Sunday, June 3, 2018

Clinic with David Marcus

I was lucky to snag a last minute spot in a clinic with Grand Prix rider and olympian David Marcus!  Even though I was worried about being outclassed I wanted to go and learn as much as I can, and get a fresh (and very knowledgeable!) perspective.

To start, I told David a bit about our background and goals, and he told me his first horse he took to grand prix and used for YR was a thoroughbred!  He said it thought him a lot riding a more sensitive type horse.  He watched us a few minutes.  His first order of business was to bring out a leather puncher and raise my bit (which was already on the last hole).  I felt kind of stupid, when I switched from the loose ring to the D-ring Myler on my black bridle I didn't really look closely but of course the Myler does have bigger rings so I should have thought of that.

Then he had me take my feet out of the stirrups, and really stretch down even pointing my toes down.  He quickly honed in on our trouble areas, and suggested basically going back to the basics. 

David said both Cupid and I can get a bit tense and tight.  He said it's good that Cupid is so willing to stretch - if he starts getting quick let my reins get long and encourage him to stretch down and relax, then gradually shorten the reins again.

Teach the Horse to Do His Job
I shouldn't have my lower leg on as much; I'm not teaching Cupid to do his job.  I need to ask him for the stride I want, then leave him alone.  If he starts slowing down then ask him again.

Be a Little Greedy
If it feels good, don't be afraid to push for a little more!  I hesitate with this because if Cupid is being pretty good I don't want to "upset the apple cart" or not reward him - but when I do ask for more he never resents it and generally rises to the challenge so I need to be more confident with that!

Pressure and Release
If I pull Cupid will just latch on and resist.  Ask, then give.  Or if I don't get the response I want ask again, more firmly, but don't hang on him.  Work towards getting the reaction from the smallest aid possible.
We worked a lot on small circles, and David encouraged me to start with a leading rein.  The first step is Cupid needs to be following the rein, and we need to get a better reaction there before moving on to more subtlety. 

Less Muscle
You can't use the reins to pull the horse into a frame; it comes from the horse lifting its back and using its hind end.  In a funny moment David said just look at me, I have no arm muscle (not really true but he is a very lean guy!)  Don't try to force it just because David or a group of people are watching.  Don't worry if we're not there yet; it takes time but it will come. 

Soft elbows was the big one.  He also noticed my tendency to collapse on my left side.  Also knees pointing forward - going back to how he had me take my feet out of the stirrups.  Reminder that leg position begins at the hips, and the importance of stretching and maintaining flexibility in that area. 
David also said if it feels like I'm leaning too far back, lean back a little more, lol.

We ended up not doing any cantering, but given the heat I was ok with that.  I was quite happy with how Cupid did.  He did whinny once when horses were led by, but was not very distracted by the new surroundings.  He was a little fussy standing initially for the bridle adjustment, but at the end he kept wanting to stand close to David for pats.  David was very positive and encouraging - both making corrections and also telling me what I was doing right.  Although these are all things I've heard before and have been working on (no "magic bullet" to suddenly make me an awesome rider) I ended the ride feeling motivated to continue our progress.  Plus I got to ride in a super beautiful place, with an olympian - a very cool experience! 

The clinic was at Iron Rock in Fairfield, which is a truly beautiful facility.  The arena overlooks a valley and vineyards, and has a little waterfall alongside which luckily Cupid didn't really take notice of. The solid stone mounting block was so fancy I wasn't sure it wasn't just decorative.  I had to get on quick because Cupid was pawing in the sand around it, and it would have been pretty embarrassing to have him roll by the arena with all his tack on!

Unfortunately though it was hot!!  Like mid 90s.  I didn't really feel it while I was riding, but felt a little woozy when I got off, but felt better after downing a bottle of gatorade.  Cupid wasn't as visibly affected by the heat as he seemed at the show last weekend.  I bought him a new electrolyte  (Buckeye Prosper n Win) since he didn't seem to like the apple dex I had before, but he refused to drink water with this in it.  I tried putting an apple in the water, so he's be forced to swallow some trying to get the apple but he divided it wasn't worth it and just ate his hay instead!  I tried offering him plain water after and he didn't want that either (same bucket and water tank in the trailer he drank readily from at the show last weekend), I was a little concerned but he seemed okay otherwise and was still interested in his hay and his demeanor was normal.

I'm waiting to see the official photos, I only took a few quick snaps after we rode.
Sweaty after our ride in the heat
Admiring the view
Very scenic!!
New fans in trailer to keep Cupid cool, especially if we're stuck in traffic!


  1. sounds like a great clinic with lots of good insights!! i love some good biomechanics takeaways...

  2. What a COOL opportunity! Sounds like you are on the right track- since David didn't say anything earth shattering. I always find that reassuring- when a clinician hits on points you already know are issues. So glad you had a good experience, and I can't wait for the riding photos!

    <3 Kelly @ HUnkyHano

    1. Yes it was actually very motivating, I feel like I'm on the right track!