April 29th,: My flight arrived in Florida at 11:00, and Kirsten and I hit the ground running. She first went to teach a lesson for Renee with her beautiful paint mare Stella, and a gorgeous palomino Tyson. Watching the work on the long reins with Stella and the liberty work with Tyson was a learning experience. Seeing someone else processing the work and another horse working through things makes a bit difference. She finished with the lesson and then got out a walking horse to work for a while. I relaxed and munched on a snack while she rode watching the changes as Ziggy found his balance and became more stable. She was able to get him into posture 3 for several steps at a time.
We left there and headed out to ERAF to work Logan, the young pony, and Milagro, the paso fino that we got to work when we were here in September. Both horses needed long line work, and Kirsten turned Logan out in the round pen first and he blew off some massive steam for a little while cavorting around doing all sorts of gymnastics. I got Milagro set up with the long lines and we started our work outside the round pen, and watching Kirsten as we worked around was like watching someone trying to juggle string. Logan was really giving her the what for learning to handle the long lines. He wasn’t very interested in doing the work at first, but eventually began to settle down.
Milagro and I kept plugging away on the long lines all the while. The wind was blowing pretty hard, but MIlagro kept working away. He was pulling out pretty badly, but in order for him to find his balance, he actually had to be counter bent on the circle. I left him alone and continued to simply make sure that the inside rein held the contact, doing whatever I needed to do with the outside rein to support him. We worked for about an hour while Logan calmed down and Milagro plugged away. He very clearly let me know when he wanted to be done, and Kirsten wrapped things up with Logan not long after that.
We put them away and headed back to the house to drop my stuff off before heading to another set of lessons. Turns out that the owner couldn’t be there, so we just worked the horses on the long lines. Max and Razzie both needed the same kind of support as Milagro, but they needed to begin the session by trotting for a while on the long lines to get themselves loosened up. Razzie was a challenge because he didn’t have much forward, and it was obvious that it was a struggle for him due to the imbalance in his hind legs. Trotting them for the length of time first allowed him to really loosen up so that the walk became that much stronger. Both Razzie and Max had to go through the same issue of trotting and walking counter bent on the circle in order to find stability in their inside hind leg. Both horses did really well, and we enjoyed the cool wind as we worked, expecting it to rain any minute, but it never did.
We headed back home and had enough daylight left to be able to get a ride in on Prima. Since Kirsten had been able to work through the saddle fit issues, her horses were progressing rapidly. Riding her this time was infinitely easier than our first visit in September. I was able to be effective with Prima, and get the results. Once I was able to take her head off track and then shift my weight to get her to stretch downward Kirsten started to work with my positioning and posture. Her saddle isn’t nice and squishy like mine is so it is a bit more uncomfortable for my butt. She adjusted some things so that I was sitting with more weight in my stirrups which took weight off of my seat. It also engaged my lower leg more, and placed my thigh in a more powerful position. By sitting slightly more forward in my pelvis but concentrating on holding my guts in (effectively engaging my ab muscles), Prima started to voluntarily drop her head without me needing to shift my weight. Kirsten explained that once the body is in the correct position, the horse can’t help but put themselves into the correct position as well. Holding that position means that the horse runs into a wall when they try to shift the ball out of balance. I was getting more and more strong steps with Prima for longer and longer. Kirsten had me take a moment to really feel the correct position and notice what I was aware of first with the position and then concentrate on trying to always have that feeling, and notice as soon as it was gone and get right back to it. It was hard work, but the results were immediate with Prima. She was responding and giving me the feedback as soon as I was in the right place. It was refreshing to be able to really just work on me and not have to worry about Prima reacting to something else or not giving me the right response if I gave the right cue out of confusion.
I finally slipped down and we put her away before throwing together dinner, which didn’t get completed until after 9:30. When there is daylight there is still work to be done.
How is it that a new problem can help overcome an old problem? Ironically, the solution for many problems we face with horses, often lies in cultivating the opposite problem; one that is uncharacteristic or not normal for the horse. The process of finding balance...