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  • Grace Owsley


Welcome to the blog! Or welcome back if you’ve visited one or more of my posts before. As promised in my last post, I’m here to share with you my clinic coverage of the Jec Ballou clinic that took place in May 2024 in the Austin, Texas area. This post covers Day 2. If you didn’t catch my coverage of Day 1, you definitely don’t want to miss out and can CLICK HERE TO READ.

Masterson Method Demo

Continuing where we left off, Day 2 of the clinic began the next day bright and early with a 30 minute demo of the Masterson Method by our local expert, Kelly Jefferson. Kelly is a Masterson Method® Certified Practitioner, instructor, coach, and equine therapy specialist. If you’re not familiar with the Masterson Method, it is a form of equine bodywork that is different from traditional massage in that it recognizes the horse’s responses to the therapy in order to find and release tension. The horse is an active participant and the practitioner is trained to identify and help relieve the built up tension in the horse to improve performance, behavior and movement.

Kelly worked with one horse live for the demo, giving us a mini introduction to the method. She shared generally the purpose and the process, giving us demonstrations on the horse as she explained. She moved along the horse in specific places using the method, and as she waited for the horse to give feedback she explained what she was doing and what she was looking for so that we could witness the horse react, process and even make clear visual releases in order for us to see how it works. One thing I found especially interesting was when showed us TMJ and jaw release. She placed two fingers on the TMJ joint to feel for a reaction, and she also showed us how to safely put our fingers under the tongue so that they will bring the tongue out and move the jaw, so we can observe range of motion of the jaw/mouth and to get them moving that area properly to release tension. I’ll link a short clip here:

In addition, she showed us a few stretches and mobility movements we could try at home. Here are a few takeaways from my notes plus another short clip from the demo (disclaimer: apologies for the clear ‘man parts’ of the horse on display in one of the clips, he had it all out there for us so just warning you!):

Stay for the release. Once you get the feedback that something is there, wait patiently for the release.

When it comes to stretches we are not pulling just asking. We don’t want to tear, so don’t force. See what can you do, but if the horse can’t keep the position, you went too far.  I appreciated this, because I feel like stretches and range of motion exercises are often presented with images of high expectations that they should be able to reach their leg or neck this way or that but just like us each horse is different and likely not able stretch far at all without consistent, careful attempts over time. It reminded me to ask only as far as they can keep it comfortably, and not push it more for the sake of the stretch, which can cause more problems than good.

First Group Lesson

After the demo, it was time for the first group lesson. This time we didn’t have an in-hand group, but instead it was a riding group of four to start us off. I didn’t catch a lot of this group as I needed to go down and get myself and Louie ready for our ride, but here are a few notes and short clips:

She had this group perform figure 8’s around two cones that were set up in a straight line across from one another just as she had our group do the day before. Making sure to bend and activate the hind around the cone and move forward with energy to the next cone to turn the other direction.

She reminded the group that she wants the chin lower than the chest. She said it was OK to bring the inside hand a little lower as a guiding rein to ask for that lower positioning. This is my extra side note I want to add here - make sure that the throat latch stays open, and the horse is seeking the bit forward. We aren’t pulling them around, it was meant more as a guiding rein. Make sure to bring your hands back to neutral position once you get it.

She also explained that the work she was presenting was great for addressing asymmetries, getting the postural muscles activated, and working on their proprioception. Proprioception is a favorite training concept of mine, where we are getting the central nervous system involved by activating the horse’s proprioceptors in the awareness of their own movement, body positioning, and their sense of location of their limbs as they are standing still or moving.

My Riding Group

Now it was time for my group ride with three other horse and rider combos. I was riding Louie the palomino quarter horse, and I decided to tack up and wear our western dressage gear for this day (I had our jump tack on the day before). I was delighted to see that there was another western dressage rider in the group before me as well! Shamless plug - message me if you want to dive into western dressage or dip your toes in! It's a fast growing sport for a reason! I'm going to go ahead and outline some exercises we did, share some training notes I took down, and show you some clips I snagged from videos my friend, Crista Marie, took of the clinic ride.

Figure 8 circles around two cones, about 6m circles going roughly 3mph. As before, asking for their neck to lower, which takes the work out of the neck. If the neck is in a continual state of hypertension trying to create movement and locomotion on top of stabilizing movement, it can block the back so the horse gets rigid and won't swing the back.

Lengthening and shortening the topline in walk, free walk to working walk. Look for adjustable, soft necks, consistent and correct rhythm and tempo, and seeing how forward and downward they can stretch when lengthened.

Back to the cones - turn on the forehand around one cone, walk briskly forward to the other cone and turn on the haunches around the other one. Keep the forward momentum so they don't get bunched up. Don't cross the neck with the reins. Louie needed the front end to be quicker and bring the shoulders around with more range and energy. She suggested tapping the shoulder with a whip (but I had left the whip behind this time, since he was a bit spicy the day before). He needed to be quicker and more responsive throughout the whole movement. This wasn't a big surprise to me, as this has been a challenge for Louie already. Go do something else and come back to this going the other direction off the other leg.

Trotting then halt, one step back, ask forward to trot again. This shifts weigh back and then they push from the hind end when they transition to trot. Make sure the halt is clear and immobile before backing. We did this a few times then let them take a break and stretch. This one was great for Louie, as he can close the throatlatch too much in transitions, so this one shifts his weight back and then the transition forward will help prevent the curling by encouraging him to move more back to front as long as I'm encouraging that neck to stay open as well. Side note - I played with this exercise at home later on, and after several attempts he became so responsive that we could successfully do it into an uphill canter out of the halt. They really plug into the exercise!

Trot over one rail on the long side then immediately canter to the other long side and canter over poles set up just off the rail. We could choose to go over one, all or none. This helps activate the canter, encourages more jump, and it's good for rider refinement, clear direction, sitting back, and maintaining the canter over the poles. It's harder than it sounds! Each participant found difficulty in keeping the canter or canter balance over the poles. If they started rushing she suggested not going over the poles and just cantering on with adjustments. Another great one for Louie, as the canter poles help so much with canter jump, shifting that weight back, and canter adjustments. All things he needs right now.

This one was super interesting - trotting over the poles so that the left front leg (or right, as we did later) goes over the poles first every time. This teaches the rider to feel their stride and make adjustments. She suggested counting steps between poles and adjusting. If you feel like the wrong leg will cross, you want to half halt and shorten that step, then lengthen into the step you want over the pole so they will step with the foot you want. Again, way harder than it sounds! Definitely not something I have tried before and I had a hard time consistently getting the designated foot over instead of the wrong one!

More purpose of pole work - to activate the base of the neck and especially to disrupt their typical pattern of movement to fire up their nervous system.

Box around the pole. Line up at the top of a vertically placed pole on the ground. Back up along the side of the pole, take two sideways steps (side pass) to the other side of the pole, then walk up the length of the pole. Two steps sideways again to the other side, then rein back as before. This encourages precision, responsiveness and lightness of the forehand.

It's good to cycle between the exercises that activate them forward and move them out energetically with the ones that slow down and challenge and activate the postural muscles.

Next Riding Group + Private Lessons

I was able to catch some of the next riding group and some of a private lesson after untacking and getting Louie settled after our great clinic ride. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take notes to share with you from these. One exercise I can describe from the private lesson was - fanned out poles walking over the shorter part to collect the walk, leg yielding around in a half circle back to the poles, then walking over the larger part of the "fan" in an extended walk. Leg yield again and repeat the collected walk etc. I did take a few short video clips from the group and private and I'll share those here:

Random bonus - she signed two of her books that I own that I brought with me to the clinic. Fun to have the author give you an autograph! Jec was open to questions from participants and auditors alike. I would definitely ride with her again and audit if the opportunity arises again. I've always been a fan of her work, so this was a big equestrian bucket list item for me. Feedback from other participants and auditors were positive from what I heard, so overall it seemed to be a very successful clinic!

I hope you enjoyed my two-Part blog coverage of the CTDS (Central Texas Dressage Society) sponsored clinic with Jec Ballou in the Austin, Texas area!

Check out my older blog posts and definitely stay tuned (you can subscribe!) to my blogs and socials for more posts like this. I'm already working on another clinic blog, an equine related book review, an equestrian glove review and more for you to check out and enjoy. Definitely SHARE this blog with your equestrian friends if you think they'll like it too!

I had several people ask about the shirts I rode in for the clinic. Day 2 I also wore a shirt from SanSoleil. They make AMAZING sun shirts in awesome prints that are UPF 50 and cooling. I wore two of their SOLSHINE prints over the weekend. Although the exact shirts I wore are not on the site anymore, you can still go their site by CLICKING HERE and searching their site for the shiny SOLSHINE shirts, or the other awesome prints they have, and using discount code: LUVGRACE15 to save some cash and look amazing while being protected by the sun! I'm an ambassador for Sansoleil because I ADORE their shirts and also get tons of compliments.

*Big thank you to Central Texas Dressage Society for putting on this great clinic for their members and community.

*Another big thank you to Rolling Ridge Stables for hosting the clinic!

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