After riding in my first one-hour
lesson with Michelle Gibson, I decided it would be appropriate to design a tee shirt that said, "I survived a Michelle
Gibson clinic.". When I was finished after my first hour, my hat was stuck to my head because of the sweat. But it was
worth it. Michelle encompassed Rio and me into her commands and off we went whether too sideways in the half pass or not,
we kept on trotting and cantering, with a three minute break to walk. I loved it. There is no way my horse and I did not get
our money's worth. At $150.00 an hour - that was $2.50 a minute - we got a good lesson for the dollar value. And I, personally,
could not believe that I rode with someone of her caliber; no matter what the money - me, a back yard Pennsylvanian equestrian
taking instruction with Michelle Gibson.
The Vivianos (Sam and Lin at Rockin
V Stables), who hosted the clinic provided a beautiful arena, superb stabling, and encouragement. The footing was excellent
and the simplicity of the whole set up was mind calming, especially for a rider like myself who, for the first ten minutes
warming up in front of Michelle and fifty on-lookers, was so nervous my legs and lungs didn't operate! Ironically, I do nearly
nothing every other day but ride. However, on this day in front of her and in front of my peers, I let my dysfunctional aids
let the horse run into the chains that separated the spectators from the arena. No doubt the auditors were petrified when
I half-passed at a canter toward them. I know they thought at times I wasn't going to turn, but I did, and no one was alarmed
and they kept breathing as Rio, and I too, soon began to resonate into the rhythm of our lesson.
When people ask me to describe
Michelle Gibson's lessons, it is easy. I say, "she cuts to the chase. I asked her, on the second day when I could breathe,
and as a result think, "When do you start shoulder-fore in the corners?" Michelle's answer was something like this: Once the
horse can feel a half-halt, it's shoulder- fore in the corners (half halting before the corner, of course) then putting your
horse straight with shoulder-fore along the long side, then when your horse is straight, it's shoulder-in up the long side.
Once this is perfected with angle, both hands to the inside and bent around the inside leg, without losing rhythm, then you
go directly into half pass. No ten-meter circles, no walking, just right to the movement, just cut to the chase! You do your
preparation in the corner. If you didn't get your horse together there, then you get it together in the half pass. We loved
it. Do, do, do, and do more, now that is a lesson and we did it. Her corrections were right on and Rio Grandes performance
Michelle's common commands to
me for the half-pass were, "You are going too much sideways in the half-pass, bring the horse's shoulders over, bring the
shoulders over, sit on the inside seat bone, both hands to the direction you are traveling, the haunches are leading, look
at them, get the shoulders to go first ...you are too sideways again...go more forward and over". On the first day I could
barely speak or even think, let along coordinate these aids. However, I was awestruck at the end of my lesson because of Rio
and my accomplishments. Afraid to ask a question, and just vibrating with happiness because the first hour was over, I said,
"Thank you", lowered my head and walked out.
On day two I entered the arena
with confidence, my horse warmed up with a bigger trot because my tense legs werent stopping him from coming through my seat,
we both felt like Zorro we were ready for action! I, and the group of riders, had dinner with Michelle the previous evening,
so now I was her pal, (hardly) but it made me feel more comfortable for the next day. The auditors were fewer; the day was
nicer; the sun actually shone.
Rio and I strutted into the arena.
As Michelle was pausing between lessons, we boldly approached her to discuss the prior lesson. "Obviously, Michelle", I said,
"I spend too much time leg yielding. Rio can go perfectly sideways and straight, not exactly what you want for the half-pass.
Do you not teach leg yielding?" She replied with confidence, something to this effect: I only teach leg yielding if my students
need it for showing. Otherwise we immediately get down to business with shoulder-fore, shoulder-in and half-pass, counter-canter
then flying change. (Whew could I ever keep up with this routine.)
I realized at this point, that
I had to concentrate from now on when I rode. I had to prepare for the corners, not just ride the corners. I have to half-halt
before the corner, during the corner, and ride it shoulder-fore. Before, I thought just getting the horse into the corner
was the accomplishment. Now, I realize it is the work in the corners that will set me and the horse up for the future work.
"Kristin, the choice is yours, do you want to dilly dally, or do you want to move on?"
On day one I was uncoordinated
with the half-pass, on day two Rio felt like a small private jet in perfect flight doing his half-pass at a canter to the
right; I was feeling heaven. We sweated, my shirt stuck to me when we were done; he sweated, but he knew what his job was
and he paced himself despite a mere three minute break. We were ecstatic. We ended our lesson with a huge grin to Michelle
and said, "We hope we see you again in Pittsburgh. Thank you."