I am so surprised, but pleased, by the mild winter weather we have been having. It is hard to believe that in early January the temperatures are in the fifties and lower sixties! Warm!
Buckshot and I took advantage of the weather Saturday and had a good riding session. After our walking warm up, we started trotting and he was energetic and responsive. When we cantered, it was wonderful- I cued correctly for the lead, got the correct lead, rode well, steered well, used my hands to guide the reins but not pull back, lovely cantering. Our Saturday class walked down the farm road to the reining arena and we did more work there. When I brought Buckshot back to the stall, he was slightly sweaty so I wiped him vigorously, gave him his treats and praised him. What a good horse! And I see my own improvements as well.
But the next day, the improvements were gone! On Sunday we went to the reining trainer’s farm and along with about eight other horses and riders, participated in the reining clinic. First we watched the trainer show how he lunges horses who have had the winter off, and are about to return to training for shows. He used a dressage whip and explained carefully what he was doing and why. He got on the horse and continued to explain his procedure of circling the horse and establishing the ability to get the horse’s nose pulled around to his knee. During the session, he spoke of Buck Brannaman and his recent movie. He recommended the movie to us. I saw it a few months ago and liked it, but was surprised at this recommendation.
The next exercise we worked on was circling our horses with their nose turned toward our leg. I tried this on Buckshot and he did it very well. As I held the rein close to my leg, my head was turned to the side and I could easily see both Buckshot’s head/neck and his rear end. He was nicely bent , not just turning his neck. We did the same on the other side as well. Good Buckshot!
A later exercise involved loping a circle from the walk. After several riders took their turn, Buckshot and I were called up. We routinely practice cantering from the walk, so I wasn’t worried about that. But this circle was going to the right, which is his weaker side. Well, my nerves just took over, along with a little attitude that just poked out in the front of my mind which said “Okay, let’s do it!!” with such excitement and abandon that I totally forgot all of my cues, and my tips and my thoughts and, well everything. I just flung us into cantering, and of course, we headed on that right turn with a left lead, but I didn’t know it at all because I couldn’t think at all. The trainer called out, “bring him to a trot and raise your right hand,” which I did, but again, had no earthly idea what I was doing. So apparently we didn’t get it, because the trainer called out again, “bring him to a trot and raise your right hand higher.” By this time, the circle was nearly completed but we cantered on for a few more strides. I think we finally got the correct lead.
As I walked Buckshot back to the standing horses, I smiled, thinking “good!” but I really had no idea what we had just done. I was just proud of us, for no reason at all. I guess because I hadn’t fallen off of him, and had kept him more or less in a circle. Still, I was happy, and I patted Buckshot.
Later in the clinic, the trainer gave lots of showing tips and rules, and during the segment said “The minute you walk in the show pen, you lose 50% of your training.” I was confused by this- the horse loses his training? How? Why? The rider loses their training? Whatever does he mean? He didn’t explain it but went on to other rules.
In the drive back to our farm, it suddenly hit me out of the blue and I said to the BO, “you know, for some reason, I forgot all about the cantering tips I’ve been working on, when I was in the clinic. They just went out of my mind and I did terrible cantering. Even though I’ve been working on them with Buckshot. Is that what he meant by losing 50% of your training when you are showing?” She said, that’s exactly what he meant.
Isn’t that amazing? You really do. I guess it is nerves, and other people watching, and undisciplined thinking, that, in my case, caused me to not focus on our cantering tips. Now that I am aware of this, I’m going to change up my thought process at the next clinic, and see what helps me stay very, very aware of all the cues and aids I do at our home farm. And maybe we’ll finally demonstrate the lovely cantering we’ve been doing!
I hope you had a lovely weekend. I fear real winter weather is coming soon….