Java's First Robin Clinic
Every fall for as long as I've known her, my friend H hosts a clinic with Robin Groves at her farm. I've posted about it before, but I never get sick of talking about her. Robin is one of those zero-bullshit horsewomen who's been around forever and seen most everything there is to see. I was super hype about showing her Java, since I really value her opinion and I picked him out myself. Would've been awkward if she didn't like him, but all those Horse Judging years weren't for nothing! Spoiler alert: she did like him.
Of course, it's not a Robin Clinic if I don't get roped into riding someone else's horse. Go ahead, twist my arm. I ended up hopping on a big old bay TB I really like, owned by one of H's boarders. He's 17+ hands, gangly, and can be a royal ass, but he and I generally get on ok. Apparently someone peed in his Cheerios that morning, though. He did his best to kill me, striking, jigging, circling me on the ground. He took exception to a correction for striking and decided to rear, rip the reins away, and take off. Being an idiot, I still got on, but here's the kicker: he's super unfit so he can't put up much more than 10-20 minutes of fuss, and even then it's not very athletic. We spent the whole first part of the lesson leaping, lunging, and bucking and it was an excellent exercise in sitting solid and back, especially with the shoulders and arms. My dressage trainer's constant refrain of "Keep him in your elbows!" definitely rang true. I was able to get a passable trot and go over poles, plus weave the cones. Didn't canter, though; didn't want to die. Java tied in his stall to be tacked and stood like a perfect gentleman and ate his hay. We took him to Dancer's field to longe and long line. I longed first, which is something I am generally shit at having done next to none of it in any formal setting. Robin noticed (duh) because he sails out and ignores me and I struggle to keep driving him on a circle. She showed me, and suddenly, circles!
On the long lines, Robin kept him relatively loose except for when he blew her off. She didn't give a shit about cantering, explaining he needed to walk/trot/woah before then, and the long lines allow even pressure for a straight halt instead of turning in like he's apt to do on the longe. He didn't care about the lines banging around on his legs, but he didn't understand the contact. She did notice that he was pretty lightly muscled and slightly weak/unbalanced and suggested Absorbine Maximize to help build muscle.
Robin knew I would be sending him to her after she and Wilson, her husband, came back from training in Florida the following April. Overall, her impression was that he was kind and willing, didn't know much, but was very willing and happy to try. The absolute best part of the day, though, even better than watching him work, was her telling me I had "picked a good one."