Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dressage Clinic with Natalie Hinnemann

When we trailer more than a couple hours, the Fancy Pony gets stiff in the neck.  In fact, you can feel how the lower neck muscles get hard and knotted...

It took a while for this to make itself clear to me.

And, finally, I understood another piece of the puzzle that was missing...
How do you work through that sort of knotted mess once you get to the show?

So, I trailered 6 hours away to attend a clinic...
Fancy Pony wasn't the only Arabian there, but I'm pretty sure she was THE smallest mount...
And, of course, everyone cooed over her innate adorableness!

As expected, the Fancy Pony arrived tight and stiff in the neck and she was not her usual, soft self.  The head tossing reappeared.  The shoulder throwing was back.  And I had coaching to teach me how to work through it!

It was a beautiful day in South Dakota!
I warmed up and then walked the perimeter of the ring as I listened to Natalie Hinnemann finish up with the rider before me.
I liked her coaching style immediately.  It was focused, but her voice was soft and soothing - as if she was actually doing the riding rather than just coaching from the middle of the ring...

Whisper cooperated by producing all of the inconsistencies that I wanted to address.  All of those inconsistencies boiled down to connection and "thoroughness".  I had figured that part out, but I couldn't seem to work through it on our less spectacular days...

Natalie started by just watching us ride, then brought us onto a 20 meter circle.
The lesson was pretty basic, but the concepts were so vital!
It felt like we were riding our 20 meter circle with 10 meter bend.  Natalie constantly reminded me to bring Whisper's shoulders inside the circle.  Basically, we were riding circle in shoulder-in.  Then we would carry on to the corner and do the same in a 10 meter circle.
We would work the circle until Whisper softened into the contact and filled my outside rein, then we would ride to the next corner in shoulder-in, then ride the circle again.  We lived in shoulder-in.
Then, we would carry on down the straight line and add a touch of brilliance!  And I could FEEL how fancy the princess is!

Natalie poses with us for a picture during a walk break!

We moved on a little.  We continued to live in shoulder-in, but we added leg yield to the mix.  By living in shoulder-in, I was gaining more control over all 4 quadrants of Whisper's body.
We maintained shoulder-in through transitions. And, wouldn't you know, by focusing on maintain the positioning through the transition, I found us making those transitions in slow motion!

With lots of help, we started working through our biggest block, and I'm excited to move forward to the next one!
I had a dream a while back that I was riding Whisper down the long side in shoulder-in, then easy as pie, stepped into half-pass to the centerline.  I feel that reality is closer than ever!

You KNOW I'll be back to clinic with Natalie again!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

we schooled cross-country back in October...

And old demons were cake!
And new demons arose!  And it was all because of my own sucky riding!
cold snap, back pain, and lack of looseness in the rider...

Some of my favorite moments while schooling....

me:  Hey, we're cantering to the down bank!  Yay!
her:  I love cantering!  I love down banks!  I love cross country!
me:  Maybe we should trot before we get to that down bank.
her:  I love cantering!  I love down banks!  I love cross country!
me:  I insist we trot before that down bank.
her:  I love cantering!  I love down banks!  I love cross country!
me:  Hey, lady!  I said we're trotting!
her:  Nope.  We're going to canter that sucker!  I've got this! You just sit there and hang on!!
me:  Are you kidding me??
her:  Nope.  I've got this!
(arrive AT the down bank)
me:  *just riding through it*
her:  maybe I should have trotted? (inserts tiny stutter step) - Nope, never mind!  (landing) I've got this at the canter, too!

TAKING ON THE SCARIEST BENCH EVER (schooled BN last year, it was a fight to get over every single time)
me:  OK, here we go!  Own this bench!
her:  Oh, yeah!  I'm owning this!
(did she even bother to look at it?)
(coming around to take on the Novice version)
me:  *just riding any other jump*
her:  Bring it on!  I'm the baddest pony there ever was!  Look at me own this thing!

me:  Yup, I know you've got this, because you find this sort of thing inviting.  Just riding!
me:  Ho there, lady!  Can you half halt a little?
me:  Um - HELLO!  Running through my hands like this is completely unaccepta-----
her:  *runs through hands and charges over the house*
me:  .....well, I guess on the upside, we jumped it...  Now, about that rudeness!!

There was much larking over many other obstacles that just weren't a big deal.
There was a "flower box" that was OK at BN, but the Novice level just wasn't happening.
The water was, of course, a grand adventure, as always!  Snorkeling continues to happen.  I just think of it as stretching her back...

Yes. Snorkeling.
She shoves her face under the water up to her noseband and trots like that, dragging her face in the water!!
...I should really get pictures some day...


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