Clinic Report: Sally Cousins, 12/13/2015

I was pumped for last week because I had an easy slam dunk post topic planned out a week in advance. I was slated to take part in a clinic with Sally Cousins at my home farm because what's better than clinicians coming to me. And it's not that I don't absolutely love my trainer, but the opportunity to ride with other people is something I don't think you should ever pass up.

Sally at the head of the lake, taken from her website

It's a pity I didn't get off my biscuit and take any pictures. There were lots of people trailering in, which is always fun. I know most of the clients Sally works with at Bit O Woods, but there were some new faces (horsey and equine) that I hadn't seen before. Including the cutest little gray mare with a tail that made me so jealous. Lots of great riders were getting ready for the winter homework season, as I like to refer to it.

Some people don't like winter because there aren't any competitions but I actually love that about it. In the summer I am always focused on the next event. At the lower levels in my area, that might be a week or two away. There's no time to really take things apart and fix them when you have two weeks until you're going out of the start box again. You patch together what you have, make small adjustments here and there, and go out and kick butt.

Sally teaching on a 70* December day. Photo by Foxy Photography
But in the winter I love that I actually have the time to say "Okay, we're going to do walk/trot transitions, and jump tiny two foot verticals, and there's no rush and it doesn't matter because I don't even know when our next event is." I love that freedom. I hate feeling rushed and worried and the winter stretches out before me in endless days wrapped in fleece and Rambo blankets. Even though it's dark way too soon and colder than I'd like I love riding outside and quietly getting to work in the far too early sunset.

We've been blessed with bizarrely warm weather though, and even though Runkle was out of commission for the week I still got to ride. I teamed up with my prior best friend and partner Lexy, the angry redheaded mare who gave me the confidence to even get a baby. We went for a hack and I worked a bit out in the field since the arenas were tied up.

This is actually from last year, but it's where we hacked.
I think it was more essential to Runkle's training than I thought it would be when I first threw my leg over her back. I had been riding a green horse for so long I forgot what a trained one felt like. I remembered how it felt to ask for a change in direction by turning my head and changing my diagonal. I also forgot how stiff a horse can be, since I've been spoiled by Runkle (who is so flexible he can bend himself in half).

I also realized that some of the mistakes I thought were green baby mistakes on his part were really mine. I had been struggling with getting the correct canter lead of late, and having somewhat.. um.. explosive transitions that resulted in the wrong lead. I knew something was up because he was nowhere near like that when I got him but I figured it was him being green or something like that. However Lexy very politely told me that it was me by promptly taking off on the wrong lead when I asked for the canter.

So no, the clinic wasn't this boon of information and knowledge I was hoping to get from a four star rider. However I still managed to learn a lot that day, and further Runkle and I's journey despite him being turned out with a ductape boot on.


  1. i'd really love to ride with Sally at some point - she seems like a great trainer. bummer you didn't get to actually ride Runkle with her, tho it sounds like you certainly made the best of the situation. i've found that riding a different horse from my mare has been equally educational, tho my mare is broke and the other horse isn't.... still definitely insightful for figuring out what is *me* and what is the horse.... (hint, it's usually me lol)


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