Today is a two cup of coffee kind of day. What about y’all? It seems every day this week has been a two cup day.
It appears as though I have been surprisingly void of any real, seemingly conscious thought to share. The truth is actually, probably the opposite, but we shall worry about that another day. I have not even taken very many photos. Weird.
But. We did do a thing last weekend. More than write home worthy. It has taken me a few days to digest the experience. And well, life keeps happening and has left me with not as much time for this space. Anyway.
See what I did there? You will soon find I have only four photos of my own to share with you from the whole weekend. I did get a few from one of the other participants of me riding on Sunday, so that is something. I also took zero notes. I intended to take notes, but when you are actually riding in a clinic, it is a lot going on. I did not get to watch as much as I wanted to either, but that is OK because hey, I got to ride!
We arrived on Friday around 4:30 PM. A little bit later than I had planed for, but all is well that ends well, right? Right. We unloaded and got settled in a stall while the last rider of the day finished his lesson. When the arena cleared out, I took Lito for a little stroll to have a looksee at the surroundings.
He was unimpressed by the pretty painted sticks.
After our stroll, I gave him his evening feed and tucked him in for the night to go check into my hotel and rustle up some dinner for myself.
Saturday morning I arrived at the barn at 7 to feed, take another walk around, and get some grooming in before the clinic started at 9. My ride time was at 11 so I watched the first lesson and part of the second before going to tack up.
I did a good job of keeping my anxiety in check once I got mounted in the area. It has been a long time, and a long time over due, since I have ridden in a clinic or taken lessons.
First order of business, bitting and conact. Lito has never really liked any bit I have put in his mouth and has always been fussy and worried about it every time we attempt contact. I have never really had or ridden horses that had bitting issues. They all just seemed to go happily in whatever you put in their mouth. Not the case with Lito and his fat tongue. I have tried different bits with no luck. It is one of the main reasons we have not really done much work towards getting collected and ‘on the bit’ and learning what all that means.
After going through a few transitions from the walk to the halt, back to walk and some turns, he suggested I try, if I wanted, a different bit with some tongue relief that he had for his horse that has a similar mouth. I replied in the affirmative. We gave him a minute to get used to the feel and then it was like a night and day difference. One minute he was shaking his head with his mouth gaped open and tongue flailing about and the next he was light as a feather and just there in the contact when he figured it out. Like floating on a cloud. Now we can start to build from there. Granted he still has a way to go and still has moments of confusion and worry, but nothing like before and I believe most of that will iron out with time.
By the way, I ordered that bit. I hesitated to do it a little because I did not want to be sold by a salesman trying to sell his own product. However, that really was not the case. He never once said, “buy this and it will fix all your problems.” He said, “hey, if you want to try this you can. Or I have a Myler you can try. Whatever you want. If you like it, that’s great, if you don’t, no worries.”
The rest of the lesson we focused on getting a soft and solid contact (mainly me being consistent and keeping my reins shorter and being there for him, closing the gap. My reins seem to always be too long.) and soft and solid transitions. Halt to walk to halt to back to halt to walk to trot to walk to halt. Maintaining that contact for a few strides and then letting him stretch and relax. Building that strength. Feeling that softness and openness of the transition from inside me and allowing them to happen. This is something that Mark is so great at. Getting everyone to be soft and open, mainly by being so himself. Searching for the feeling of what we want so the horse can meet us there. To achieve the same feeling in everything we do. He did not speak down to anyone or make anyone feel small. He wanted everyone, no matter the level, to achieve that inner softness and openness and to get better.
After a break for lunch, which I couldn’t really eat because I was just still a little high, I worked with Mark’s student to reestablish the level we got to during my lesson and take it a little further.
By the end of Saturday, Lito and I were a bit exhausted and hungry and ready for a shower and bed. I brought a pizza and a bottle of wine back to the hotel and crashed.
On Sunday I did the same morning routine as Saturday and settled in to watch the first lesson.
Then at 10, Lito got a Masterson Method body work session! Y’all. That was amazing to watch and Lito was very responsive and gave big releases. Mark’s wife, Crissi is certified in the Masterson Method. It was fun to watch her work because she is so quiet, soft, and confident like Mark.
I do not have any photos or videos of his session, but this is an introduction on the method. There are many videos out there to watch. I wish I had videoed his session!
It was about this time that the wind picked up and changed the energy of the day.
My lesson was at 2, so I watched what I could and then got tacked up. While I was waiting outside of the arena, a gust of wind made one of the standing tents take flight and every horse thought it was going to eat them. Unfortunately, that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, but it gave us a chance to work through that tension and get his attention back on the task at hand by changing direction and going to do something else. Redirecting the energy. Not reacting to his responses.
I used a Myler bit that was similar to the bit I used on Saturday to see if Lito responded differently. I think he liked the bit from Saturday more than the Myler as he was a bit mouthy the whole lesson, but we got to a good soft place faster than we did on Saturday. It is all still new for him and with the tension/reactiveness caused by the wind, there was a lot going on. It will take a little time I think for him to break the habit of worry and tension created from the previous bits.
We did more transition work and building on what we did the day before. Being better about my consistency and defining the expectations. Teaching him where the boundaries are. Towards the end we got some really nice downward transitions keeping the energy, momentum, and push all the way through.
Afterwards we worked again with Mark’s student, G, but I probably should have opted out of that because he was just fried at this point. And I guess so was I.
All in all, I was quite proud of him. He handled himself very well. And. I will say. So did I. I am proud of the both of us. It was a great clinic and I am glad I did it. We have more to build on and a next level to reach now. We both received compliments and I am over the moon.
The afternoon was wearing on, Monday was fast approaching, and we had a ways to go to get home. I packed and loaded everything and lead Lito to the trailer…
Quiet woman, screaming mare. Exciting sounding, right?
Well, it is not as exciting as this, which is where we eventually ended up, thankfully…
Many life lessons can be learned from the horse. I was reminded of one on Saturday:
Sometimes it pays to walk away from something for a little, go do something else, and come back later. It is not giving up or quitting. AHAmoment.
I woke up early as per usual to get going before the heat. All was serene and quiet on the farm, including Cheetah. A very pretty morning, honestly. Well, that is what I get for thinking.
It became very clear shortly after mounting we were going to be spending almost the entirety of the ride convincing her to walk. Just walk. And not lose her mind. Would not have been able to even think about stopping enjoying the scenery. Or smell roses. If there had been roses. Clearly just her running thoroughbred side is the only side that showed up to play.
She was literally SCREAMING the whole time. Lito, of course, innocent little man he is, answered in kind every time. Thanks, buddy. Let us not do that next time. Scratch that out of your book of life.
Anyway, after about an hour of consciously not reacting to her antics and a pool full of sweat (hey at least I have a horse that sweats, right?), we were walking without trying to run and scream. I decided to hop off, loosen her girth, and tie her up for a while. I went to take care of a few other things. Give us both a little time to cool off and relax.
I came back a little while later and mounted back up for a quick walk loop around the farm to see if she would be any better.
And? She was a completely different horse. Back to being my best mare.
It is amazing how quick the switch can flip. Now, do not you say any quick witted comments about women. We know how we can be, OK?
The point is, sometimes things can just be off, for any one reason or another. If a change in approach in the moment doesn’t help, take a break. Let it sit for a while. Take a breath. Get centered. Then come back and try again. Sometimes powering through is the answer, but on Saturday it just didn’t feel that way. And, we didn’t have to. We had the option to take a break and try again. Which paid off handsomely.