Man oh man, do I have a lot to unpack. And I'm not even referring to the disaster that is my locker now that I've thrown a bunch of stuff in it, wedged the door shut, and left it for tomorrow. All of my pictures of the farm and my take on that part of the experience is still coming, but I'm not even referring to that. Mary threw the kitchen sink at us today in terms of information and it's going to be a lot to process. Good thing we have all winter and Dorkzilla's owner took video!
The boys, being surprisingly cute and friendly after three days together
1. Get those hoses clear! This was something we worked extremely hard on today, since it's kind of an important concept. I can't really make much change if he's not generating energy and I can't get anything done if I'm completely focused on keeping Theo going. Theo was a good sport and put some real effort into this idea, even if he was blowing by the end and kind of shocked by what was going on. He does tend to try to pop into a canter because a) it's easier, b) it's what he thinks he should do when trotting along at an above average energy level and I'm still pushing, and c) my lower leg is back further than usual. That's going to take some work, but I think it will improve as he gets stronger and I get stronger so I don't get ahead of him.
2. I tend to twist my body when going left, which kinks up the afore mentioned hoses. I have to think of skewers running through my body and keeping those skewers straight and on a tangent to the circle. While also pushing his withers along with my thighs. And using my bikini line to push the wrinkles out of his neck. Not tricky at all, said no one ever.
3. I'm ridiculously malleable. Remember the duct tape yesterday? I was about two minutes into my ride when I heard 'sit on your front triangle, you've lifted your pubic bone up too much'. Seriously? Seriously?! How did I manage that in 24 hours?!! It's nice in terms of being able to make adjustments on the fly, but it sucks in terms of working on how to find my middle. The idea that my front triangle (crotch) takes the weight (keeping in mind most of my weight is actually in my thighs) and my seat bones are present, but not actually weighted helped. Also the idea that my 'underneath' needed to be as deep at the rest of my body, since it's the bottom of my box. I need to get all of my underneath on the saddle.
Head spinning yet? Mine is.
4. Thighs are fantastic and should be used frequently. I put my fist against the pommel and pushed, then used the opposite thigh to resist that pressure. This helps me to figure out how to snug up the tops of my thighs without gripping at the knee. When I'm trotting around, especially in rising trot, this is worlds more stable than using my stirrups. It's also exhausting.
5. My instructions for canter and trot were identical, which was something of a relief. I don't know if my brain could handle it if it turned out I had a whole new list of issues in canter. I will admit to feeling quite smug when Theo simply stepped into the canter when asked and went about his business. Not all of the horses were that easy and sensible about moving to canter. He cantered around like it was no big thing while I tried to get my knees up on the bar, my lower legs where they belonged, my feet light in the stirrups, bear down, and keep his withers from veering off.
6. Theo tried his little pony brain out and did stuff with his body that was all new without throwing a temper tantrum, which was huge. Mary specifically suggested that we do short bursts of good work, then let him take a break as he develops. He's not a horse that takes to a lot of drilling well. She seemed to quite like him by the end of today. He put in some real effort, made his topline like a firm bungee cord instead of a soggy, worn out elastic, and I was able to figure out how to stay with it.
7. Not squeezing or booting is fantastic. I feel so much more balanced when using the idea of slapping him with my stirrup iron and then following up with a quick 'tap tap tap' with the whip if I don't get the response. I feel like I could probably ditch my spurs and still get the job done. I don't intend to because I prefer spurs for lateral work, but it is a fantastic feeling to not feel like I'm working harder than he is. It also gets my knees rolled forward and my toes pointing straight ahead without me crying in pain, which I rather like.
8. The ladies love Theo. I seriously didn't expect it when surrounded by gorgeous, very expensive warmbloods, but the owner of the barn said she was falling in love with my horse. I had several of the auditors come up to me in warm up wanting to know his breeding. One of the boarders was asking me about him because she's on the market for something as calm, quiet, and cuddly as my horse. Evidently Theo has a very soft eye when he's working and everyone loved how he stood like a statue when Mary talked to us. They also adored his tail. Probably because they're not the ones to manage it. That thing is a nuisance.
So three days of hard work and I feel very accomplished. Theo shipped and stabled like an absolute gentleman and wooed the ladies. I got compliments from Mary on my ability to listen and take direction from her and the progress that we both made in just a few rides. Theo got compliments for his willingness to try and good attitude. The consensus from the various people I talked to was that mi papi is not an overly talented horse or an extravagant mover, but he's a very attractive horse with nice movement and the potential to move up the levels with good results. FEI horse? Not even a little bit. Bronze medal horse? No reason why not, especially with the potential for good scores in accuracy and submission. A lot of the WBs acted up, with head tossing, teeth clicking, or trying to take over the ride seen in most sessions. Theo considers that to be far too much work. Having a lazy horse has it's benefits.
The next clinic with Mary is in May. I told her that she would probably see us there with much cleaner hoses and hopefully some sort of control over my pubic bone. I don't want the tape.