Lesson(s) Recap

My, apparently doubtful, co-pilot for Christmas shopping this past week.
One thing I’m hoping to do in the new year is more lesson recaps. I started this blog to journal what happens with Katai and my journey and since not much has been happening over this past year I’m not too disappointed that I haven’t been blogging as much but I do still wish that I’d been documenting more of it. With that in mind I’m going to try to catch up a little on what’s going on now so that I can start the new year in a good place.

First, I don’t think I’ve talked much about my current lesson format or it was a long time ago and we’ve all forgotten so let’s start there. I’m currently taking e/o week lessons with the trainer that works at the barn and rents the house there. She has a lot of training horses (and a couple of her own) and teaches lessons to a good chunk of the people who board at my barn. We’ll call her K. She is also how I found this barn. I’d followed her on Instagram knowing that she was in MN and she has a fantastic account. I always drooled over the really cute arena and after commenting on one of her Instagram stories and having her respond I finally asked where she boarded and found out about my current barn.

The results of our labor. Lots of tasty things, a few gifts, and some yummy alcohol
 There were so many reasons why I moved but the ability to work with her as a coach was a big one and luckily it’s proving to be just as great as I’d hoped. K is so, so low key. She can get really intense when needed but she’s just much more relaxed than previous instructors I’ve worked with and I really love it. I’m an adult and I do this for fun but my fun is to work on it really intensely and take myself way too seriously so having a coach who just is a little more relaxed and not such a perfectionist (which I so am) is extremely refreshing and really helps me not stress or dread my lessons. She’s really great about pushing and asking for new things but also not pushing past a point of comfort and even better she’s really got Katai pegged (probably since she’s very like her own mare) and is very thoughtful about how we approach things so that we don’t push Katai so far past her comfort zone that she hates the work. She does this in her own work with her mare too sometimes doing just groundwork, taking her out on the trails, or riding in a side pull. I can’t even tell you how nice it is to work with someone that knows how much those sorts of things can still help progress with dressage and just building a relationship with your horse.

Don’t get me wrong, I still miss Jane who was almost like a second mom, therapist, and friend. I’m not sure if I’ll work with an instructor who is so keyed in to what I need to do to improve and who holds me to such high standards again. Hopefully I’ll have that opportunity but if not, the skills she taught me are helping me in everything still so I’m incredibly appreciative.
 
One of the bf's extended family Christmases.
This was only about half of the gifts that showed up.
Back to the lesson recaps though! Our first couple of lessons were really allowing K to get used to me and Katai. Both of us were also incredibly unfit (and getting used to riding in a very small arena) so they were pretty messy and there were some mini meltdowns on Katai’s part. Fast forward to about 3 or 4 lessons in though and I had a HUGE breakthrough with the canter mechanic. Jane had been using the wording of keeping my body up and down which I think was making me shut down Katai’s stride and causing her to get sticky and pissy. I’m sure that Jane didn’t mean what I was doing but I couldn’t figure out how to do it differently. K had me concentrating on sitting up into the stride, without getting light in my seat, and half halting at the height of the stride. I had been thinking more of half halting on the down feeling and holding myself into her back. With K’s help calling out when I should be half halting I was able to feel it and it was such an amazing thing. Since then I’ve been able to replicate it and with that we’re finally getting Katai’s canter (and my canter mechanic) truly under control.

We’ve also had some nice breakthroughs with some of the items, or one main item really, that were getting us stuck in our 2ndlevel progress. Basically Katai doesn’t listen to my halting cues or she gets so upset that she has a meltdown and we can’t continue. K has been so great about making it more light and playful and helping make the change without demanding it and then just moving on. We’re working on all halts and half halts. Everything from when I’m leading, to lunging, to riding at all gaits and in all movements. That leads us to my last lesson which was on the evening of my birthday.
 
So tough to choose exactly the right thing for Mimosa's. I decided to get bf's opinion
Unfortunately I’d had an awful day (really tough conversation with a staff person right at the end of the day) at work and my anxiety was high which I let K know when we walked in. K is really good at not babying anyone but I think she could tell that I was a little shaky and emotional so she let me know that we’d try to keep it pretty easy and just do stuff that I felt like handling. Recently there have been a couple of days where the canter wheels fell off the bus so we decided to work primarily on walk and trot since she knows I can handle the on my own as/if it comes up and it was unlikely we'd make progress with it that night.

To start we worked on getting her really through at the walk and really “oozing” forward on the bit at the walk. I did some leg yield to get her accepting the leg aids without dropping behind the contact and coming up. After a good long walk warm up with lots of lateral work we went to trot and really focused on keeping her down and forward. We worked on me pushing the contact forward like a wheelbarrow and really allowing her to find her balance at that lower place since her default is to come up. We actually got some really good work like that and did a few nice leg yield in either direction. We took a walk break and talked about what we were going to do next and we decided to work on her 2nd level balance.
 
Sneak peek of some of my gifts. These were from K, my new trainer
The exercise was to do a shoulder in and then halt part way down the wall. Trot halts are pretty good but still a slight stretch so that goal wasn’t to get a perfect halt, just to introduce that it’s a thing we do and it’s ok to stop, with her weight balanced back, and then trot forward again still in SI. Once we started working on halt, while in a lateral movement, the wheels fell off a little so we did a lot of work accepting the try and making it into more of a game. By the end she was at least trying to understand the question rather than just getting tight and resisting. I’m really happy with how far we’ve come in such a short period of time with only e/o week lessons.


In addition, K is the first training I’ve worked with in a while who will ride her clients’ horses. Because of that and because of my goals for moving up to 2nd level for at least one show at the end of the year this year I’ve asked if she could start putting a couple of rides on Katai. She’s going to ride for part of my next lesson and then we’ll talk about how many rides and when. I’m not going to be able to afford to do it on a really regular basis at this point but I do think it would help us break through this barrier that we’ve been facing and hopefully, at the least, help K know some of Katai’s quirks that much better as she’s teaching us from the ground.

No new Katai pictures, I've seen her a few times this week but didn't have much time for pictures.
I can't wait to work with her tomorrow!!
Because I've been taking e/o Tuesday lessons and Christmas and New Years are on Tuesday this year we haven't figured out when my next lesson will be yet but likely the week after New Years. I can't wait!

There are some other exciting things that are starting to materialize in my life so fingers crossed I'll have more to share soon :) Also, Merry Christmas!!!

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