I’ve had a weird couple of weeks. Just personal stuff going on (#datingproblems) but I’ve felt a little out of touch with riding and I’ve had less direction and motivation to ride and blog. However, the clinic with Susanne Winslade went really well!
However, we did have an interesting start since there had been a driving horse (combined driving Haflinger) scheduled before Katai and I started so not only did Katai get a little nervous in the crossties trying to figure out what was going on in the ring but when they drove out they left the door at the end of the arena open. When I was at J’s place open arena doors always led to a mini Katai meltdown and the doors on this area have never been open so I was curious how she would be. I took the time to walk her down there before I mounted up and she was up and curious but not losing her mind so I wasn’t that worried. However, as soon as I mounted up she lost her mind a little.
Thankfully Susanne was of the same opinion that I am and expressed that Katai was just going to need to get over it. We worked on getting and keeping at least one ear on me for the first several minutes and after a few great, forward, connected, directed 20 meter circles in each direction Katai was doing quite well. Susanne wanted me to get her head and neck a little lower than I’ve been getting it. Luckily after all our homework since the last clinic we were able to get there easily and I could immediately feel her start swinging better over her back.
After a few circles and straights with lower ears and a nice connection, Susanne had us start another exercise where we were supposed to spiral in and then leg yield out. Neither Katai or I are good at leg yielding so after a couple times in each direction, as Susanne saw how stuck we were on the struggle bus, she changed it to a "head to the wall" leg yield.
That’s when I started to get a little frustrated with myself. I’ve never learned how to properly do a leg yield and always struggled plus Katai hasn’t ever really learned to do them correctly. She actually used to rear as soon as you put her head to the wall so it wasn’t an effective way to teach this to her previously. During the clinic I was extremely proud that she not only didn’t rear but didn’t lose her mind with the amount of pressure we were putting on her. However, it didn’t mean that we were able to get anywhere ourselves. Poor Susanne had to watch us drunkenly and incorrectly try to accomplish this for a full arena before I let her know that I really didn’t know what I was doing and needed help.
Susanne came over and assisted on the ground and after almost another full arena Katai got it! She really is a smart cookie After that we did it in the other direction and it was a little rough but we got it, she got the concept of moving her haunches without blowing through her shoulder and I was able to start to understand how to keep her neck straight, not let her blow through her shoulder, and keep her haunches at the correct angle.
What was really interesting is that there is this bodyworker lady (she works more with musculature, not so much chiro) that has attended the last couple of clinics with Susanne and she made an observation, along with Susanne, once we got back that Katai is built like a little body builder but that it’s her "external musculature" and not her internal. She said that the "Internal Musculature" will be strengthened more by stretching and that the occasional slight shortness that I had mentioned (left hind) previously would likely be helped by this stretchy work of getting Katai to cross over properly behind. She also mentioned that she thinks the shortness is coming from Katai’s stifle and maybe fetlock which at least helps me know a little more about where to watch. She didn’t think that it was time to call the vet but suggested that if it goes on for much longer despite doing additional/different work it might be good to get Katai a massage and maybe some body work.
This lady is doing some specific work with horses and riders on Monday and I’m going to do everything I can to get there and have a "lesson" since I think it would be SOO helpful!
Finally, right at the end of our lesson, we went to canter. Susanne wanted me to do three circles and do our best. Unfortunately as I cued for it, Katai actually bucked again which was disappointing since she hasn’t in a while and then half way around the second circle had a big, random spook. Because of that I never really got her on the bit and straight so we didn’t get to show our best work. After our disastrous canter Susanne wanted us to work on straightness and I think that we’ve been over bending the pony. Susanne was having me keep her neck straighter and wanted her haunches out more on the circle. She said that Katai has been throwing her haunches in on the transitions which is likely caused by us trying to keep her bent for the transitions. I’m sure I’m the culprit since I tend to exaggerate and if a little is good, more will be better right? Oops!
I’m going to chat about this with L so that she can help me understand what Susanne was seeing. Last time I thought, for example, that Susanne wanted me to turn my upper body out on the circle (confusing since that’s not what I thought I was supposed to be doing) but after talking to L realized that I was turning and collapsing in so bad that Susanne was just using it as a tool. Indeed, this time it didn’t come up at all since I’ve been working on being straighter myself.
Unfortunately H wasn’t able to make it since I rode right in the middle of the day so I didn’t get pictures. I’ll have to find someone to take some at one of my next rides so that I have some more content since this blog is getting boring without it!