Thank you guys all so much!
As far as what I learned, there was so much information I took in and there were so many really great clinicians there. Personally I felt that the best of them was Chris Cox, though I may be biased as I've been a huge fan of his for years...more recently he's made some new changes to his program that I feel really raise the bar with building an understanding and a relationship with whatever horse you're riding even in a very short time. I feel like the number one thing that has made the biggest difference is implementing groundwork that carries over very naturally into the saddle. I feel like I've always had trouble with that...I had watched a lot of shows about groundwork and felt like I got really good at that, like I could have 100% confidence and get total respect with any horse on the ground...but then as soon as I was in the saddle I couldn't seem to get it to translate over and I couldn't get that same control.
There was a really great combination of demos that Chris had, because they built on each other in a really cool way that I feel did the most for me. First he demonstrated ground work, which he explained that he usually keeps somewhat to a minimum because it doesn't take a lot to establish that respect and it can be accomplished from the saddle as well. Then in the next demo it was really cool to see how that proved true, because he rode these two people's horses who were kind of all over the place, and without doing any groundwork at all with either of them he was able to establish the exact same thing and it carried over even after he stepped out of the saddle, he left the reins up and the horses willingly wanted to follow him around the arena and readily yielded to any pressure he put on them without complaint. That was what really got me, because I've found myself and a lot of the people at the stable I came from always seemed to get stuck on the ground and couldn't get that to carry over into the saddle.
Anyway, the groundwork he was doing was pretty simple, he had changed that somewhat from what I remembered he used to do. The main thing he did was "direct and yield", where you send the horse in a half circle around you, then ask them to yield their hindquarters to stop. I like it because it's simple and makes a lot of sense, because you get their legs moving which is such a powerful tool with horses that you see them use on each other all the time, then getting control over the hind end is invaluable. The whole way he was describing exactly how he asks the exact same thing from the saddle, and then we saw it clearly demonstrated on the two horses he rode later. From the saddle he literally just had them do the exact same thing. He practiced getting it to transfer over to the reins while on the ground just very briefly before mounting, then did it in the saddle. It really helped me understand, seeing everything in steps like that, it's kind of hard to explain because I'm sure it sounds kind of simple but I've always hit a wall with that and something just clicked with me. When I worked on this stuff with my mare she seemed to respond extremely well to it, better than what I was doing with her before for sure. It even carried over that I could get her to ground tie, and the problem I was previously having with picking her hind feet (she'd pin her ears and offer to kick) had vanished. I'm sure a lot of it just had to do with my attitude. I really felt that things got through to me really well just being there and seeing it in person, which is interesting since I've seen a lot of it on TV. Anyway, this just really built my confidence and gave me something to focus on instead of "Oh god I'm gonna fall and die" or whatever, lol
Then he had a great demo on how very small changes to improve your seat can make you so much more secure in the saddle, and he demonstrated exactly how unstable of a position you put yourself in when your seat is poor at faster gaits. I'm sure this information was a lot of what any good riding instructor would tell you, but it's been a long time since I could afford a trainer unfortunately. He was just talking about how no matter what you're riding, a good seat is a good seat, and how you want to make sure you're lined up properly (feet, knees, hips) and he was saying that keeping your shoulders just behind your hips can bring more stability. I tried that and I definitely noticed I felt a lot more secure at the trot, and when I went into the lope I had to be very careful about it because I too have a problem with leaning forward at the lope. My mare is really unstable with her trot but loping went better than ever, I felt. In the past I've had problems getting her to move out because of my insecure seat, but she wasn't at all reluctant during this ride despite it being hotter than average.
There was so much more I learned that helped me, but I thought I'd limit it to those two things because I know I tend to explain things in way too many words, lol, so sorry for the novel, but hopefully I was at least able to get the points across anyway. I think that's why watching it and having it explained by professionals helped me so much...text can only explain so much!