Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Little Mare that Could - Dom Schramm clinic Day #1

Anyone following my blog knows that I have had my doubts about my mare's ability to jump correctly and safely. In this sport of eventing, we all know the risks and it is important to me that both my horse and I are competing at the appropriate levels ensuring some degree of safety. Even when that happens, we know accidents still happen. It has been a bit of a nagging doubt in my mind if my little ottb, who regrettably stalled in her growth spurt with her ending up croup high, could ever jump uphill.

Getting all tacked up on clinic day #1
I entered the Dom Schramm clinic in the hopes I would get more insight and tips on how to help her achieve the uphill jump more. Leading up to the Dom Schramm clinic, I was a bit nervous at whether or not signing up for the novice/training group was the right move and if it would be too much for us. Height of fences usually does not make me nervous, but going into a clinic where both you and your horse will be challenged and expected to be confirmed at that height made me worried.

 After speaking with my instructor, she reassured me that Tillie was schooling Novice height consistently at home. I also had many people reassure me that Dom always tailors his teaching to the level needed if we found we were struggling. So that made me feel a bit more at ease.

Eating as much as possible before warm up
It was extremely windy by the time we got to Cedarline Farm and I was glad I gave myself additional time to settle in. I was able to catch a good portion of the BN group riding in the outdoor ring which gave me a good idea of what we would be working on as well. I find the more I know the better I feel...you know the whole knowledge is power thing.

When it was time to get ready, Tillie came off the trailer alert and high as a kite. In the past, these antics would have gotten to me and would have caused a ball of nerves in the pit of my stomach. Despite her restlessness, I talked to her and set boundaries on what was acceptable behavior (no, swinging you butt around every other second and knocking me with your head repetitively does not constitute acceptable behavior) I planned to walk up to the indoor and give ourselves a 20-30 minute warm up to allow Tillie to settle in. I am very glad we did that because every time the wind blew Tillie would get agitated and coil up like a spring ready to explode.

So plan A of walking around on a loose rein went out the window and plan B went into effect. So we just start trotting to get her moving until she relaxed. It took some changing directions and spiraling circles to get her attention somewhat on me. She was still quite spooky and reactive 15 minutes in, but it was as good as it was going to get.

Having the history I do with her, I knew I could predict a lot of it and found comfort in knowing her so well. It was nice to know and be able to predict her reactions which usually constitutes throwing her shoulders and head around in place. It allowed me to stay relaxed and focused rather than get too fussy with her or baited into micromanaging.

When it came time to make our way to the outdoor Tillie seemed to remember she is 7 now and put on her sensible cap and walked politely, yet tensely, down to the ring around the spectators and loud speaker. We took a few laps around the outdoor to let Tillie look around as Dom went down the list introducing himself to the new riders and regrouping with those he previously knew. She spooked and dodged a few times but settled in as good as she could as nervous as she was.

I toyed with putting the pelham on her in case she got too strong, but a quick assessment of the ring size and her tendency to suck behind contact when shes nervous made me opt to go in the snaffle. I wanted to encourage a bit more weight in my reins and I was worried using the pelham wouldn't help achieve that. I did, however, have my helpers that tagged along bring it out in case I needed to switch it out.

Sorry for the long intro, but I am trying to make sure I document everything about this weekend!!!

******Make sure you watch all videos with the audio. I got the biggest kick from Dom's commentary and teaching style and it led to more footage than ever of me beaming from ear to ear********


Once Dom chatted briefly with each of us and our goals for the season we jumped (hehe see what I did there) right into things and warmed up over a tiny grid-like exercise to get the horses thinking about their feet placement. Dom commented how much he liked Tillie and thought she was a nice mare (eek!!).

I also think it was a good exercise for Dom to get a comfort level for how both horse and rider went and be able to see faults pretty easily:

  • Trot into fences to land cantering to help develop the canter especially for those spookier, hotter or nervous horses. It helps them settle in gradually. 

  • Understandably, I ride defensively because of Tillie's tendency to jump and land downhill, but Dom warned me not to sit back too soon and be against her since that will only worsen this tendency

  • OTTBs or horses that have the tendency to jump over the shoulder like Tillie did the first time over this, concentrate on shoulders up taller so they CAN lift. Your shoulders match what theirs will do, so if you get too low and ahead so will they. He launched here into a discussion about OTTBs tendency to jump flat like this because their want to get to the other side of the fence and we have to try to help them read it better, ride to the base and sit tall to get a better jump. 

Next he had us each run through a simple caveletti exercise. He mentioned he likes to do these before most of his jump schools no matter what level because it gets the horse paying more attention and thinking about their feet. I was a bit skeptical how well Tillie would do and really thought she would rush through it and build but she shocked me and did pretty well minus the lead change halfway through. Dom discussed how this exercise of the bounce - two stride - bounce - two stride - bounce is great for those that rush because they will essentially start knocking into the caveletti...and not that you want them to hit them and hurt themselves, but you do want them to feel it and not be able to easily knock them over so they learn to respect the gymnastic more. He had each of us do this until it was boring. 

  • Tillie was a bit bunched on my right rein and drifting right so that caused the lead change both times. 


This next exercise was quite fun! Dom set poles out in a diamond shape around the jump so we approached the jump at an angle. Dom reassured us most horses wouldnt worry about the angle as much as we humans would think and would pretty quickly settle into this exercise without balking. The purpose of this is to jump and be able to change leads in the air rather then rely on simple or flying changes...Dom stressed he was a stickler about this because landing correct allows you to maintain a better rhythm and allows you to set yourself up better for the next fence with  more time to think about other things rather than having to get a change, risk cross cantering etc. 

Tillie did quite well going left to right, but we had a bit of a right drift problem right to left making getting the left lead a bit more challenging. Once Dom talked about riding her straighter to help get the lead better. Once I rode the turn "straighter" and more of an S shape rather so we went straight the last few strides before take off rather than off a curve she got the left lead every time!

Struggling for the left lead:

At this point he also sorta warned me about Tillie not pushing off with both hinds and taking these out of stride which means a weaker jump. He said trying to get her more to the base would help with the placement poles.

I LOVED how Dom always chuckled and laughed though and stayed encouraging through our mistakes.


We then put the diamond together with a clover pattern really using twisting turns to challenge our balance, distances and leads. We had some ironing out to do after the first try:

  • Notice a rollback at fence #4. We discussed how rollbacks are difficult and maintaining the forward power through these is essential to get a good jump. Dom admitted we probably wont see one in show jumping for eventing ever, but if we could manage this well the single fence jumps would be a whole lot easier. 
  • I went a bit too deep into the turn in attempt to give myself more space but it ended up making the second half of the rollback more difficult for Tillie.
  • He recommended to all of us to let the horse figure out the balance and think about keeping the forward, opening rein to guide them through the turn. CHIN UP!!!

This is where things got a bit more exciting...jumps went up slightly and at this point. At this point, Dom really seemed to become surprised and excited about Tillie's jump ability and she (ok me too) ate it up. The key seemed so be the better I was about my chin and shoulders, the better she jumped. 

I totally LOVE his side comments about her scope ;)

Dom gave us a good feedback on this round and said the beginning needed more canter and think more ground covering stride...I know I have struggled with riding this but for some reason his comment made something click and we sorta clicked into gear. Tillie was allowing the forward and really working well off my seat and leg without diving and I got braver which led to Dom yelling out "GOOD!" and "Horse has got some scope!"

He had each of us do it again, learning what we learned but put the fences up one more time and rather than feel nervous I was excited to tackle them all! 

I went into this one with a bit more forward canter knowing it is what helped us towards the end of the previous round. Tillie actually gave me flying when attempting to ask for a simple...and Dom just kept loading on the wonderfully encouraging remarks about Tillie and, in my own humble opinion, seemed to start raving about her!!! Turns out my little downhill mare, is a "better then average jumper!!"

That made my whole day (ok really more like my whole life!). 

The wind was so bad though that half the time riding you couldnt hear what he was saying unless you were close the loud speaker at the end of the ring where we warmed up in so having this video to her the commentary was really nice and an added bonus to hear them!

BIG jumps!!!

It was so much fun and really cool to meet the other riders in our groups...some who are also instructors or professionals so it felt really good that we could hold our own with the best of them with Dom sort of appeasing my fears of Tillie's jump ability. 

Stay tuned for day #2!


  1. LOVING ALL THE MEDIA! Tillie looks like she was jumping out of her skin and you look great. I love the diamond exercise especially!

    1. She totally was!!! I am eager to retry some of these at home (within reason of course!)

  2. Awesome recap, and so many great tips. Thank you!

  3. You guys looked so good at the end! Plus it is always nice to hear good things about your horse. ;)

  4. She says all she needed was some big ass jumps to wake up her inner unicorn! Sounds like an AWESOME clinic!!