Please bear with me for a disjointed, rambling recap from the Ed Wright clinic and some advice/tips for anyone that may be taking one of his clinics at some point...
As the rider everything that happens is YOUR responsibility. Don't blame your horse... if your horse runs past the barrel/shoulders/etc it is because of something YOU are asking or letting happen, even if that's not what you're trying to communicate to your horse.
Ed recommends doing barrel work & conditioning 6 days a week with 1 day off. That doesn't mean endless drills or a full out run everyday. However he does make 1 'run' per week either at home or at a competition. Now 'run' is whatever that horse is capable of at that point in its training... trotting, a slow lope, a fast lope or a flat out 'competition' speed run (even at home).
The other 5 days he works on whatever that horse needs help with on the pattern. Moves them over from the barrel, in closer to the barrel. Speed up/slow down. Its really kinda hard for me to explain on here, sorry. Maybe one day I can get Pie to tape while I do some riding to show what I'm trying to explain. But one thing you will hear a lot at an Ed clinic is him calling out distances that he wants you to move around the barrel. "6, 10, 12, 14, regular turn, regular turn!" Meaning to take your horse into the barrel at 6 feet, move out to 10 feet, 12 feet, 14 feet, then go around again in a regular turn. It can also go the other way, you can go in close and move out as you turn. He will also call out different speeds. It depends on what your horse needs.
He only trains/practices on 3 barrels in the cloverleaf pattern. He doesn't mess with a bunch of barrels/cones set in different patterns for different drills. ie no funnel barrels, no quad barrels, etc
Hand position... put an elastic in your horse's mane at about the centre point. Practice keeping your hands in that general area. You can accomplish more with a smaller amount of hand movement forward, backward, to the side or up. In that position keep your thumbs up, elbows down (but not clamped to your side) and follow your horses mouth. Follow quicker to energize a lazy horse and a bit slower to calm and excitable horse. And that's not just a barrel racing position. He showed us pictures of a top cutter and a top working cow horse rider sitting in the same balanced position and holding their reins the way he wants us to. No more of the 'pull to your hip' style turn. A good mental image for me is how Lindsay Sears enters with Martha, minus the overbending. But picture where her hands are, midway up Martha's neck; and the balanced, forward way she's sitting.
Ed reaffirmed something I have always believed in, a barrel horse should do more than barrels... no matter what calibre of horse it is, from my little 3D horse to a top futurity/rodeo horse. He will work cows, go trail ride, rope etc on his barrel horses.
Two feet from the barrel is where you want to be in your turns. Any farther out and if you're running against good horses & bottom of the draw you run your horse through the 'drift' that's built up from the other horses. Tougher to get through, eats up your time and harder on your horse. OR you ride around it where the ground may be worse as well as costing you time. Practice, practice, practice to get that 2'.
It is amazing the things Ed will notice when he watches you ride. I got busted, several times, on little things that I had no clue I was doing. Small little things that end up making a huge difference! From blocking my horse's shoulder when entering the arena (which I thought I was doing correctly to position him but nope), to tightening my elbow, not finishing turns (that I had thought I was finishing) to looking at the wrong spot -- look where you want to go!
Here's a hard one for me to break... outside leg is a no-no in the turn. Its either inside leg to reinforce your turn, both legs to keep/increase speed, or neither leg. For a couple years now I've had friends yelling "outside leg outside leg" at jackpots because Voodoo was drifting out on his turns. BIG no no.
Besides the riding there is also a 'classroom' portion at the beginning of each day. It covers things ranging from saddle fit (you can get hands on & bring your horse & saddle up to be checked out), nutrition, feeding, hoof care, dental,etc. Anything he doesn't cover you ask him to touch on. Last year he was talking about flushing tear ducts so this year I brought Applejack over (he needs his done) and he showed us all where the tear duct is to be entered (in the nostril, did y'all know that?) and explained how to flush it and what mixture to use. I admit I didn't write down the mixture because I think that's something I'll leave to my vet. It can be delicate and you can do more harm than good if you don't know what you're doing.
I recommend if you go to one of his clinics... participate! Ask questions during the classroom, ask questions while others are riding, and ask questions before/during/after your ride, if you don't get it let him know, don't blindly agree that you get it because you're worried about looking stupid or frustrating Ed. Bring a pen & paper to take notes, and if you have someone that will tape for you bring your video camera! (sadly I didn't have anyone to tape for me, that would have been really useful) Have a sense of humour, joking around is okay at the appropriate times.
While Ed can be pretty funny he can also be really tough. And he doesn't dole out false compliments to coddle you but he also is quick to point out progress or an honest try. Oh and Ed hates bling... leave your blingiest tack and boots at home lol
After riding with Ed he calls you one of his kids (or grandkids) Usually he expects more from you, but that's a good thing. :) Even though I didn't have many competition runs this past season I let him know that Voodoo & I did better than I had hoped and he clapped & gave me a hug. He also gave me a hug hello the first day, which kinda suprised me that he remembered me with how many people he meets in a year! And on the last day when I had to cut out early and go to work I thanked him for his time and he gave me a big, warm hug goodbye. I am already excited about next year's clinic! lol
Oh a couple final things (I warned y'all this was disjointed & rambling lol)
Ed's explanation of 'rate' made more sense to me than the usual definitions. His definition of what it means when you ask your horse to rate is: Pay attention, I'm going to ask you to do something now.
Some other Edisms:
You have to ride with timing & feel.
Communication leads to Education.
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