Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Lesson’ Category

Warning, More Whining

Saddle Seat Wednesday

Why? Because I’m sharing the journey. Because one day we will all look back on this and laugh?

Last week, I left the barn without riding.

I went over to Stepping Stone Farm. I watched Miss Courtney work a horse. Afterwards, she proposed two lovely horses for my lesson. The idea of getting on a horse appalled me. There was no looming horse show to push me forward. I went home.

I don’t understand myself. Riding fills me with dread. Yet, I can’t bring myself to walk away.

I had hoped Dottie would be the horse to help me find my mojo. Not so much. Turns out that whole run up to Nationals was an shining detour rather than a path back. As I sit here typing, thinking about riding Dottie makes me reach for the Pepto – and she is awesome.

Back to the whining drawing board. Onwards. (Not feeling it, but saying it anyway. Words have power. I hope.)

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott


Hippity Hoppity

Fortunately this ended well.

During Greg’s most recent driving lesson at Stepping Stone Farm, we over-adjusted some of the straps, apparently. As soon as Milton moved off, he started bucking in harness. Not a sight one wants to see. Coach Courtney gave swift but calmly-voiced instructions. Greg handled it. In retrospect, it was a few bucks over a short distance. Milton recovered immediately. The rest of us took a while longer.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott



Driving Tuesday

Well, that was unexpected.

We showed up for Greg’s third groundwork lesson at Stepping Stone Farm [First, SSF] expecting more of the same. After about 5 minutes, Coach Courtney says, “So Greg, want to hook him?” Um, yes? I guess? We knew Milton would be put to a cart sometime this summer. Today was not on our radar.

Still, Miss Courtney liked way Milton was going and decided to get on with it. That’s why one hires a professional. Technique is the easy part. Knowing when to apply that technique is what takes a lifetime to master.

I dragged out the additional straps. Turns out Greg had been bringing all the gear along in case it might be needed. One of the barn Munchkins brought the jog cart up to the big ring. Greg grounddrove for a few minutes. We hitched. Miss Courtney drove from behind the cart while Greg led. They switched. We unhitched. Everyone exhaled. Milton was showered with praise.

Milton was awesome. Coach Courtney was awesome. Greg was awesome. Greg keeps asking me how Milton looked pulling a cart. I have no idea. I was so deeply, intensely focused on the lack of hysteria that I didn’t really see much else.

Not that the day was without drama. While getting ready, Milton got away and ran around field wearing half of his shipping boots. Then, shifting from long lines to driving reins involved a bridle adjustment. Milton objected. On the way from the covered arena to the big ring, Milton spooked and spun in several circles, taking out spectators and crashing into a truck (horse, spectators and truck are all fine). I would have pulled the plug. In the ring, Milton fussed about the clouds of gnats. In his defense, the bugs where vile.

The one thing he didn’t seem to care about all day was the cart rattling along behind him. Yay! The next step is for the driver to sit in the cart. Then, lots and lots of schooling. While there is still a ways to go before we can consider Milton a driving horse, this was a huge step. As Greg said,

Before Sat, Milton as a driving horse was a hypothetical. It is still hypothetical, but a whole lot closer to real.

No pictures. Deliberately. I wanted to stay vigilant rather than worry about recording the moment. Next time, expect many, many photos.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Rodney’s Dressage May 2017

Breaking out the full-seat britches for lesson #2.

No surprise, our second lesson built on the first one [Dressage]. We halted. We trotted a few laps. Mr. E says we would have cantered if the footing had been better. On the grand scale of things, it remains pitiful. On our personal scale, it was FANTASTIC. A few of the strides where the best dressage I’ve done. Ever.

Perhaps it is Mr. E’s approach. He doesn’t use the ‘push with the inside leg, hold the outside rein’ blather. Or perhaps I’ve never had a horse who can do what I ask. Either way, Mr. E says ‘Do X,Y,Z.’ I do. Rodney does. Cool.

Partway through the lesson, Rodney was tight? Tired? Tense? I wasn’t sure. This made me miss Previous Horse. I’ve thought of PH as my heart horse because I always knew what he was thinking [In Defense of Caesar]. Now, I’m starting to wonder. I could hear him, but he never had the slightest interest in listening to me. That’s not a communication. That’s one party being loud about what they want. Regardless, I need to put the past behind me and ride the horse I have.

I’ve spent a lot of blog time pondering how the different riding disciplines overlap [Styling]. In my last saddle seat lesson, Coach Courtney told me to set my hands. Okay, I will, but that is the Wrong Way to Ride. One should have soft, following hands that are sympathetic to the horse’s mouth. Obviously. Fast forward to dressage lesson. For trotting, Mr. E told me not to pull but not to give. Really? That sounds a lot like Set Your Hands.

Later, Mr. E wanted me to use my knees. In fact, he asked, ‘How hard can you dig your knees in?’ Well, after five years of saddle seat, pretty durn hard. We will overlook the fact that my heels shot out sideways as I did so.

On a final note, Rodney seems to really like Mr. E. With both his chaperone [It Takes A Village] and Mr. E on the sidelines, Rodney started out the ride super relaxed.

Update: further thoughts from Mr. E in comments. See “themuerdago” below.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

The Downside of Driving

Driving Thursday

That’s a lot of tack to clean.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Rodney’s Dressage Lesson

Breaking out the britches.

I trotted my horse! For the first time in 7 years! Said that way, it’s pitiful. Nevertheless, Rodney and I trotted for the first time since 2010.

I’ve had my eye on the dressage instructor Mr. E for a while. He seemed sympathetic to horse and rider. We (cough Greg cough) decided that now was the time. Even if we weren’t ready, ya gotta start somewhere. If I waited until I was absolutely ready, I’d never have a lesson.

I was expecting more of a consult than a lesson, heavy on the discussion. Instead, Rodney and I moved for 30 minutes. No need for stops to reset his brain, either. Mr. E maintained a steady flow of instruction that kept both horse and rider organized and – as a result – calm. Right now, I doubt I can recreate the conditions on my own. That’s okay. We did it.

Mr. E had me pick up a contact with an exaggerated giving motion to encourage Rodney to stretch his neck. We did a few halts. Mr. E saw something in the halts that made him think a trot transition was not out of the question. I said that when I trot Rodney in hand, he flings his head up and gets tense. Mox nix, I was told. That was in hand.

So we did a few steps of trot. Rodney picked up a quiet trot, shuffled along, then ran out of gas in a few strides. Kaloo! Kalay! We trotted a few more times. Rodney failed to get his knickers in twist. After once around the ring in each direction, we declared victory and stopped.

Mr. E complimented me on being willing to trust him and try the trot – which had NOT been in my lesson plan. Really, it wasn’t so much trust on my part, as ‘Well, you’re the new guy. I’ll give you some rope and see what you do with it.’ Same result, more cynicism.

Afterwards, Rodney’s back was mildly tight, particularly on the right – scar – side. This is something we will have to attend to any time he works.

Rodney was very, very proud of himself.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott