Sunday, November 05, 2006

Getting Clinical: The Amazing Linnea

This handsome couple are my daughter, Jessica Friedman Culnan and her best buddy, The Rat. They're not the subject of today's post except by virtue of the fact that I would not have been in this wonderful indoor at the Linnea Seaman clinic in Pennsylvania was said lady not the current dressage instructor in charge of whipping these two into shape. And a fine job she has done!

Welcome to Linnea's amazing clinical style!

As noted earlier, I'm a sucker for a clinic. There's some comfort in sharing a lesson experience with other riders who are as far out in in left field as I am, and clinics tend to be run by Famous Trainers of the Finest Kind--folks who otherwise would be out of my league/price range/neighborhood. There are lots of good clinicians and a few great ones. Linnea falls into that latter category. She's a tiny bombshell dispersing fragments of intense learning over everyone in the place.

What's so special about her? Well, start with the fact that she talks the talk with enough humor and flair to make five hours fly by despite the cold, drizzly, miserable weather. Then add that she also walks the walk (or shall we say "rides the ride"). Rather than retype her specs here, I'll suggest you visit her website and meet her on her own turf: I'll wait . . .

[MUZAK plays . . . "If I had wings, no one would ask me should I fly . . . "]

Hand-in-hand with her warm and winning style and her incredible talent and list of accomplishments goes the fact that she pushes the clinic format to its highest potential painlessly.

I was lucky enough to be the first rider of the day, so I didn't have a chance to freeze in the early morning cold. I could have used more caffeine. Having ridden in clinics before, I was a little surprised when Linnea told all of the remaining students and auditors to move their chairs into the ring where I was busy warming up Rat, hoping to impress the socks off this particular Famous Trainer. After all, he's talented, and I'm smart enough to stay out of his way. I expected the traditional lesson format. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I didn't know I suffered from "duck butt". Before you laugh, have you checked your posterior lately? I was vaguely embarrassed as Linnea had all of the students look at my tightly-wrapped hindquarters and thighs and check for wrinkles in my breeches. There were none. I thought that was a good thing. Apparently not.

For the next hour, Linnea worked to put wrinkles in my breeches and, that accomplished, to show me how to straighten Rat, who's taken counter-bending to new heights. The hour flew by as observers were polled on my progress, and results were tallied with great good humor and enthusiasm. I could hardly believe it when my time was up.

I swapped places with the next participant and watched raptly as Linnea focused on a different skill--the warm-up, which is not your mother's warm-up, I assure you--and a different one after that, and yet a different one in the next rider. That's the way it went all day. Each of us became a model for a specific skill set while the rest took notes, asked questions, and raised our hands like second-graders thrilled to know the right answer.

Stupidly, expecting heavy traffic for my trip back to Jersey, I left early. I missed three or four hours of lessons that I probably needed. I won't do that next time, I guarantee, because what lessons I learned that day I brought home and gave to Zips Money Pit and Finicky Leo with awesome results. Awesome! Just a mere tuck of my duck butt, and Zip stopped his endless bitching about my driving seat. That, alone, was worth the trip!

I can't stress enough how valuable this sort of experience can be. No one is paying me for my sales pitch; this is just some from-the-heart rider-to-rider advice. Lessons with a local instructor are wonderful and necessary. Any lesson is better than no lesson no matter how advanced you (think you) are. But a day with Linnea is like six months of sensory flooding. Check her site; look at her offerings, and pull up your tight pants. You'll be in for the experience of a lifetime.

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