So yesterday...WHAT A DAY! :) Successfully hauled Soonie out to the ever-beautiful The Plains, Virginia to take our first lesson with dressage guru, Linda Zang. My day started with a 0400 wake-up so I could get to the barn by 0500 to feed Soon, hook up the trailer, get him prepped and do a last check to make sure I had everything. He walked out of the barn and straight on the trailer like a pro, in the dark, and we were on the road shortly before 0600 for our nearly two-hour trip.
For the record, driving a loaded horse trailer in the DC area during rush hour is the single most terrifying thing I've ever done, and that's coming from someone who is A) not a nervous hauler and B) used to DC traffic. Seriously. The buffoonery is absurd.
Here is where we were heading:
We got to the farm with plenty of time to spare and I was SO HAPPY I had sprung for a day stall. Bubba stepped calmly off the trailer and walked very pleasantly into his courtyard stall. I loved how he took everything in like a pro. He didn't scream, he wasn't looking around for anyone or acting frantic. He was calm and curious, and seemed to be like, "Okay, this is fine" after he had a look at his digs for the day. Went right for the hay and I knew I'd be fine to go audit some of the other lessons prior to ours.
|I mean honestly, this is PRETTY OK LET'S BE HONEST|
The lesson went very well overall. Soonie walked in the indoor, was pretty chill about the whole thing, but was very tense once we got down to work. Part of that was on me because I didn't have him warmed up - next time I'll ask where I can school prior to the lesson, but it did seem like the procedure was to just walk in the indoor 10 minutes before your lesson and hang out until it was your turn at the other end of the ring. So I walked in with 15 minutes to go, but the lesson ahead of me ended early so poor Bubba had to go in front of Linda Zang a giant ball of tension. I guess at the end of the day, she saw us at our not-so-greatest (worst?) and didn't kick us out, so...YAY!
Sadly I did not get any video this time, but she gave us a lot of great feedback, lots to work on at home, and exercises that I can easily continue going forward. She got me working him on a 10-15 meter circle, getting him to move through his shoulder off my inside leg into my outside rein. I had to really hold the outside rein and block him running through it with the support of my outside leg, while also opening my inside rein and using it as an opening/guiding rein while pushing off my inside leg as the driving aid. She had me tap him on the inside shoulder with the dressage whip to help manipulate him a bit there, and it helped. It was a bit of a fight to get through his tension and distraction factor in the beginning, but once he got loose and more focused, he started to come through very well. Linda was very complimentary when he finally started to round up and use himself.
The trot work improved quite a bit once we got going. We had to work through some issues at the canter with him swapping out behind as he has done on occasion the last few weeks. I asked why she thought he was doing that and she was quite frank that it was him trying to evade having to use himself. Which makes sense, because the other trainer we had ridden with a couple times also emphasized getting him more balanced off the outside rein, getting him straighter and more through (much like Linda, but perhaps not to the degree Linda was asking for). The swapping out started when I started asking him to put forth a little more effort to be correct. Things were starting to click in my brain.
We essentially did that circle exercise for about a half hour at different sizes (10, 15, 20 meters) at all three gaits. I had to ride him THROUGH the lead swapping nonsense instead of coming down to the walk to correct it (which was essentially rewarding him with a break for swapping). Instead, I had to demand the inside bend and connection to the outside rein while keeping the canter. At one point I was having to pull my left hand out to my knee and really push off that inside leg in order to do this, but once I figured out how to ride him through it, he corrected himself within a stride or so. After a few changes of direction and more repetition, he actually got to the point where he was totally round and through, AND was extremely light in the bridle. He felt SO GOOD!
It reminded me of that scene in Armageddon where they have to go through that 11.5 Gs in order to get around the moon and into smooth space...Soon fought and leaned just about as hard as he ever had on me and it was a real arm wrestling match for a few minutes, but the breakthrough was incredible and definitely something I can build on for the future! He felt great at the end.
I will definitely be replicating this at home and taking to heart what she said about pushing him and demanding more from him. He's so lovely and perfect and pleasant that I've lulled myself into this zone where I don't really push him, and only get a little bit from him and am happy with that. He can do more, and I know it, but that's why I've been needing to ride with folks. Thankfully the feedback has been consistent, as has the training advice, so I know the progress from here on out is going to be significant.
Riding with Linda was just as I hoped it would be. She was tough, exact with her observations and demanding, but riding with her was fun. She made it enjoyable, I could laugh at myself a little bit and open my eyes to what I was sitting on, and the progress we made in one ride was pretty incredible. My barnmate has had the same breakthroughs with her TB after riding with Linda a couple of times. I'm excited to continue with Linda, as well as our home trainer. Next time I'll be sure to get video because holy shit I want to see this goodness.
I got Bubba put away and once our buddy was done with her lesson, I got him loaded up and we went home. He was a total pro about the whole day, which just builds my enthusiasm for more clinic adventures in the future. Up next: Anne Kursinski in November!
|Good boy, Brother!|
He had a long day, but at least we got home and he got about an hour or so of turnout. My long day continued because after a quick-ish turnaround at the farm, I ran home to get cleaned up for Puissance Night at WIHS!! :)
I love WIHS, I'm just sorry I can't spend more time here when it rolls into town. But hey, a great night with friends and a meet up with a college buddy will put a smile on my face any day. :)
|I love this horse show|
There were beautiful saddles, beautiful Barbour things, beautiful handbags I would probably never use but would look amazing to all those high class things I never have time to go to...
|I could afford the unicorns-farting-rainbows socks though|
We pulled ourselves away from the tiny horse jump course and back to our seats to watch the great puissance competition. McLain Ward and Aaron Vale tied for first by jumping 7' in the fifth round. Awesome! Here's the view from ringside:
We got our photo in front of the puissance wall thanks to my amazing college friend. She is the best. It was a great way to cap off what had been a truly perfect day. :)