Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Groundwork Clinic tonight

I didn't run the GPS because usually these clinics aren't so much distance riding as focusing on small issues and working through them. So while I did ride, it wasn't very far.

Tonight we started off with groundwork. Our first task was to send our horse back to the end of the lead rope and then slowly walk to their rump without them turning to face us. Gwyn watched me the whole time but we did pretty good. The point of that exercise was to not send any pressure to the horse and keep them standing still with body language and also to see at what point the horse became uncomfortable. Gwyn is such a noodle that she just twisted her head to keep an eye on me.

Then we practiced moving one foot only with pressure at a distance. Gwyn is fickle, much to Dani's amusement. If you get too close, she ignores you until you really apply a lot of pressure and then she over reacts, rather than just moving a single foot. Instead, you have to stand far away, apply the pressure and then back up as soon as she shifts her weight.

Then we switched horses. That was hilarious. I worked with two of the tiny quarter horses that come with the married couple. The husband is a retired Boeing engineer and his wife is a horse lover. He's just learning and it's cute seeing them do this together. The husband honestly has no clue and he has such an engineer mind it's sometimes hard to show him how to speak to the horse. But his little black mare is very tolerant, if stubborn and definitely has his number. But he's getting lessons in addition to the clinic nights so he's in good hands. Their two horses were really sensitive, to the point where I had to just stroke the bay mare because she kept anticipating the cue. But we got it figured out.

Then it was time to get on our horses!

We worked on more lateral movement, which is a weakness of Gwyn's. Figuring out lateral movement has been the reason why I go to these clinics. Gwyn will now turn on haunches quite lightly because of the clinics and she has more response to leg pressure now than she did. Tonight was another LIGHTBULB!!!! moment!

Sidepass is our nemesis. We try front over, hind over to zig zag in the sidepass and she just gets frustrated moving her haunches. We try just asking for a sidepass and she'll back up, or go forward and just frustrate herself. I think she's trying and knows it's not the right answer and just gets frustrated. If I work on lateral movement with her I have to give her forward motion breaks or she just gets crazy worked up and then nothing gets accomplished.

Tonight, Dani suggested that I lean in the direction I wanted her to sidepass. So she has to step under and catch me, as it were. This was after I told her that it felt like I needed to have no leg contact in the direction I wanted her to move in order to get even a shift of weight.

So I tried shifting my own weight. Just enough that one butt cheek was lighter than the other. Then I asked for the side pass (while we were facing one of the arena walls). Suddenly, a step to the side! Not backing up. We went down half the length of the long side and by the end she was moving just off the shift in my seat!  I tried the other direction and got some really nice responses!  I was SO PROUD.

She got lots of scritches and verbal praise and I let her have a forward break and she walked around, ears forward in this swinging working walk. I think she knew she did well.  This was near the end of the 2 hour clinic and by that time, Jordan had brought Kaylee down into the arena. Kaylee wanted to ride, so she was handed up and we walked double around the arena.  I'm planning to ride tomorrow, so I'll revisit the sidepass and see if the lesson sunk in. I'm SO EXCITED that we bridged the communication gap.

Kisses for the pony

Kisses from the pony!

We always wear our helmets!

When we got into the car, Kaylee sighed happily and said "It was a good day."

Yup. It really was. 

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