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Interesting day today! Dropped my dearest hubby at the airport early this morning.  He had to go home and do some meetings and will return this weekend.  Arrived at the barn around 8:30 to find that our working student Kassie had an invitation to do a lesson with Stefan Peters. I was thrilled to be invited to watch.

We had heavy rain here last yesterday and last night and our ring was pretty swampy but there was enough terra firma to work the horses.  It was decided that we’d get Arie done before trailering over to White Fences for the Peters lesson. 

Arie was SO puzzled by the mud and the puddles!!!

As I watched him stare uncomprehendingly at the splashing mud, it hit me. He has been, since arriving in this country, only ridden in ideal ring conditions! When the weather was bad, the former owners worked him in the indoor!  He probably hasn’t ever really been ridden in sloppy conditions, as he arrived in this country a few weeks after his fourth birthday. It’s likely that in Holland, they may never have worked him in bad conditions as he was quite young and why would they risk him?

At any rate, I don’t think he liked the messy conditions and the mud splashing all over him….he got rather excited, showing jumping capacity {over puddles…I think he’d make a nice jumper!}, over the top lateral work {totally unasked for} and a real reluctance to trot through puddles. That was the funniest part. When Kassie finally got him on her aids and trotting through the splash, you could see him watching the puddles as he passed through them…I think he was a little confounded by them! But being basically a good guy, the session ended well, so I’m really happy to have had some inclement conditions for him to cope with….especially as we don’t have an indoor here or in the north…

We took Kassie’s 8 yr. old PSG/I1 horse, Delano, over to Courtney’s to work with Stefan. Pickle, as he’s called at the barn, is green to this level and it’s the first time I got to see him go this year as Kassie usually rides him first {7 AM} in the morning. He’s a rather magnificent bay, probably over 17 hands with expressive gaits and super attitude about the work.

I’m not going to give an account of the lesson as I neither wish to re-interpret what I could hear nor was I on the horse to feel what Kassie was experiencing! But I loved Stefan’s teaching style. And it really resonated with me when he spoke about “keeping everything simple!” This was largely referencing half halts and the forward. He gave the riders focused, nearly constant feedback on what he was seeing. I loved that while wanting the horse always in front of the leg, he wanted the horse to find his own tempo, rather than have the rider push him out of his natural rhythm to get expression. He spoke a lot about the half halt and how the rider can’t just constantly half halt and correct but must give the horse the chance to come through via a longer half halt. The rider must ride through the whole half halt and give the horse a chance to stay on the aids on his own… Interesting concept!  I felt the long half halt definitely belonged in the realm of advanced riding as a secure, independent seat HAD to be in play for this to work! But that doesn’t mean I didn’t go home and try it in the afternoon on Rafi…

Best thing for me was that Stefan either paralleled Cathy’s teaching or seemed a continuation of what I’m learning from Cathy! So while I can’t ride like the advanced riders of this clinic, I did understand everything he was speaking of.

I thought Kassie did a super job!

Back to our barn. After a few days off and some icing and poulticing, we put Callista back to work very lightly today. She went like a dream….much more like the horse she was a few weeks ago! I’m very relieved and feel we are managing her issues well. I look forward to tomorrow when we up the ante a little. If she stays comfortable in the work, I’ll hop on at the end of the session to get a feel. I’ve missed riding her as she challenges me to give my very best efforts. Rafi is more forgiving, and while I work hard to be correct always, she is a more laid back personality and the dynamic is very different. Callista is a hotter and as I’ve said many times, extremely intelligent, a very alpha mare.  As much as I can’t really keep up with her in the training  just now, I adore my rides on her. There is something absolutely wonderful about a horse who mentally never tunes out the rider! And because she has such a great “go” button, she is the most comfortable ride. She gives you such a good feel as long as you can keep her on your aids!!!

Rafi and I had a banner day! Despite the sprained boob which kept me from running my test, I was able to work on my seat BIG time! There is nothing like the knowledge that if you don’t have an independent seat, that you will be in pain, to keep the rider honestly and totally focused on her seat!

Cathy demanded that I push through from behind into her neck with complete ability to place her poll or bend her neck or simply ask for more activity from behind at any moment. Taking a few minutes in the walk, encouraging the activity behind and firmly half halting towards and obedient neck, I asked for passage and received it, transitioned right into piaffe! She was SO in front of my leg, my sweet spot {the seat} stayed, I had complete control over her shoulders, neck and poll….and boom! transitioned right out to passage again!!! It was so exhilarating! So much power, so effortless, I tried to send her out to the medium but even though I was wearing two industrial strength bras, I couldn’t comfortably absorb the movement. So frustrating and yet so exciting….because this is the position that I believe I can parlay into a better seat!

I definitely am looking forward to tomorrow and hope some of this injury will recede! I am certain I am onto the next level of my riding ability!

And I must add that Rafi never looked better! She’s a long, lanky horse. When I bought her, her neck was pencil thin and she really didn’t have much of a topline for an FEI horse. She’s hard to put muscle on. Her neck now is really developing and she’s more compact in the collection…a more beautiful and elegant picture overall. And I love her to death for what she is teaching me!!!