. Since Nilla also sticks her tongue out, I have a bunch of matching face pictures/

    1. Olivia Post author

      I have been debating trying it. He chewed holes in the squishy happy mouth and I’m worried he’d chew off and swallow pieces of the wrap, but I might try it anyway.

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