Whooo hooo! Turns out clinics are a lot more fun when you don't have a migraine. :)
Today was Fleck's turn at the Sandra Hotz clinic. I slept in just a little so I missed Cindy's and Taylor's rides. I watched Christine and Guardian and then gave Fleck a bath and braided him. He was so funny. He was more nervous/anxious about being in the stall than Dan was. And he was clearly looking for Dan. Or Sunny. But he chilled while I watched Zanne's ride and then had lunch. Yummy! Greg made grilled cheese and grilled brie cheese sandwiches. It was tasty. Then I watched Alex and Ti and then I went and got Fleck tacked up. We went for a 30 minute hack around the fields to limber him up. And he managed to get both canter leads twice! Whoo hooo! :)
So then we headed in for the clinic. I told Sandy that I wanted to work on basics because we were hoping to ride more therapeutically. So we started off and she wanted him more round and over his back. She gave us some tricks to help us get him that way.
She had me leg yield him off the rail and then back onto the rail. Repeatedly. (I think I remember Liz suggesting that. ;) ) But it works! He got quite nice and I didn't wiggle his head down. It was seat and leg aids. With a little bit of suppling rein aids. So that was super helpful. And any time he got a little stiff and inverted, it was back to leg yielding on and off the rail.
So then we did some shoulder in, which she said was another way to help get him supple. She said that halting and backing does it too, but with his arthritis, this is the easier way for him. The shoulder in also gets him lighter on his front end, but I have to encourage that balance with my core and upper body. So we did some 10 meter circles to prepare. I really need to soften the outside rein a little to allow the bend and really use that inside leg to get it. He almost has to go deeper at first. So then we did the shoulder in out of the 10 meter circle. And I was so proud because I asked if our shoulder ins were correct and she said yes. We had the correct bend and angle and weren't overbent. She laughed and said overbending of the neck was her pet peeve and she would have said something to me about it if I was. :) Yay us! We then did the shoulder in on the centerline, with ten meter circles left and right and continuing down the centerline. Fleck drifted a bit and Sandy said to make sure that my weight was evenly in my legs. And it wasn't. I was shifting to the outside, thus pulling his butt to the outside. Once I sat more evenly, I could keep him from shifting. Yay!
We also worked on turn on the haunches. Sigh... Doh! He actually did it better than we usually do, but she said that he was pivoting on his hind end rather than sitting and moving his feet. She said that by doing it by pivoting, he was avoiding the supplying effects. So... she said that most people get stuck and only use one leg or freeze and take both off. Ugh.. I definitely kept taking my inside off. But she said to use both legs. The inside leg had to create the bend and the outside leg had to push the haunches in a bit and ask for the turn. So she said to alternate them. Aha!! It really worked! We got a much more respectable turn on the haunches. Whooo hooo.
We finished up with lengthening on half of the circle and then going back to the working trot. She wanted me to lift him up in the lengthen and sit lighter. I think I accomplished it. :) Oh, and then we finished with the canter to walk transitions. She had me canter on a 20 meter circle and then add in a 10 meter circle or two, really getting him to sit on his butt, and then ask for the walk. Our first one to the left was okay. He stayed supple but added a few walk steps. But the one to the right was awesome!! He just airplaned down to the walk and stayed supple. Well... until I dropped the reins to pat him. Doh! But that will eventually go away.
So yep, Fleck felt amazing and was really trying!! And sure, he didn't hold the roundness and throughness the whole time, but it was there much more consistently than before. I felt like I was riding well too. Sandy even said something along the lines of "If you ride like this in your test, you'll kick some butt". :) Yay!! I'm just so glad he's feeling good and that we're back to work. And he's trying! And I'm learning. And I think it's going to be a very good thing for us both. :)
Afterwards I rinsed him off, fed him a ton of carrots, and then let him loose in the roundpen while I watched one more ride before leaving. He was THRILLED and immediately became orange. :) But he earned it. :)