Since accepting the fact that Junior is not going to be a western pleasure guru (I can hear you cheering from here...you know who you are) we have been thinking about other things. One of the reasons I was excited about this barn is that I can bring in any trainer I'd like, either for private lessons, or in a clinic style and share time with other boarders or the public. One of those other things we're interested in is Dressage (again with the cheering!), so today we had our first Dressage lesson with Monet Phelps. Monet was my BM's trainer until she moved to California. She is now back in Ohio and came to the barn to do a clinic. There were only four riders so we each got about a 45 minute private lesson. I REALLY liked her. She was way over my head, but not in a bad way, in a very encouraging and inspirational way. I liked her teaching style and I think I will get even more out of our next lesson. She really focuses on body mechanics and how the rider can either help or hinder the horses' movement.
She began by making sure my stirrups were the same length. Then she showed me how weak he is in his left hip and that he has a sore muscle in there. All we worked on (as if it wasn't enough!) was working on keeping his body straight and even. She had me lose my curb chain as I expected her to do. I can barely keep the information straight in my head, but it was a lot about pushing on the inside stirrup when posting, sitting with the outside seat-bone in between, along with alternating contact and release on the inside hand and keeping more contact on the outside hand.... I think. It was a lot to think about all at once and I know that's only the beginning. We worked mostly at the trot and had ground poles along one wall and raised cavaletti on the opposite wall. It seems I've been "throwing away" the contact at the poles. That's been my "point towards the poles, sit up straight and pray" mode because I'm afraid he's going to trip. But he's actually more likely to trip if I release the contact. Duh. She rode him for a bit. The look on his face was "WTF are you doing?!?! Um...okay." I think he had more forwardness and more contact in that brief ride than he has in the two years I've ridden him. That's just not how the WP and Wenglish world works. I'm very glad I never trusted that world fully because I'm still open to the other ideas. My foundation training (though not highly technical) was much closer to what I did today. It was cool to see how he came around for her. When I got back on there was SUCH a difference in his movement. She had me post on the wrong diagonal to show me how much we had been helping him with the alternating pressures. Wow.
The homework she gave us is to do a ton of trotting, making sure to "stay out of his way" to encourage him to flex and sway. I need to get rid of the curb chain and stay with just the snaffle. We're to do lots of poles and cavalleti, and now that I know he's not going to go ass-over-tea-kettle if he goes over the raised ones, we'll be doing lots of those, too. Monet said he was really cute and she seemed to think he'd be a cute eventer. She thinks jumping and gymnastics will be good for him and that he's NOT uncoordinated, he's just weak asymmetrically as most horses are. He just needs... no WE just need to learn how to work around those natural obstacles.
The more I ride the more I realize how much I don't know. I don't think that's a bad thing, it's actually exciting, but also a little overwhelming. One thing at a time. :)
Max's girl, Sarah rode too. I think the day was most productive for them. The difference between the pair when they began the ride and when they ended it was astounding. I have it on video and will post it when I have some time to edit it. We didn't get video of us, but next time we do this we will absolutely video more. There are a few pictures, but I think they were all taken before she rode him.
Next on the tour of "What to do With a Western Pleasure Reject?" will be going to a Cowboy Challenge NEXT Sunday. Talk about a broad spectrum!!!!!