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!!