Things have been fairly quiet on the blog-front lately, because I haven't had a whole heck of a lot on the go that was worth writing home about, and as if that wasn't enough I had absolutely no media to accompany my recent miles spent in the saddle.
The truth is, I've been riding moderately often and we have been slowly putting the shattered pieces of our training back together after all that ensued last year - believe it or not, having a baby really changes things and as if that isn't enough, add in some other garbage along the way and it left Sierra and I a bit of a jumbled heap shoved into a corner and under the rug.
Rather than dwell on it, I've been motivated to dust off my boots and rebuild things but more importantly, I've finally found the comfort in riding that I haven't felt in many years. We all began similarly in that the love of the horse, riding and all that surrounded it was enough to feed our soul. Eventually, like many, I chased goals, developed aspirations and grew a hunger for competition and eventually lost track of all that other stuff - all that equally important stuff.
Having a baby, and then throw a pandemic into the mix, really changes your perspective on everything and for the first time in a very long time, i'm truly and honestly just enjoying riding and embracing every bit of my ammy-ness along the way.
This weekend we had our first clinic in what felt like FOREVER, and it was so wonderful! The clinic was with Jessica Kerschbamer, who once-upon-a-time had a fairly popular YouTube Channel and rather large following from her helmet cam videos known as The Alberta Eventer. She's also a trainer and assistant manager at a large breeding and training barn here in Alberta, has a love for OTTB's AND just so happens to be my cousin (through marriage). I ended up getting rather lucky, because we piggy-backed our clinic with another in the area the weekend prior to split mileage, and she stayed at her parents 5 minutes from my house throughout the week. Her nieces have been doing lessons with me, so she brought them over several times through the week to do lessons on my horses here at home, and I snuck in a few low-key lessons as well at the same time!
Our weekend was then spent building on some things we addressed throughout the week, and then we dug a little deeper. My only focus with Sierra lately has been to work on our relaxation and rhythm; I don't care if it doesn't 'look pretty' or perfect, I just want to build our confidence back up and keep slowly chipping off pieces while straddling the fine line of how much I can push without causing a melt down.
I'm very good at making a supple horse, but i'm also very good at making a crooked horse. I have a terribly hard time using the right side of my body effectively, so we spent a lot of time in the walk working on isolating different parts of mine and Sierra's bodies and really breaking down our aids slowly and ensuring a correct and concise response while maintaining some semblance of relaxation.
Earlier in the week, Jess had me working on a square in the walk, and halting at each corner then doing a 1/4 turn on the haunches before proceeding to the next corner. We broke each step down extremely slowly - halt. reward. outside rein, inside leg, open inside rein; step over. halt. reward. walk on. We found we could only do a handful of them before Sierra thought she knew the cure for cancer and would either anticipate or just be a little extra and try and do a full turn, and so on, but it really solidified the inside leg to outside rein, blocking her shoulder, and yielding her hind end. In our first lesson, we started with this and upped the ante a little in the expectation, before we moved onto creating that feeling in the leg yield as well. The leg yield feels a lot more challenging, even just in the walk, and the right rein felt like a bit of a dumpster fire at times, but we ended on some good notes.
It's worth mentioning, that when I actually asked properly I swear I felt Sierra say "oh, thank god" and she got it easily but it continually took way more pressure from my aids than I had expected it to take. We did a few different courses with trot poles and Sierra did wonderfully. We ended the lesson on a fabulous note and I felt like I had so many tools freshly serviced and shined back up in my tool belt, and I couldn't wait for day 2!
We hosted the clinic at my house, and a few people camped out in their trailer and kept their horses here. I didn't personally know them prior, but we had our fire going for the bbq supper we hosted, and spent some time visiting around the fire before retiring for the night, and although I got to bed at a decent time I felt positively exhausted the next day and I was almost dreading my second lesson.
Historically speaking, usually our second lesson of a 2-day clinic is a bit of a shit show. I don't know if it's because we're both tired or what, but I've come to learn that on Day 1 i'm nervous but have a great ride, and on Day 2 I often end feeling frustrated. We started our second lesson off and Sierra felt really distracted as the yard bustled with people packing up and getting ready to head home. We started off with our quarter turn on the haunches again, but I found I could only do a handful as they were no longer being effective; she thought she knew all the answers and was rushing through them with tension - she wouldn't stand in the rest periods, and at one point she did a full turn while I physically pulled my legs off her and draped my reins and she kept turning. She's certain she's the absolute smartest lady in all the land and she's just going to speed through things because she knows all the answers and doesn't have time for my shit. At that point, I had basically written the lesson off, but we took a moment to stand while my lesson-buddy/bff/mom friend/boarder worked through them with Jess. Once we progressed beyond that, Jess had us move into the trot and we worked on a small figure 8, working true bend on one side and counter bend on the other. I've done this exercise in the past and I love the results but always forget to pull it out of my arsenal, and it did wonders. Like everything else, our goal wasn't 'pretty', it was just to get an appropriate response from the aids and really get her crossing over in the front end in an almost haunches-in type feel. We did several circles both directions and by the time we finished that Sierra was positively exhausted and we managed to get all her brain hamsters back on their wheel.
From there we worked a little more on the leg yield in trot and our raging dumpster fire was now just smoldering, and having her much more responsive to my outside aids made the leg yield feel significantly easier on my over-achiever; while the day prior we did 10 or 12 leg yields in the trot each way and accomplished a meager few steps of quality, on Day 2 we were able to obtain almost full lines of lovely yields.
Lastly, we moved to working over some trot poles on a curve and we played with adjusting our striding in the walk to reach a goal number of steps in between each pole while hitting the same track each time, then did the same in trot. It was actually ridiculously difficult to count only the front, or only the hind feet, in between poles on a curved line but we came out unscathed and it was truly a remarkable weekend and I couldn't be more excited for the weeks of homework ahead before our next clinic in just a few short weeks!