10.09.03: A Ride, A Ride, and a Walk

The morning started out pretty early getting organized to start doing some of the video work that Kirsten
had requested. We returned to Cody's to work him and take some video, and discussed how we could put that together so things didn't get too boring and to cover what needed to be covered. We arrived and found a snake-bird sunning itself and watched as it dove into the water and showed exactly why its called a snake-bird. And also found a really weird looking bird called a Muscovie that is also affectionately called a "chuck" as it looks like it has the head of a chicken on the body of a duck. Quite an ugly creature! We also saw what turned out to be a baby toad, that apparently when full grown is the size of a dinner plate... But as a baby he's less than a half inch in size. The black thing in the picture is the foot on the bottom of Jim's monopod, its about 1" in diameter.

Kirsten got Cody tacked up while Jim and I staked ourselves out in the shade to shoot some footage. The first segment was a little awkward, but we all got the hang of things as she continued to ride and we continued to shoot. Cody did very well compared to yesterday's ride, and so things went very smoothly for the video.
We wrapped up and headed back to the house for a quick stop before heading over to her barn to start shooting footage there. We picked up the truck so that Jim would have a better shooting platform to be able to see better, and get shots from above so that it
was easier to see the horse's
spine and alignment. She pulled Mick out first, and really put him through a workout. She has an amazing ability to really push the horse to the point where they can barely handle it, and hold them there to help them find their balance. But I swear, she's doing 100 different things at once, even if she doesn't realize it! Mick was struggling to do what she was asking, and kept expressing that with a kick here and there, but she really held him to the standard and helped him find his balance. He was super sweaty by the time she got done, and it was a long session. We let him cool down a little bit, and then she put me up on him so that I could work on feeling how he reacted to finding his balance. She was explaining that when he was out of balance, it was really really heavy, and that it would be much the same way that Storm would feel when we would start working with him. She was right, he was really really heavy, and it took a lot of work to ask him to get his balance, and then as soon as he would find it, it would be gone again. There were a few instances where he was able to hold it and got super light in my hands, which is exactly what you are ultimately looking for. Mick has a habit (as they all do) of drifting into the circle because of his imbalance, and Kirsten had to remind me to make sure my core was aimed where I intended to go. When I thought about it, it must have made some subtle adjustment because Mick responded by smoothly moving further out on the circle. Just being aware of the body part helps them find the correct answer. Getting all of the milion components in just the right order is a huge challenge, when one slips it messes everything up and until everything is together it is really difficult to get the correct response.
What I discovered in going back and looking at the photos is just how subtle Mick was being, which was the source of my
frustration. The photo shows just how BARELY tipped to the left I am, he is perfectly straight to the camera, and the buttons in my shirt are slightly off to the left, and my helmet is not lined up perfectly between his ears. It was a struggle for me to feel the imbalance and this explains clearly why I it was a cchallenge. I just had to trust what Kirsten was saying, and go with the feel she recommended, which always works. I am glad to know why I didn't think I was feeling much of anything, because I really wasn't! Now I have a better concept of the subtlety and how I will really have to refine my concept of feel as the horse gets closer and closer to being balanced all the time.
I was finally as worn out as I think Mick was, and so I got off him and we untacked him and gave him a really good hose off to cool him down again. My legs were quite jello, and when I went to step down off the stool where I had been sitting on the edge of the wash rack I hit a patch of ground that wasn't as smooth as I thought, and slipped, which caused my right knee to go out. It happens now and then and is very frustrating when it does. So I waited until the pain faded and managed to get up again and we headed back to the house to grab some quick lunch while Kirsten stayed at the barn and got Prima ready for the next session.
We returned as Kirsten had just finished giving Prima a bath to wash out her mane and tail good. Gray white horses can never keep their manes
clean! She let her dry for a bit and then tacked her up and brought her in to ride. I cleaned up the arena again and we got set up to video. Prima is quite different than Mick, and is much more of a princess, she loves to be pretty and is very dainty. Kirsten was able to be much more subtle with her and was even able to move all the way up into canter work to help her find her balance better at the trot. Prima did very well, each faster gait helped improve the stability of the lower gait, and helped Prima find better collection and balance at the slower speed. She was moving very nicely by the time Kirsten wrapped up the video session.
She asked me if I wanted to ride, and I decided to, though I almost didn't because of my knee. I was glad that I did because Prima was an amazing experience. She was so much softer and when I went through the steps in a very organized fashion, she would respond every time. I had to keep my leg on, then ask for the bend, and then remind her not to fall into the circle, and once I had taken enough bend, she would yeild and drop her head as she shifted her weight back so beautifully. She was able to hold her balance much longer than Mick did which made it much clearer for me to know when I got all the pieces in the right place. There were a few times when I was able to get her to move off my leg alone, without having to use the rein as the next step in the process. If I thought clearly enough about it, and applied the correct pressure and balance, it happened just like it should. Feeling her balanced was a really great thing because it helped me to better understand what I was looking for when riding a horse like Mick where the moments of "right" are sometimes so fleeting that if you aren't totally sure of what to look for they are gone before you even know they happened. I was really excited to have felt it so smoothly with Prima, and I am looking forward to helping Tali to find that feeling as well, I suspect she will feel much the same once she builds up her strength.
I took her back up and rinsed her down good after untacking while Kirsten got Jasper out
and set him up to work on the long lines. He is 5 but has been dealing with some lameness issues, so he has yet to be ridden. She is spending a lot of extra time with him going through the groundwork which will only prepare him that much better when he is ridden. He is getting better at shifting his weight back on the long lines, but it is still a struggle for him, and much like Mick, he capsizes into the circle when he is really badly out of balance, especially when he finds is balance and then loses it again.
That session did not take very long, and she let me feel him on the lines after she finished. It was a little bit different work than we had been doing on the lines since it is a little more focused on finding his balance. Walking behind him, the inside line is used much like the inside rein, but you don't have the ability to shift weight, since the horse is not being ridden. Instead, you have to track outside of where the horse is tracking in order to help him find the bend to shift his weight. It took Jasper and I while to find the right feel, and the right amount of bend. Jasper is tricky because if you aren't careful he can really drag you around the arena. He requires you to use the inside rein, with the outside rein only for support. Pulling on both reins results in Jasper taking you for a ride where ever he decides to force himself. It took me a little while to get the hang of swinging to the outside, it is a little bit of reverse thinking to move to the outside when the horse is tracking too far inside the circle, but it does help the horse slowly move out again. We had a hard time on one particular side of the circle, and eventually I managed to get two really good laps out of him, and so we called it a day.
We were all a bit sunburned, and Kirsten stayed and cleaned up while we headed home with a stop on the way for dinner supplies and some aloe. Dinner was quick and easy tacos and really hit the spot. ERAF is tomorow, along with who knows what else...
Next Page: 10.09.04: ERAF