In the clinic with Susanne she’s teaching basic concepts and biomechanics. She doesn’t have any quick fixes and, in my case, she’s teaching horses and riders in their native environment. Because of that I think you don’t see intense changes but there is more that is actionable on a daily basis, at least that’s what I found with my ride with her.
To start off she asked me a little about my background and my pony’s background. I briefly summarized for her my riding and dressage background and Katai’s training background. She asked a couple of questions about Katai and had some comments about her feet (more about that later) and then told me to go ahead and warm up like I would if she weren’t there. I started off with what’s been successful recently which is lots of small figures making Katai listen rather than barging through my aids and bending and flexing her body in both directions both at the walk and trot.
She complemented my riding (which truly surprised me) and asked some questions, assessing my understanding of concepts such as flexion, and then asked how much I’d been able to get Katai on the bit during warmup. I let her know that I felt that Katai was really on the bit only for a few seconds here and there. She was pleased that I understood that and then went through information about why she should be there right away. I told her we normally get her there but it takes a good 20 minutes into the ride most of the time.
|I have an adorable pony|
For me the problem, I think, is that I read and watch a lot of videos on theory. The theory of how to get a horse on the bit is to ride them forward into light and giving contact. The problem is that Katai can go very forward very well with her head in the air and a tight back. At that point enforcing forward is useless so I’ve been "letting" her go around with her head in the air until she loosens up enough to go on the bit. The problem, as Susanne pointed out, is that this means that during a normal training ride Katai has traveled correctly for maybe 10-15 minutes and incorrectly for 20-30. This will, of course, build the incorrect muscles and not the correct ones.
|Katai looks like she's enjoying Susanne as well|
I do actually understand how to get her connected but to me it wasn’t the correct way. Susanne disagreed with that and was actually happy with my ability to get her on the bit after we talked about it. Susanne had me do walk and then trot but our walk-trot transition was bad enough that we started there. Again, I understood what to do to get the trot transition result that she was looking for but I haven’t been doing it that way because I haven’t felt it’s correct. Once I was actually riding and not just allowing things to happen the rest of the ride went better. I was able to fairly consistently get and keep her on the bit and although, from looking at the pictures and video, I can see that she’s still not quite where she needs to be she is in a much better place than she was.
Overall I think that the biggest take away’s for me are that (again) I need to just ride my horse. I’m a fairly intuitive rider and although that can cause mistakes I mainly need to stop waiting for someone to tell me that I’m doing something correctly or to change something. L and I have been here before but since I never got confirmation specifically that I was doing this correctly I assumed I was "cheating" and needed to learn to do it the right way. For that reason I think that this ride with Susanne not only taught me way more about the concepts that I’m working on but also confirmed for me that we’re heading in the right direction.
|Look at her back! Now there's a good suspension bridge|
Also, Susanne gave me some amazing compliments which was actually really nice. I really don’t care much for compliments most of the time since they make me uncomfortable and I feel like someone is ignoring something that could be improved or being false. I feel like with something this complex, or with music when I was growing up, there is just so much to learn and improve that true compliments should be rare. However, I’m also learning to accept and when I can tell that they are more genuine I think that they, along with constructive feedback, are helpful in putting together the puzzle. The most surprising comment was that I was a graceful rider. Seriously I’m not a graceful anything, I’m clumsy to the point of running into walls and dropping things on a regular basis and everyone I’m around knows it. However, when I went back and watched the video I could see what she meant, I am actually kind of putting myself together as a rider which makes me feel really good!
|Well, I look like a T-Rex but Katai looks good|
My favorite compliment though is that she said I was doing a really good job with Katai. She said that we were a good partnership and I was a very effective rider for her and she complimented Katai’s movement! Of course she also called Katai adorable several times because, let’s face it, I have one of the cutest ponies in the entire world.