The last couple of days of the clinic went by in a blur, so I thought I would give you a smooshed together breakdown of the last two days with Dee to bring you up to speed with all of the events! I’m going to share some other things with you over the course of the week also so I’ll try not to overload you in a single post!
By Day 3, Dee had started to settle and was more consistently focused in his work on the ground. What was really cool about the format of this particular clinic was A. It ran over 4 days and B. You did a 60-90 minute session in the morning and another in the afternoon, so lots of time for them to soak things up without overdoing it.
In our morning session on Day 3, we decided to do some more precise lateral work on the ground and I got to practicing side-passing over the pole and working with some cavaletti. I love this sort of work for them when they are feeling a bit boggly-eyed; it doesn’t overface them but they have to be aware of their feet and it gives them sensory input to focus on that brings them back to the moment (and to you).
In the afternoon session, I repeated my strategy from the previous day- to get him really moving around the arena on the ground and then finish with a short ride. Dee’s familiarity with this work meant that in an environment where he feels uneasy and unsure, I’m asking him lots of questions he solidly knows the answer to, meaning we have a bank of resources to draw on to guide us through any sticky bits. Our ride felt better than the day before, but the trot was quite discombobulated and all over the place; nonetheless, we kept on keeping on and by the end of it had some decent work rising to the surface.
The next day, however, was a different story. I feel like I know Dee so well now (and no doubt vice-versa!) that I can read him like a book. The second that we started our groundwork together, I knew I was good to jump straight on. A different energy, a different quality- different altogether from the past three days- and so I did the bare minimum and headed over to the mounting block.
As I expected, our ridden work now was not much different from what we have at home, perhaps with a little less focus but that’s all part of it. He was forward and round, but most importantly he just felt relaxed; no tightness, reactivity, or concern in his muscles.
Honestly, it might not have looked like much to anyone else but I felt like I won Olympic Gold. To have him feel comfortable in his own skin; to be able to ride around on the buckle, pick up the contact and drop it again as I pleased; to have him free and forward was everything that I could have asked for. We untacked in the middle of the arena and called it a day.
This photo is one that a friend took on their phone of our ride on Day 4 and I’m not sure that my face adequately captures what a lovely time I had and how good it all felt (my facials often leave a lot to be desired!). I’m so in awe of how such big, powerful, magnificent creatures allow us to do what we do with them. How grateful I am for that.