Life in the Dream Barn: A Clinic with Alfredo Hernandez and a New Pony

DT blogger Kelly McGinn shares an update from her brand new dressage facility.

Hello Everyone! We’ve had a lot going on here at the farm and we are into a good routine. The horses have been able to stay out longer now that it has cooled off and the bugs aren’t so relentless. I like as much turn out as possible as long as the horses tolerate it. I believe it’s good for their bodies, soundness and their minds, so it makes me content to have them out longer each day. As much as I don’t like the cold, it’s been nice to have cooler weather.

I had a few weeks at home and then I hit the road again with Donny and his owner to ride in a clinic with Alfredo Hernandez. I’ve ridden with Alfredo quite a few times now and I always come away inspired and with lots of new tools.


Alfredo travels all over the country teaching clinics most of the year. He is very well known for teaching the piaffe and passage but he is also excellent at all the work and aspects of training. He looks at each horse as an individual and whatever might be difficult for the horse, he has unique exercises to help the horse understand and before you know it, what was difficult is suddenly easy. He focuses a lot on the suppleness of the horse and tapping into more engagement through shaping and control of the shoulders and haunches. He gives lots of breaks, rewarding the horse when they get it right, which works especially well with Donny as he can get kind of internal at times, so it’s important to keep his confidence. 

With Donny we worked on making the piaffe more clear, sitting and more in place. Since I have been schooling the passage, he was getting confused and making the piaffe too much like passage, so I wasn’t getting the sitting. Alfredo talked to me about how to change the way I use my aids and my seat so that I am clearer for the horse. 

I came away with a better understanding of my seat and new tools and excercises that I can incorporate into our work at home. We also touched on the canter pirouettes and half passes. It was amazing to feel how much more up in the shoulders Donny got from the piaffe work. I also have a better understanding of developing the gaits and how to incorporate that into our work. I got a chance to sit and watch some of the other lessons and it’s always interesting to see the change in each horse and rider. Alfredo has a wonderful ability to look at the rider and tell where they are tight or blocking the horse and after a few changes, the difference is remarkable. I look forward to the next clinic!

In my last blog I told you all about our exciting news … A pony for our daughter Lu! I had put some feelers out to some friends via Facebook that I was going to be looking for a pony. A friend messaged me and said she had a wonderful older pony, “Melanie,” who has taught many, many children over the years. The owners weren’t interested in selling her but would offer her as a free lease and if it didn’t work out, we could send her home, so basically there was no risk. What appealed to me was that this pony is older and she has taught many kids. This really seemed like the unicorn I had envisioned for Lu. I had asked Lu a while back what color she wanted her pony to be and she said “all white and not very big.” Perfect! This pony just happened to be all white and not very big! 

So the next step was waiting for Melanie to arrive! My friend Sarah (who orchestrated this deal) said she would drop her off for us. I think I was more excited than anyone and I had a hard time keeping it from Lu! 

Lu usually comes out to the barn to find me when she gets home from school, so we had her pony waiting in the first stall with a giant pink ribbon. It was absolutely perfect. Lu was so surprised and she had to ask if it was her pony—I think she was in disbelief! I hope this will be a day she remembers for a very long time. It certainly was a day I will remember and it was very special for me to be able to give my little girl her first pony.


We didn’t waste any time and got right on for the first ride! Melanie was perfect! Lu spent most of the next day leading her around, grooming, primping, riding and more leading her around. I’m sure Melanie was wondering when this kid was going back to school!

Something Lu has been asking to do is to go on a trail ride with me, so hopefully we can do that soon. I told her that once she gets a little more secure in the saddle that we can do this. That will definitely be a day I remember!

We continue to be busy. We have our second Scott Hassler clinic coming up and we have also scheduled a two day clinic with Jeremy Steinberg in January. 

Until next time! I hope you all have great rides!

Click here to read more articles with Kelly McGinn.

Kelly McGinn is an FEI rider, trainer and coach. She has brought many horses and riders up through the levels and has enjoyed success in regional and national championships as well as year end awards. Kelly was also chosen to ride the Friesian stallion Lolke 372 in the opening ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games in 2010 in the famed 10 horse Friesian train. Kelly has trained with Scott Hassler since 1991 and she credits Scott for her teaching and training style as he has been a big influence in her education. Kelly has also had the opportunity to ride with many well known clinicians including Steffen Peters, Michael Klimke and Debbie McDonald. Kelly also participated in the Young Dressage Trainers Symposium for 9 years where she developed a love for the process of training young horses. She runs a small teaching and training business in Easton, Maryland, where she has a variety of different horses in training and believes that every horse can benefit from good dressage training regardless of the breed.






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