Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekend Clinic

My brain is in a bit of a fog - But whether that is due to long days hauling back and forth to a very exhausting clinic, or due to the fact that I just sprayed a majority of my house for fleas (gross and totally another issue altogether..) everything seems a bit jumbled. 

We had initially signed up for a two day clinic with our favorite outside trainer at a facility that was about 15 minutes from our barn.  I figured it'd be a great opportunity for some extra butt kicking without all the rigmarole of hauling all the way to her facility which is just over an hour away.

Best laid plans and all (wow, do I say that too much?) of course it was forecasted to be the rainiest weekend in Seattle ever and the clinic location only had an outdoor.  Ergo, we relocated to the trainer's home facility which has a gorgeous indoor, but would come with a big commute, in the rain that we were trying to avoid riding in.

The rain was truly hideous and had me at a crawl with the rig.  I think we averaged about 40mph the whole way which turned an already long drive into a painfully long drive, but oh well.  And of course there was no overnight stabling available so we'd be commuting both days (wah).
Prair even tolerated a bath to get all pretty for her outing and modeled her new cooler

She also made faces and demanded cookies
Logistics aside though, it was a very educational weekend.  Prair showed up to work both days and made it possible to really work on some detail stuff as opposed to spending $$ to get instruction on how to calm your dragon-mare-wolf down while the hellish rains drown out any other sound and your ears start to bleed from the dull noise...

We spent a majority of the time working on mobilizing the shoulder, relaxing our lateral work and trying to get Prairie to carry that relaxation into her work over fences. 

Almost immediately my spurs were taken away and my stirrups were raised which left me in a state of perched horror as I tried to figure out what muscles would stabilize my body and position without just death clamping knees. 

The phrase of the day for me was to "whisper" my aids and try to do everything as quietly as possible and still (barely) get a response.  This meant trying to execute out turns on the forehand (and haunch) in slow motion and not letting Prair go "oh I know this!!!" and then proceed to whip herself around. 

This was easier said than done, but exposed an important hole in our communication which is that I ask for something and Prairie goes "EEEEEEEEEeeeee, don't hit me don't hit me don't hit me, watch how fast I can get through this... eeeeEEEEEEE." 

This showed up early in our career together in her canter departs, leg yields and rein back.  Reared (not literally) it's head when we started over fences and Prair would RUSH through them.  And most recently is obvious in the tension she sometimes shows during her flying changes and in between fences of a line.  (especially In and Outs).

The idea being if I can quietly converse with Prair about where her body is and have her respond thoughtfully and without anxiety, then maybe I can start t take that level of communication into the things that Prair just blacks out and rushes through.

The next tool that we used (and I really liked) was the concept of focusing more on lateral flexion (bend) than on vertical flexion (in terms of collection) to soften the mare.  I'm not sure this "fits" on a traditional training progression but it was very effective for us.

I tend to try to constantly soften Prair by collecting her up and working her mouth to keep her from getting tense.  Of course, my own issues get in the way and I end up pick, pick, picking her to death instead of pushing her together and then softening. 

Also, I let the pick, pick, picking turn into a less and less powerful canter and after a while we're barely loping around with zero gas in the tank. 

SO - this idea of lateral flexion over "vertical" was interesting.  Instead of trying to compress her and "tip" her back on her butt - I focused on creating some bend through her neck, or even asking for some haunch in to get her to unlock and transfer her balance. 

Something about the "lateral" ask doesn't trigger my obsession to keep asking for more, more, more... So I was able to ask... and soften.  Ask... and soften.  And wouldn't you know it - the mare felt like butter.  She was patting the ground, slow to take off, soft when she landed and I felt like I could just loop her around however I wanted - no stress or strain attached.

When we put these tools together over some smaller courses I kept having to remind myself not to override the fence (not totally dissimilar to the placing pole-two strides-MONSTER JUMP exercise from last week) and when I did stay soft and not worry about landing our lead and not worry about my distance... we had lovely rides.  When I started working too hard, things deteriorated a bit.  Not exactly shocking, but very obvious. 

We came home exhausted, but no worse for the wear.  I definitely have a few lightbulbs to plug into our regular rides and some new muscles to work on in order to stabilize and support Prair the way I should...

All in all a good weekend!


  1. Sounds like a super productive weekend, who was the clinician?

  2. Sounds like you learned a lot of valuable tips. Awesome!

  3. Cool!
    Suppleness is second on the training scale so lateral flexion before vertical flexion seems right to me.

  4. Ooh, I love adding tools to my riding toolbox. It definitely sounds like the haul and subsequent exhaustion was worth it, and that this clinician really gave you some good things to work on with Prair!

  5. Sounds like a great weekend. Good that you now know what to work on with Prair. :)

  6. Who was the clinician?

    Despite the rain it sounds like a great weekend :)

  7. These are some great tips. I feel like I should try them out myself!

  8. I'm so enjoying reading about your progress with Prairie! I hope you're able to get her back strengthened and that she doesn't have anymore issues with it. :)

    Also just a suggestion for the fleas. Salt! Salt is your best friend, especially if you have carpets. You can sprinkle regular table salt on all of your floors (bare and carpeted) and make sure to throw it under and behind all furniture. Don't go barefoot because salt stuck to your feet is gross lol. Leave it as long as you can stand it and then vacuum it up. I sometimes would leave it for a week if the fleas were bad enough. And I left the salt under/behind the furniture since that is where they like to hide. I like that it's all natural and not poison. Good luck!


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