Surprise Clinic Report: Jennie Brannigan, 2/14/16

Ages and ages ago I did a clinic with Ann Kursinski who was (and still is) one of my jumping idols. I would have paid good money to have her slap me and tell me I wasn't worth her time. In fact, we started the clinic with twelve people and ended with seven. One woman was asked to leave and everyone else quit. She criticized how I gave her a leg up and hated my saddle. But she did ride my horse!! And fourteen year old Megan was fine with this.

In contrast, I had decided to audit when Jennie Brannigan came to the farm to teach. I heard she was good but also very tough, and apparently I'm a weenie adult now who wants to be told they're okay and right all the time. How the mighty have fallen. Clearly I need to go find my cojones again.

You get crappy screen shots.
On Saturday I rode at the buttcrack of dawn since the ring was closed all day and it's day forty five of winter so the horses were stuck inside and it's freezing so the ground is frozen. Yeah, no one is tired of winter. Post ride I studied (at the LIBRARY! nerd) for a few hours before heading back to the barn to audit a few rides. Well, my intent was a few rides, but I was freezing after an hour so I gave up.

I watched one of the trainers at my barn ride her young horse (Keeper) on the flat with Jennie, which also included Jennie riding him. First off she's a total badass riding a six year old whiny, spunky Thoroughbred in Uggs. And she was able to carry on a conversation while she walked, trotted, cantered and did airs above the ground. She didn't even lose her breath!!

Then Jennie got off the horse and continued the lesson on the ground. It definitely gave me a chuckle, because I imagine Keeper and Runkle to be different animals but their flat rides were shockingly similar. The focus of the lesson was on getting the horse accepting of the outside leg and pushing into the contact. My trainer had the same problems I sometimes do; she was worried about Keeper's head every once in awhile and Jennie had to remind her to focus on keeping her hands out in front of her and elbows bent.

Part of my concern with Jennie was that she had looked at Runkle when he was for sale, and I was worried about our progress and if I could handle someone being tough on me. But after watching the lesson I felt kind of sad I wasn't doing the clinic. The best way to describe her teaching style is invigorating. I take two lessons a week and it's easy to feel like you're in a rut in the middle of winter. Jennie teaches like every horse and rider is on the cusp of greatness.

A little birdie seemed to hear the wishes in my head because Saturday evening I got a call that a spot was open later the next day for a jump lesson. So naturally, I leaped on the opportunity.

Runkle was wound for sound, which is so unlike him but was kind of a welcome change. He was keyed up about the group situation, and all the jumps set up in the ring and the people standing at the door watching. It took some doing to get him to loosen up and for once when I applied my leg he was coming off it like he was electrocuted.

But he was SO COOL to ride. And Jennie was sweet to him, because of course no matter how he feels he's still an absolute cuddle love bug and tried to crawl into her pocket (for warmth, most likely). He rested his chin on her and nibbled on her coat.

As the lesson progressed I felt like I was riding better and better and Runkle settled and got more adjustable. Jennie was encouraging and precise and went into it saying her goal was for me to have fun. She made me feel very confident in my riding and while I definitely needed to work on a couple things (not 'helping' him in the air with my hands), I didn't beat myself up about it. Instead I felt really excited. Spring is coming, and we kicked butt in that clinic. Runkle didn't start out his best but he ended his best, and he's come such a long way since I've gotten him!

Mostly I'm excited for March, and I'm finding myself wishing I can spring for a flat AND jump lesson with her, because I think she's genius for both. I'm so so excited for the future with this horse.

Happy campers after a cold and successful day!


  1. wow Runkle looks great in that video - his canter looks so consistent and rideable! you must have been thrilled. super jealous of all the awesome clinics you get to do haha

    1. i'm sooo lucky my trainers are really into furthering their education. they basically want the trainer to come out and train them so they fill up two days of rides to make it worth their while ;)

      everyone wins!

      and yeah i couldn't have been more pleased with him he was so great (as was I). just really pumped for the season!!


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