JJ Tate Clinic 12/2/2021

Hosted by Laura Burket at Battle Creek Dressage in Goshen, KY

Riding with top trainers is expensive. Many clinics are well out of the average rider’s budget and therefore are just seen as something they can’t afford to do. However, for less than the price of a lesson you can audit for an entire day. Bring a chair and spend time with fellow dressage enthusiasts as you grow your education from the ground.

It’s amazing what you can learn from the chair. You literally get hours of education while one rider is paying hundreds of dollars for a 45-minute ride. Why aren’t more people taking advantage of this opportunity? Since my move to Kentucky in 2018, I have been attending clinics as much as I can. Auditing is an inexpensive way to train your eye, get an entire day of instruction, and socialize with friends! Grab a chair, layer up if it’s winter, and get out there!

This is my second time auditing a JJ clinic. I began following her on social media after I watched one of her clinics a few years ago. I was inspired by her devotion to honor the individual horse she was working with and her ability to create a harmonious partnership. She made dressage fun. I felt her passion for improving the gaits and keeping the horses sound in body and mind. She even has created an online academy to help continue educating riders about classical dressage.

Click here for JJ’s bio!

I think it is very important to choose clinics that are similar to the training you are doing at home. JJ is one of my trainer’s mentors. This makes it easy to bring back what I’ve learned via clinic or video to a lesson and make it relevant to my plan for Josie. I think this step is very important. There can be a large amount of information presented in a clinic through a variety of methods. It’s easy to be caught up in the moment and rush home to ride, trying all the things you saw. However, what that horse in the clinic may have needed at that moment may not apply to your situation or horse. Stay true to your method of training and be fair to your horse. Trust your plan, your gut, and have open discussions with your trainer about new ideas or changes. You’re paying them for a reason!

I tune in most Wednesday evenings for JJ’s “Wine About It Wednesdays” on her Team Tate TV Facebook page. A few months back, this super positive, inspirational woman was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction in August then rode her Grand Prix test on Derby in the Alltech Arena for USDF Finals in November. I was there for work but stepped away from the booth to watch her ride. I was moved by her strength, determination, and positivity with her breast cancer battle to be here at this moment. After her final salute, I had tears in my eyes. What an accomplishment.

Below are my notes from the clinic. There were many different levels of riders and types of horses that participated. It was great to see such a variety throughout the day!

Horse #1 – Draft Cross

The first horse was a large black gelding. He could become tense quickly and rush through his rider’s aids. JJ had them begin with riding a square, using turn on the forehand to make him wait. This exercise encouraged the horse to slow his shoulders and bring his hind leg under his body. She discussed that horses have three evasions: speed, crookedness, and inversion. His favorite seemed to be speed. The rider needed to ask the horse to wait with her seat and not her hands. If she needed to use her reins, she should use it, then give it. Since they were riding a circle, JJ had her soften the outside rein to give, but keep the inside rein for safety. As the ride continued, the horse began to soften through his topline and stretch over his back.

When it came time for canter, the horse started to anticipate and get tense so JJ had the rider use lots of bending turns to encourage him to let go in his back. Exercises like spiral in at canter to keep him on his inside leg and leg yielding out to control the speed were helpful. She pointed out that the issue wasn’t the anticipation of the canter, but the acceptance of the outside leg. Using leg yield off the wall at trot encouraged the rider to use the outside leg and reduced anticipation for the canter aid. It was more important that the horse accept the outside leg than to worry about the canter. As JJ continued to coach the rider through different exercises, the horse’s tension began to diffuse and the canter really improved!

I really connected with this ride as I have struggled with Josie’s canter. Her anticipation of the canter seemed to get so high that she would canter if you changed your breathing. Not ok!

I’m happy to say that we have improved and she’s more rideable, but I am planning to incorporate many of these ideas in my riding at home!

Horse #2 – Morgan

This rider expressed that her horse has some behavioral issues and therefore chose to do a long walking warmup on a short rein for safety reasons. JJ emphasized that while she agreed with this approach, the rider needed to think of riding the horse with a long neck even with short reins. She used the imagery of a horse reaching into their feed bucket throughout the clinic to help convey this idea. Love it!

While the rider was continuing her warm up, JJ began a discussion of how important our warm up really is. We need to invest the time before we ask our horses to start working. As riders we need to show up the same emotionally and physically for each ride. We can not rush or skip the warm up.

To help continue the idea of stretching the neck, JJ spoke of riding our horses like a bow. Putting our leg on brings the hind leg under the body and towards the bit. This is like when you pull the string on the bow. The top line arches in reaction to the hindleg coming under. You can change the shape of the bow as needed.

Horse #5 – Arabian

The Arabian was quite sensitive and appeared to have energy for days. His rider was very quiet and did a wonderful job of managing his energetic nature. JJ had the rider focus on waiting in the up part of her post and aiding in a slow, slow, slow, quiet, repeat fashion. She wanted the rider to bring the horse into what she called a “school trot” and slowly balance the horse without shortening his neck. Her seat needed to regulate how much energy flowed out, not her hands.

To prevent the rider from using her reins too much in the half halt, JJ explained how to use your knees, core, and intention to bring the horse back. The knees and core are used on the up beat of the post to slow the shoulders. The leg comes on during the down beat to bring the hindlegs under. They spiraled in on a circle with outside flexion, changed to true bend on the smaller circle, then leg yielded out. It was really neat to watch how the horse’s balance and tempo changed as they progressed through this exercise!

Towards the end of the session, JJ had the rider come down centerline, leg yield to the quarter line, shoulder-in on the quarter line, then turn on the forehand. This was all done at the walk and was used to help the horse accept the inside leg without rushing.

Once again, so many good exercises to help a horse that likes to rush! Banking all of these good tips!

Horse #7 – Warmblood

There were a few warmbloods during the clinic, but this lesson stood out for me. The horse had been trained to I1 but had some time off. She knew all the tricks but had trouble staying focused. She was a large-boned chestnut mare and appeared even larger from my chair! Her rider noted that this was the horse you could go into battle with. We all had a good chuckle, but it definitely fit her image!

The plan in bringing her back into work is to teach her to be more mindful and meditative. She is very concerned with her outside environment and will “do the thing” but is only partially invested.

JJ commented that if a horse lives at a 7 on the intensity scale, she will train them to be at a 2. For this session, the horse did a lot of walk halt transitions and had time to just breathe. Could you imagine my husband watching this? Oh the commentary. But me? I was so intrigued. Every walk halt was that horse’s half halt. The rider continued to check in when the horse lost focus and brought her back to halt if needed. It was all about finding her zen. The mare’s eye began to soften as they continued encouraging more relaxation. JJ emphasized that good riders react but great riders prevent!

I hope you enjoyed my notes from the clinic! Every rider and horse combination did a wonderful job and I loved that the horses seemed happy in their work. A big thanks to Laura Burket for allowing auditing and the opportunity to learn from JJ. Go out and audit a clinic!

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