Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lessons Learned from a Narrow-Minded, Opinionated Cowboy

As some of you may know, I recently attended the annual Harry Whitney clinic down in Rogersville, TN, and as usual, my mind was blown countless times that week. I took Stormy and my mom took her mare, Charlotte. Stormy's biggest "issue" going into the clinic was her crookedness and that was what I wanted to address first and foremost. As a secondary problem, I wanted to address her lateral movement (such as leg yielding) because whenever I asked, she would brace against the bit, throw her head around, and grind her teeth. Of course, Harry pointed out that these two behaviors were related. He said that the crookedness I felt was due to the fact that her mind was EVERYWHERE else but here. And, whenever I picked up a rein to slow her or move her sideways, she had yet to let go of those other thoughts, so she tried pushing the bit out of her way. This, coupled with the fact that she hadn't been given much clarity to what the reins meant in the past, made leg yielding, and even just backing up, very confusing and difficult for her.
All week we worked on getting straight. Making a plan, and GOING with it. She is a very quick learner and strives so hard to please, so it didn't take long before she was carrying herself straight and letting go of those stray thoughts. She also learned pretty quick that the reins MEAN SOMETHING. When I pick up a rein to turn, she needs to wholly turn her body and her mind around that bend, not just check out mentally and drop her shoulder into the inside of the turn. By the end of the week she was thinking around those corners and bends with impulsion, understanding, and interest. Her back ups became much softer, and she began listening to my seat as well.
The first time I asked her for a leg yield that week, she responded by leeeeaning against that bit like no other. Harry called, "Get in there and bring some clarity to that for her! Don't let her lean against you like that!" So, I abandoned asking for that leg yield, and just asked her to back up and away from that pressure on the bit. Once she understood that, I asked for the leg yield. Again, she leaned. I got in there stronger with my hands asking for a back up until she dropped her head and softened up. I put myself in the position to ask for a leg yield, and when she felt the pressure from those reins, she understood their meaning and stepped over simply and softly. I released the reins and we walked off.
This goes to show that ever-repeated lesson of, it's not about the ________. In this case, it wasn't about the leg yield; it was about bringing an understanding about those reins to her. Once she had that, it was easy as pie for her to step over in that leg yield.
Now granted, this is not to say that every time I asked for that leg yield she gave it to me that easy. In fact, the last day of the clinic she seemed to have reverted back to her old habits of pushing through the bit, being stiff, and losing her focus easily. Harry helped me get her back on track, but it was frustrating to have done so well all week just to have those tendencies pop back up. But I was reminded that these animals aren't perfect, and we can't expect they change and never go back. Those habits were so engrained in her.
All in all, I was very proud of our work at that clinic, and even prouder of the work we've done since our return home. The first time I rode her, she was immediately motivated, energetic, and SOFT. She has continued to improve, and I couldn't be happier with my girl. My thanks is extended endlessly to that narrow-minded and opinionated cowboy, Harry Whitney.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Clinic Updates

Hey all, as promised, this next post is about clinics I have and will soon be attending. The first, the JP Giacomini clinic I attended last weekend.
I traveled down to Bulls Gap, Tennessee (my first solo road trip!) on Friday the 6th of May. I stayed at the nearby Mendin' Fences bunkhouse while the clinic was held at my friend Maria's farm. It lasted through Monday, and I learned a lot from Mr. Giacomini. He is a french classical dressage rider who has an unbelievable understanding of the horse's movement, and he knows how to relax a horse so as to calmly obtain high end dressage movements without force. I would consider his nitch to be his endotapping technique. He has specially designed sticks, similar in size to a dressage whip, with a rubber ball on the end. By rhythmically tapping a horse with this stick, the horse releases endorphins and their natural response is to lower their head and relax. Though you may have to help condition this response in your horse, this technique proved to be quite valuable with several of the horses at the clinic. This stick allows for you to ask your horse to relax at any time, but particularly when you are riding.
JP was able to get nice changes in all the horses he worked at the clinic, and showed that teaching your horse a leg yield, side pass, or collection did not have to be force and fear based. He amazed me with his timing and feel of and for the horse, and I would recommend him to those interested in doing dressage in a more natural way.
Here are some of the notes I took while at his clinic:

* Transitions and turns help slow down and organize a horse’s gait
* Changing the size of a circle changes carriage of weight on the horse’s different legs. You get the effect of changing the direction of the circle without actually changing.
* Change sides often... it promotes learning.
* Lateral flexion MUST be present for vertical flexion to occur. 
* On a left bend - withers tilt to the right; On a right bend - withers tilt to the left; vertical movement - withers stay straight.
* If there is difficulty with flexion... tap!
* You should push forward when you encounter any stiffness.
* The more transitions you do, the more progress you make.
* If a horse is in side reins, it is their job to release the pressure, not yours. 
* The flexion of a horse creates impulsion because it frees up the hind end. 
* When you ask for a canter, NEVER ask when the horse is falling out of a circle; push the horse towards something so she can “bounce off it” and pick it up straight.
* Draw reins used properly help you obtain flexion.
* To stop rearing, you may use draw reins to get good, bended circles and to get the forward impulsion created from the flexion.
* When a horse rears, address the back end... if the hind end is moving, the front hand has to be on the ground.
* On a lunge circle, its important to get the inside hind foot to step OUT and UNDER
* If a horse starts pulling away, unload the inside shoulder (pull them towards you).
* A horse must understand the push forward of lungeing without leaving you or evading the pressure.
* Prevent the evasion.
* When circling a horse, getting the inside hock to flex is crucial. 
* With your own speed and skill, make a dent in the big picture (or tree trunk, in analogy). 
*More energy for a flighty horse (like Jeanine) equals more tension.
* When your horse is afraid of a scary object, take his croup, then body, then face to the object... I.E. shoulder in. By doing this you give the horse the feeling he is able to leave. 
* If a rider is leaning in to one direction, drop that side’s stirrup to discourage the dependance on that stirrup. 
* Position for a shoulder in = outside ear above outside foot, every part of your body facing the inside of the ring, eyes looking straight down the ring in the direction you’re going, and hands cross over the neck to position the shoulders toward the inside. 
* Draw reins prevent the evasion of the horse lifting it’s head too high.
* When sitting the trot, open your knees so you sit underneath yourself rather than behind yourself.
* Tapping the inside hind leg when the inside front leg hits the ground encourages the horse to stay on the diagonal.
* Always use the right leverage to prevent the evasion and fix the problem at hand.
* When the horse turns its head away from you, thats half a release, compared to putting its head all the way down. So reward that release!
* Your body should be in agreements with your horse’s body, but your gaze should be in agreement with your direction. 

This coming Sunday Mom and I are packing up to head out to Rogersville, TN for our annual Harry Whitney clinic at Mendin' Fences Farm! I can't believe summer has already rolled around again, but I can't wait for this coming week and for Harry to finally meet my Stormy! The most important thing I'd like to address at the clinic is her crookedness in her gait. Outside of that, I'd like to know how to collect her without her getting worried (she begins grinding the bit and throwing her head around), and also what to do when she begins cross-cantering. I have a big ol' list, I know, but the most important thing is for her to settle in next week so we can start learning! I'll keep everyone updated, and surely there'll be a big long post when I return! Until Next time!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Fever

Hello all who still bother to come and read this neglected blog! I have allowed many things to come between me and maintaining this blog, and for that I apologize. I have been nothing but busy for the past several months, but the most important thing is that I am here today to update you all!
All of the ponies are doing swell. They are all shaping up nicely, shedding their winter coat, and putting some muscle back on from the exercise they have been getting.
I have begun giving riding lessons, and Woody has been deemed the residential lesson pony. He is taking his new job in stride and helping two women, so far, better understand and communicate with stubborn, hard headed ponies like himself. He's been a doll for these ladies though, and they've really enjoyed their weekly lessons. On top of being a school pony, Woody has been learning more and more about collection and using his body properly whilst being ridden. More to come on that later.

Charlotte is back in work and being ridden at least once a week by my mom. She's been being ridden for the past two months, and so far, there is absolutely no sign of her lameness. At this time, Mom is planning on taking her to the Harry Whitney clinic at the end of the month. Fingers crossed she stays sound!
Teddy has turned into a little work pony as well! Last month I was working with him quite often with getting him used to a saddle, bridle, and bit. That's right. My little Teddy is turning into a riding pony. He is a large sized mini, and I'd love to be able to give lessons to some kids around here on him. It is a slow process, but so far he has accepted everything quite well, and even allowed my brother to sit on him while I lead  them around. We still have a lot of work to do, but this little one has a promising future.
And last, but most certainly not least, is my girl Stormy. Stormy has continued to settle in quite nicely, and is really finding her stride on our farm. I've been riding her a great deal, and though there are still some things I need help on, we have been able to chip away at a lot of her issues under saddle. She is now able to take a 2'6" jump calmly without rushing and galloping afterwards, and she picks up upward transitions easily and calmly now. We have done a lot of trail riding with Mom on both Woody and Charlotte, and she LOVES when I take her galloping in our hay field. All in all, she is making huge changes in her mentality and work ethic. She is simply an amazing horse.

Now that I have filled you in on all the equines featured on this blog, I'll let you know what's going on in my own life!

I have recently made some big decisions regarding the direction of my life, and I am VERY pleased to inform all interested that I am going to be an incoming freshman in the fall of 2011 at Bridgewater College. I had my heart set on VT once I was accepted, but after visiting Bridgewater as a formality... I changed my mind. Bridgewater College is located in the small town of Bridgwater, VA, right next to Harrisonburg. There is a total of 1700 students, and the campus is small, intimate, friendly, and VERY horse focused. They have a beautiful barn and facilities, and they also offer a large minor in Equine Studies. I am going to be a business administration major with a minor in equine studies. I also am going to take two lessons a week at the Bridgewater barn, however I will be leaving Miss Stormy at home for now.

Because of her condition, it is recommended she have maximum pasture turnout, with very little stall confinement. At the BC barn, stall time is required, and the boarding fee is outrageous anyways. Until we can find a better situation, Stormy will be staying home to take it easy with her friends, and I will be coming in on the weekends to give lessons and ride her.
I am very excited for what this fall has to offer, and I am really pleased and content with the decision I have made.

Up Next : Notes from a JP Giacomini Clinic and more details about the Harry Whitney clinic coming soon!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Settling Stormy

Originally when I officially bought Stormy, the plan was to keep her at Terrie's until the 20th of December, at which point we would bring her home. This was because both our family and Terrie's family were busy until that time. I boarded her at Terrie's, but when the 20th rolled around, both farms had been faced with a snow storm and we weren't able to venture out to trailer her over. We ended up having to wait until the 22nd to go out to Riner, but once we did, she loaded and traveled like a champ.
Upon her arrival, Woody, Teddy, and Charlotte were gathered at the fence, waiting to see what the latest trailer excursion had brought back to their farm. After unloading just as well, she spent couple minutes surveying her surroundings before we brought her into the rest of the herd. There was still melting snow on the ground, so it was very slick out, but thankfully the horses didn't feel the need to run around a whole lot. She settled into the new herd quickly, and the only disturbance was with Charlotte trying to figure out pecking order.
Come next morning, Stormy was even more relaxed in her new environment, so I ended up taking her for a walk down our driveway and in our hayfield. She was in tune with me the whole time, and didn't seem worried about being away from her new friends. When we got back to the field I hopped on her bareback and rode her around some in the field, and besides being a little pushy through the halter (I rode her in a halter rather than her bridle), she handled that well too.
I rode her again a couple days later bareback, and we ended up venturing our into the world outside the fence. I rode her down the driveway some, along with in our yard a bit. She did well again,  but she did seem more distracted than in her previous ride.
This past Saturday, Mom and I both went out to ride, and boy was that fun! We tacked up Stormy and Woody, mounted up, and headed out. We went down the driveway, back through the hay field, and as we were trotting around the hay field Mom spurted out the idea to cross the parkway and hit the trails. Of course, Stormy and I were game.
We went down this back road which led to our neighbor's farm who also occasionally rides with us. We rode down her lane, and after Storm and Woody calmed down from showing off to Lisa's horses in the pasture, we turned around and headed back. On the way back, Mom and I both had a nice canter on the horses up the road, except Woody got a little carried away as he usually does. Mom handled him well though and he recovered and we continued on our journey.
We headed back to the barn afterwards, but we both had a great time on that ride, and I believe the horses enjoyed it just as much as we did.
Sunday afternoon I went out again on Stormy, and Mom took Charlotte out on a walk with us. Charlotte has been on field rest for a couple months and hadn't been out, so I know she was happy to get out and see the world. Stormy and I walked, trotted, and cantered in our hay field, which was really fun. We rode down by the pond some, too, which she wasn't too concerned with.
Overall, Stormy has settled in remarkably quickly, and she is already venturing out on daily adventures! She and I have a bright future ahead of us, and I can't wait to spend more time with her!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Introducing Stormy

As mentioned in my previous post, I am here to write about a very special, new horse that has entered my life: Stormy. This 16.2 hh chestnut beauty is 12 years old, built like a warmblood, and has the coolest personality. She is a Belgian/Thoroughbred cross, and she is currently living out on Terrie's farm. Terrie is actually the one who introduced her and I.
She gave me a call one day, informed me she was for sale (she knew I was looking for a new project), and I was given permission to start working with/ride her. I have ridden her 6 times so far, and man, is she fun.
She is very smart, and picks up on things really quickly. She has had a lot of training put on her (dressage, cross country, hunter/jumpers, etc.) and has done shows and also some first level dressage tests. Her owner, Jennie, showed her and rode her a lot.
Another awesome thing about Stormy is that she LOVES to jump. With a passion. She took me over a jump without me even asking her to, and Jennie has told me stories of her voluntarily taking little kids over jumps in lessons, so she had to stop being used for lessons.
Last Friday, I met up with Jennie and her Mom, Stormy's owners. We spent an afternoon at the barn together, riding and playing with Stormy, and by the end of the day I knew they felt good about me as the new potential owner of Stormy. We set up a vet check for the next Monday (yesterday), and I left very excited about my future with this horse.

This story took a turn when my mom called to schedule the vet check. Upon answering the phone and understanding we were wishing to set up a pre-purchase check for this horse, she asked my mom, "Have you seen this horse's medical records from the school?" We had known of Stormy having had a very severe episode of tying up a couple of years ago, but I was not aware of the extent of the situation. The vet faxed over ten pages of Stormy's 500 page file for us to look at.
Basically, the files read that she was admitted for tying up, muscle tightness, spasms in her hindquarters, and she also choked as a result of all this. She came close to death apparently, but the treatment she was given was very effective and she recovered. However, by the end of it she was diagnosed with PSSM (Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy), which is a fairly common disorder that effects many draft crosses. Basically, it is when excess glucose (sugar) is built up in the muscles, which causes tightness and other symptoms (such as tying up). The trigger for this particular incident was two fold: 1) she had been put in a new, stressful environment of a show barn and 2) she was turned out on lush, green pasture during her stay. Because she cannot convert sugar properly (it builds up in her muscles painfully), the high sugar grass did NOT do her well. This, combined with the stressful environment she was just put in, caused her to tie up. It was because of this event the Virginia Tech vets were able to detect the disorder in her and diagnose her with PSSM.

After learning all of this information I took a step back, made several phone calls to horse people I greatly respect, and heard their thoughts on the matter. I did a lot of research, too, to understand what the maintenance and upkeep of a horse with PSSM was going to look like and cost, and after gathering all my information, I decided to continue on with the vet check.
The vet came out to Terrie's farm yesterday. We spent two hours out there as he examined her thoroughly, doing 10 different flexion tests and examining every aspect of her conformation. He also took blood from her to analyze, and through all of this Stormy behaved perfectly.
His conclusion was, other than a couple of superficial, cosmetic things, she was perfectly sound. He called back a couple hours later to tell me that her blood work looked completely normal and healthy, and that she would be perfectly suited for what I want to do with her.
So what do I want to do with her? Well, first and foremost is build a relationship with her. I want to continue working on our communication, and get her to the point where she is truly ok with me and what I'm asking her to do. In the long run, however, I see this horse and I all over the place. Obviously, I plan on taking her to the Harry Whitney clinics with me, and also maybe looking into a couple of other clinicians (maybe another Kathleen Lindley clinic? I would also like to look into Wendy Murdock and Peggy Cummings who instruct classical riding). In the long long run, I would like to maybe participate in some shows with her. She is a fantastic jumper, which suits me perfectly because jumping is my passion. We have a local cross country course at Green Hill Park that I would love to eventually take her to.

 Above all though, I want to enjoy her. I want her to enjoy her time with me, and I want her to have just as much fun as I plan on having. She's a great horse, and we really click well. I can't wait to bring her home (due to scheduling conflicts, not until the 19th or 20th of December) and begin my work with her. My mom and her owner met yesterday to exchange paperwork and my mom handed my check to Jennie for her, so Stormy is officially mine. This horse is a huge financial decision on my part, the biggest I've made so far. But, I believe it will be beneficial to my education. I have always had a bank account labeled "Big Horse Fund," and the time has come for me to use it. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and SO DARN EXCITED FOR WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS!
Until Next Time!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Onto Part Two...

This is the next installment in my series of long over-due make up posts about my life and the horses in it. I left off with the end of the Harry clinic, and left a cliff-hanger for those who cared to read to the bottom (I know it was a long post, sorry for my incapability to condense the material). Anyways, strap yourself in for another long, excitement filled post, cuz here goes...
Following the clinic, Terrie and I talked and worked out dates for me to return to her farm to keep working with Sassy and chipping away at the lingering negative thoughts the little mare has. I have since been out 4 times to ride Sassy. Each time I have done groundwork and long lined her first. The long lining really helped her loosen up and relax both her back and her mind, which was a good warm up for the ride. My first visit I did all the prep, hopped on, and walked her for the majority of the ride. Toward the end I asked for a small trot, and by ask I mean crowding her walk persistently until SHE offered a trot. I was given a short, choppy-strided trot with her neck tight and ears back. Following Harry's advice, I didn't direct her much, but asked her to keep trotting in the belief that she would work through it. Eventually she was able to even out into a nicer trot and at that time I called it quits. All in all that day I was happy to have gotten her to trot, and she seemed not to resent it and that's all I was concerned with.
The next three times I rode her was all in this past week. I rode her Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and boy did she do GREAT. Monday we warmed up normal, and I hopped on and walked her out. When I crowded her for the trot, she easily fell into it, and for the first time EVER she actually blew out and put her head down as she was trotting. This was huge. She released a great deal while carrying a consistently paced trot. I crowded her a bit more a couple of times and she was able to give me a bigger trot without any ugly attitude. I was SUPER pleased.
Wednesday I returned to the farm to find Sassy happy and eager to go. I had been checking her back before and after each ride and not once could I find any pain. I took her to the arena, warmed her up like normal, and climbed aboard. We went through the things we had been working on such as the nice forward, low-headed walk, and the forward, but calm trot that we had gotten on Monday. She offered both pretty quickly after I asked, and she was just feeling really good. Around one corner I squeezed her up a little bit while she was trotting, and low and behold, she cantered! She cantered a couple strides, then came back down. I took her around at the trot and asked for the hurry again and she picked the canter up beautifully again. She held it down the long stretch for about 10-12 strides, and I asked her back down into a trot (to avoid her tendency to just STOP) and she gave me a lovely transition. Obviously, I was over the moon at this point by the fact that we had just cantered for the first time in four years.
I let her soak on that for a good long while, and then I asked her to move out in the other direction. She went willingly and as soon as her trot evened out and she dropped her head and relaxed, I asked her up into that canter just as easy as can be. We stopped there, rode back up to the barn, and called it a day.
Friday I went out and immediately checked her back. Terrie had told me she'd been sore the day before, but she appeared to be completely sore-free. I proceeded to tack her up, worked her in the round pen at liberty some, long lined her, even over some jumps, and then mounted up. I walked her, trotter her, and got her up to a canter which she carried for an entire circuit around the arena. She amazed me, so I stopped againon that good note and brought her back up to the barn.
Sassy has most certainly amazed me recently, and I am VERY happy about the progress she has made. However, I am fully aware that she is still her unpredictable self, and I know that there are probably some not-so-great rides in our future as well. For the mean time though, I am trying to consistently go out to Terrie's and work with her. I truly believe the consistency of last week helped her immensely, and I hope to continue to grow on the great stuff that was planted last week...

Next time I will fill all of you readers in on the new horse who has entered my life, also about my new job, along with some college updates! Until then!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Three Months Worth of Material

I come bearing good news and bad news. The bad news is that I have completely failed myself and all of my readers for not having posted for several months. I wish I had a better, more creative excuse for this, but truthfully the only thing I can say is that I have been SO BUSY. Which leads me to the good news: despite my lack of updates on this blog, I have indeed been playing with, riding, and submersing myself in horses more now than ever. My life has been so exciting and there are so many things I must fill you in on!
First and foremost is what I refer to as the Sassy Saga. I had mentioned in a previous post that I was planning on taking Sassy to the Harry Whitney clinic in Floyd this year, and many will be happy to know this did in fact happen. Prior to the clinic I played with her three times out at Terrie's farm, and our sessions for the most part went surprisingly well. I truly had NO idea what to expect, what side of Sassy was going to show up, or how she was going to react, but I rode her three times and overall she handled it well. The main idea behind doing this was to reacquaint myself with Miss Sass so that I would not arrive at the clinic having not worked with this horse for two years. On my second ride on her at Terrie's she did twist around a bit, get a little snarly, and I did come off of her, but it was nothing serious, just Sassy reminding me that she is far from "fixed".
So clinic time rolled around and needless to say I learned a LOT at that clinic. It was the week of the 24th of September until the 30th, and it proved to be six days of intense horsemanship. The first day we worked on the ground in the round pen, and after a while Harry came in and worked with her. She was getting very snarly when he went to direct her from the saddle area, and when he began to rub her side and back, she began to buck and pin her ears. He held in there and kept on rubbing until she was able to accept it, then he backed off and went on his merry way. The big thing I realized from their time together is that I can't let her dwell on those negative feelings for long. I have to get in there, get it done, and move on. I can't nag her because that's when her resentment kicks in. I have to git 'er done, not make a big deal about it, then she'll feel better about it. It's all about CLARITY.
The second day we had to work around the weather, so the first part of our session was in the barn during a downpour of rain outside. This day was monumental... Harry + Sassy + Stall. For those of you who are not aware of the history with Sassy and stalls, the story went like so...
4 years ago, a couple of months after we bought Sassy and Charlotte, we decided to leave Sassy in a stall while we took Charlotte down the road to ride her. When we returned, Sassy was in a deep sweat and clearly very nervous. We called a horse friend of ours who told us she would get over it and calm down if we just close the top half of the stall door. BAD IDEA. The second the top half was latched, she began to run in circles around the stall and go nothing short of bazerk. We immediately reopened the top half, and went to get a lead rope when she decided she needed to get out of there NOW. She proceeded to jump over the four-foot high door and out of the stall. The only obvious physical consequence at the time was a big long gash on her back left leg, but it soon became clear she had really hurt her back in this accident as well. Therefore, after that she was never consistently ride-able because she was either in pain from her back or mentally unsound to ride.
With all that said, we have since that accident, not really had the opportunity to work through any stall issues Sassy has. I saw this as a perfect scenario in which to do that. I led Sassy into the stall, and right away she became very nervous. I asked her to go in and out of the stall until she was able to go in more calmly and feel better about it. I then handed her to Harry. He took her halter off and got a flag from the nearby tack room. He explained to me that if she began to get nervous, anxious, or try to get out of the stall in any fashion, he was going to make a huge commotion. After asking why, he told me it was because if she started to feel all these emotions, it was because her mind was leaving the stall. If she began to attempt to jump out, it would be to follow her mind which had already left the stall. Therefore, he would whack the flag on the side of the stall or make some other kind of noise to bring her back to the stall mentally.
He had to make several commotions, and in total Sassy tried to jump out a couple of times; but, Harry caught it early and brought her thoughts back to the stall. She began to relax, blow out, and lick and chew quite a bit. She eventually got to the point where we could all leave and she was able to stay calm and not get emotional at all. We moved her to a stall closer to all the other horses, and we decided to test it by leaving her in there over lunch. I came back from lunch to find a calm. happy Sassy munching on hay next to her buddy Niji (Tom Moate's horse).
Later that afternoon I was able to ride her and as soon as I got on and asked her forward, she cow-kicked and pinned her ears. When I unstuck her, she walked a few steps then stopped dead. Harry and Ronnie told me to completely loosen my rein and focus on doing as little as possible to get her to walk. Once she began to walk I was to leave her alone completely with my reins, and focus solely on being fluid and moving my body with hers and she walked. We were in the round pen, and I allowed her to walk wherever she wanted; Harry told me we were only concerned with the fact that she was walking out. She began to shake her head so much to the point I thought she was reacting to something with the bridle, but Harry pointed out he thought she was just releasing emotions. She had a big lick and chew and let down a lot by blowing through her nose quite a few times. She broke into the trot a couple of times, and when she did I'd let her go there for a minute, then gently bring her back down without being harsh on her mouth or criticizing her.
Harry said she needed a lot of non-demanding rides on her, meaning rides in which she learns its alright to just go forward and not worry about someone pulling on her mouth. She had a big breakthrough this ride and I know she left feeling a lot better about things than she did when she came to that round pen.
The next day the lesson consisted of basically the same thing, except we did it at a trot. I trotted her around in the round pen some, and though she was going around with her head up and tight, she was going and that's all we were focusing on. We couldn't force her to relax her carriage, and Harry said that was something that would come in time when she began to truly feel better and trust that I wont pull on her.
The fourth day of the clinic, Sassy reacted very negatively when I saddled her, and after having Harry look at her we determined her back was very sore. The saddle I was riding her in didn't fit her well, and that combined with all the riding we had been doing and her initial back problems from the accident caused her to be very sore and un-rideable. I got some good stuff going on the ground with her, then put her back in her stall.
Tom Moate's gave me permission to work with Niji, his little pony he brought who ended up not being ridden by anyone. So I saddled him up, played with him on the ground, and hopped on. He was a fun little pony, and I enjoyed riding him and working through some stuff with him. His big "thing" was crookedness and lack of focus. He was very aware of where the gate was, and was always pulling toward it by falling in on that shoulder towards it and at one point he even bluntly just took off with me toward it. I held on and got control back, but I can officially join the "Been Ran Off With Niji" Club that has been famously written about in Tom's works.
The final day of the clinic we checked Sassy;s back again and she was still sore. This was the day my family was going to come and watch me ride, so I had to call them to tell them not to because Sassy was still un-rideable.
Instead, Tom offered to let me ride Jubal, his big, lofty Quarter Horse Harry worked with all Summer. He was quite fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the little ride a had on him. He was very sensitive, so it was a really neat experience. Tom then asked if I'd like to ride his other Quarter Horse Festus, to which I said of course! He was fun as well, and I am now able to say I have ridden all three of Tom Moate's steeds.
Later that afternoon I brought Sassy up to the arena for some ground work. I wanted to long line her, so I saddled her up, and after working through some stuff that showed up when I circled her, I snapped on the long lines.
Long lining Sassy was probably the most fun I had all week. She picked up on it like a pro and before long we were trotting figure 8's, cantering circles both ways, and getting really nice, connected, precise transitions. She felt GOOD. Harry checked her back following the 30 minutes we long lined and he said her back was not nearly as tight or reactive as it was that morning. He gave me permission to get on her and we ended up riding for about 20 minutes. She got a little snarly, but I just worked her through it and didn't let her dwell on those thoughts. She was able to trot for a good portion of time, and we ended on that note.

All in all the clinic was a great learning experience for both me and Sassy. I went into it with the notion that we could fix all her problems and she could come home, live with me, and be my next project horse. However, when she developed her soreness half way through the week, it was like Deja Vu back to when Mom and I spent two years trying to work with her through her pain and mental discomfort. It was a roller coaster, and we were never able to get her in a dependable place where she consistently felt good about what was going on. Sassy is back on Terrie's farm, however I have been working with her quite a bit since the clinic. However, all those stories are for the next post...