It turns out that I didn’t take very good notes on Sunday. Knowing that I would be driving home after the show and wouldn’t have time to sit down and type up some notes on the computer, I took them on my phone throughout the day. I don’t know if I was trying to be circumspect in case anyone thought I was just texting rudely throughout the show or if I just didn’t save them often enough, but they are quite minimal and often difficult to interpret. There are notes like “posting down up vs up down,” which is relatively easy to figure out. That was the first demo that Pat did on Lead changes and he was obviously talking about how posting should feel to the rider. Then there was this note, “Michael Jackson style.” I’m pretty sure it had to do with something about how you ride the horse, but really? Are you supposed to moonwalk as you ride? Or are you teaching the horse to moonwalk? Maybe you are supposed to ride with one glove and yell “whooo…” a lot in a high pitched voice.
This really highlights one of the things I have discovered about my memory over time. If I don’t write it down, I simply don’t remember it! Oh, bits and snatches come back, but not the comprehensive whole. It’s why you will constantly find me off in the corner during breaks at clinics typing or scribbling madly away. If I don’t do this, I will lose so much of that critical learning that I often paid so dearly for that I will wind up eventually feeling as if I’ve cheated myself out of the experience (not to mention the money.) I hope I have learned my lesson and will stop at Starbucks or Burger King on the way home next time to do a few minutes of mad typing. Instead, I had to rely on the kindness of strangers in posting clips of the show on You Tube. So my entire memory of the event has now boiled down to a few cryptic notes on a phone and about 30 minutes of total You Tube video footage. Does anybody else miss the days when they would film most of the tour stop and large chunks of it would end up on the savvy club DVD a few months later?
There are a couple of really good clips of Pat’s session on lead changes by the way. The horse in the demo was a beautiful black Andalusion. Pat started out by explaining about diagonals and how being on the correct diagonal leads to getting the correct lead. I felt it was probably the best demo I saw on Sunday. He had the girl (wish I’d written her name down) working on some of the pieces and parts first. Then he had her doing some of the old level two lead changes. He had her canter the horse along and drop the reins and use her carrot stick like an oar rowing the boat. This was a great exercise as it got her really in time with her horse’s body movement in the canter. Then he had her take the reins and “fly” the horse like she was superman. First he had her fly to the left, then change to the right. The horse changed leads several times this way, but was getting the lead in front first, then in the back. Pat said the horse was pushing against her leg and that’s why he was missing in back, so he had her work on sideways for a bit, then go back to the lead changes. This time, he got them right. (Oh, you mean the better your horse goes sideways?)
I’ve read a lot of criticism of the old level 2 style lead changes, but I think this demo really showed how useful they can be. As long as a person understands that they are a means to an end and not the only way (or even the best way) to get a lead change. I don’t know that it is possible to do a refined lead change with your horse until you have a really good feel for the timing that is necessary. I know I am one of those people who could never get the feel right. This exercise really helped me feel how and when I needed to change in order to get the horse to change. What could be simpler than playing Superman afterall? Otherwise, I was just trying to throw a cue in and hope it was at the right time.
I know once Max and I get more comfortable at the canter, I’ll probably try some of these. He has done a few flying changes on me, but they were never intentional! The one I remember best was where we were cantering up the wash and Kaylee was running along beside us in the sagebrush. Suddenly, she cut across our path to the other side of the wash, probably because she saw a rabbit or a lizard. She wasn’t close enough to be dangerous, but it surprised Max enough that he pulled a perfect flying change from left to right. So now all I need to do is train the dog to give the cue and I’m good. Do you think they allow dogs to participate in dressage tests?
After this, Linda did her “rider makeover” segment. I’m really glad they went back to the “lesson” format with Linda and Pat as I seem to get more out of these sessions than almost any others. Linda was working with a woman (nameless again) riding a cute chestnut Quarter Horse who is a left brain interovert. The rider wanted to work on her forward, which is pretty typical on an lbi, and on the beginnings of refinement. She recognized that she wasn’t going to get really nice finesse work until she got the horse going forward more. Linda said that very often we do more work than the horse does and the secret is to get the horse to want to put in more effort without working so hard ourselves. Linda had her use a game that she called “thunk, thunk.” When the horse was not putting effort into going forward off of a phase one leg cue, the rider would use the carrot stick on the soft part of the shoulder and just thunk the stick twice in a way that was annoying to the horse. First, she would thunk softly, next time she would double amount of thunk, then double again and finally again. If the horse responded with any improved effort, she would stop. Otherwise, she would go back to the softest thunk and repeat the sequence. Once the horse got the idea that the annoying thunking was going to keep happening until she put in some effort, she started to put effort in much sooner.
One of the things Linda talked about was the importance of having a plan with a horse like this, not just randomly riding it around in circles, because the horse gets bored very quickly when it knows you don’t have a plan and then starts thinking about being lazy. Anyway, things progressed nicely with the horse beginning to move forward better and Linda was able to have the rider start working on taking a little contact. She talked about having the rider feel the horse’s mouth with her elbows, rather than her hands. This allows the whole arm to remain soft and better maintain the contact. Pretty soon, the horse was going around looking very round and presenting an overall nice picture.
One of the things Linda brought up with the game of thunk, thunk is that you need to use minimal leg cues. And now we’re back to my noisy legs. Linda said that when you bring your heel up to kick instead of cueing with your calf, it curls your whole body up. One more reason to work on those leg cues—being able to ride around NOT looking like a boiled shrimp—PRICELESS! I like the idea of the game thunk, thunk also although I may never need it with Max. While he is left brained, he is somewhere in between introvert and extrovert and is pretty easy to wind up if he begins to get lazy. To tell the truth, we haven’t done a whole lot of arena riding because my “arena” is pretty small and the trail usually beckons to both of us. The washes behind our place are fantastic places to work on all gaits, and wide enough to work on leg yields and lateral moves some.
Somewhere in there, Trevor did a spotlight on his horse, Switch. I didn’t take any notes on this, so who knows? He could have been demonstrating the triple Lindy for all I remember! Anyway, if you’re not familiar with Switch, he is the horse that Trevor is riding for a year in the Road To The Horse Wildcard Competition. The wildcard competitors each took a horse home to train for a year. They will compete with these horses before next year’s RTTH competition to showcase what they have taught the horse in the past year and the winner of THAT competition gets to compete in RTTH. Very cool. If you are interested in the story, you can follow Trevor and Switch on his Facebook page.
The final segment of Sunday’s show was part two of Pat’s colt start. This time, he had no round pen. Again, the horse really wanted to get out of the gate, but Pat worked on connecting with him and moving out into the arena. He talked about how building a connection with the horse is so important. Once on, he did a passenger lesson. My notes say “passenger lesson give relief.” I wonder what that meant! The world will never know… Anyway, he got to playing follow the rail and allowing the horse to stop and rest in the corners, so maybe that was the relief. He would have the horse stop in the corner and relax, then do a three quarter turn against the fence and move off in the new direction to help the horse to learn to begin using its hind end more. Again, he talked about using legs and focus to ride more than hands. He gave a good visual for moving forward—put your chin in the air and tickle the ribs. I’ll have to try that in my new leg quieting program.
So that was it. I came home energized and ready to ride and since then, I’ve had absolutely NO time to ride! Go figure. I’d say that overall it was one of the best tour stops I’ve been to in a while, but then the last one I attended was two or three years ago. I didn’t volunteer to work this time for that reason and it was really nice to just sit in the stands and veg and hang out with my Parelli Volunteering friends, my Reno friends and my camping friends. At lunch on Sunday, we realized that all we needed was Mike the caterer to make the picture complete! Maybe we’ll do that next year.