I try really hard to give credit when credit is due and it is time for me to give a little more credit to J. I’m not sure if she was just having a bad month or if all of her other students just happened to have the same struggle at the same time but suddenly most of the horses at the barn that were traveling hollow and tense are moving much better. She has them doing more long and low from what I’ve seen and they all seem to be much improved.
I also finally got through to her and it didn’t cause her to stop instructing me! I truly don’t feel I am an expert and there was just one main thing bothering me and that was asking Katai to try to carry weight on her hind and slow down into a more collected trot for the whole half hour lesson or even for ten or more minutes at a time. That was causing sooooo much tension from Katai which meant that sometimes she was almost gaiting and was always moving very hollow. Last week at my lesson J and I had an argument for the whole half hour which was even tougher because we had about seven spectators but I did it! I stayed reasonably calm and impartial and didn’t get angry, I just kept making my point and what I was comfortable with and not and she listened. She gave me homework to work more long and low and let Katai go forward but to bring her back for a few strides at a time. She also had me tweak some position things and gave me some help with a couple of other problems I’ve been having.
I was concerned that even with that progress the lesson on Wednesday and my make up yesterday would be exactly the same but it wasn’t! I know that I am no expert and I’m completely incapable of teaching someone else but I’m not a complete beginner and I have good feel especially with Katai who I’ve trained completely so far. For all of her faults Katai really tries hard to understand things and really dislikes correction. Normally if I can just slow things down a little and show her the steps involved she picks it up really quick and once she has something she has it! Even the smallest glimmer of understanding and if I reward it it seems to be habit by the next time I ride her. This is part of what makes her so completely rewarding to ride. I have probably never worked with an animal, of any species that learned so quickly and completely and I know part of it is the way that I have taught her so far. At any rate my lesson yesterday was so wonderful! J asked at the beginning of the lesson for me to show her what we’ve been working on. I think she’s been seeing me ride while she teaches other lessons and has noticed that I’ve been doing my homework and while Katai isn’t great at things yet she is figuring out how to slow down and shift more weight back plus she’s reaching into contact, lifting her back and is so much more relaxed and it’s all because I’m doing everything J is telling me to do with the small modification of asking for only a few strides at a time.
Katai was especially stiff and hollow to start out and J was extremely helpful reminding me to bend her which immediately meant that I had a much softer and more compliant horse. J also worked a lot more on my position including putting my stirrups down two holes on one side and three on the other. I told her that I felt like I was riding in the twilight zone but that it felt better overall and I was interested to work that way and figure things out. It did improve my posting considerably. Then we went to a free walk and J was impressed! I’ve got Katai stretching consistently just about as low as she can go and I’ve been getting her back if she starts to lift her head. J reminded me to not nag and once I had the walk I wanted to just let her be. It was really nice to hear that she is happy with the work I am doing.
It is making it tougher to move. The move started out partially because she wouldn’t listen to me and I didn’t want to feel powerless as she “made” me do things in my lesson that I was uncomfortable with. It was also because of her attitude about Katai but that seems to have changed as well.
Speaking of giving credit, on Monday this week I was riding while J was teaching a lesson at the other end of the arena. One of her students, who is a retired woman that has no filter, came in to watch the lesson. This woman, I will call her M, always sort of teases me about Katai and we have this dialogue where she calls Katai a baby horse or little horse and tells her horse, a large black thoroughbred, not to step on my pony. I’m used to that type of teasing, about when will I get a “real” horse, and just blow it off at this point. At some point during the lesson J started talking to the student about how she needed to get her on a taller horse and M points to me and says, very loudly, “She’s the one that needs a taller horse!” Without missing a beat J says “Actually Kate’s pretty short.” This is about as incredible of praise for me riding Katai from J as I can imagine. As I’ve mentioned before J had told me that Katai was too small and that I needed to consider getting a different horse. As I’ve persevered with Katai she has slowly seemed to have more respect for her and treats her less and less like a rock stuck in her shoe and more like a legitimate dressage horse but she still could have used that opening to push me again towards a bigger horse. The fact that she didn’t impressed me.
Along with that she’s been treating her well in other ways. On Monday this week I had a scare that Katai was having a laminitic episode. She seemed off, not lame but sensitive and too quiet, and we’ve been having unusually cold weather so I know the grass is stressed and has higher sugar content. Along with that she’s gained a little weight since while I was off on vacation she wasn’t ridden as regularly. That evening I emailed J to ask if she would leave Katai in the dry lot and she wrote right back that she could certainly do that. Even better, when I got there on Tuesday evening to ride she said that she’d brought Katai up to the barn to have the farrier, who’s always there on Tuesdays, check her and he didn’t find anything. She also asked the resident vet tech, whose daughter is a student, to check Katai’s digital pulse. The vet tech agreed with me that Katai’s feet felt a little warm but didn’t find anything else concerning. J then left Katai in on Wednesday and was going to fit her up with one of her own grazing muzzles so she could go out the next day. I was able to leave her my own pony sized grazing muzzle but I was completely impressed with the care she was giving my pony which is way over and beyond anything I’ve ever experience with pasture board.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about moving at this point. It should still be good in many ways and some of the help I can get there with trailer loading and the available trails and heated arena will be incredible but I KNOW the care here is excellent and now that I’ve been more comfortable in my lessons it is making it tougher for me to be excited about this move.