Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Swear To God This Really Happened As I Was Writing My Last Post

I have to share this with you, because I'm sure it was a once in a lifetime experience. It still feels surreal, like one of those things that couldn't really and didn't really happen - yet it did. Was it the magic of Christmas? Something very special was in the air.
As background, Doug and I are continuing with building our horse facility where we'll host equine events, and rent the facility to others wanting to host events.
I was working on my event plan for next spring / summer / fall. We'll start with clinics in the spring and be up to hosting shows later in the summer, when both stall areas are complete (there will be 20 stalls on each side of the arena).
On a whim, I thought "dream big" and I emailed my ultimate classical dressage hero, the world renowned Arthur Kottas, retired First Head Rider of the Spanish Riding School (home of the Lipizzan stallions). He rode there for 40+ years and along with his amazing riding instruction he's also very highly regarded for his in hand work.
This is what happened - as I was sitting here writing my last blog post a couple of hours after emailing him, my phone rang. Yes, you read that correctly - my phone rang. IT WAS ARTHUR KOTTAS CALLING FROM AUSTRIA!!! As I heard the accented voice identifying who it was, my brain wouldn't process it for a moment. When my brain did process it all I could do was stutter. I was fighting hysterical giggling and babbling, but he couldn't have been nicer or more charming. He was on his way to another country (which now escapes me) later in the day, and was calling to offer me his last available weekend of 2013. I couldn't gather my wits to ask the right questions, but he gave me the dates, told me to take my time looking into whether it would work and he'd hold it for me until he heard back, told me the hours he works and number of students he takes, etc. - all the things I'd need to know for planning but couldn't possibly have gotten my head around asking if he hadn't told me.
So there's my story - what happened to me as I wrote my last post. 
Unfortunately the dates are in June - perfect clinic timing, but they conflict with other dressage events here in Nova Scotia. I'm thinking I may have to see if we can get him for 2014 instead, but I haven't completely given up on the idea yet either. I'll need to get back to him asap (he didn't rush me, but it seems rude to wait). Also, Doug is sooo sick with a cold that he can't really get his head around talking to me about it for a day or two - raging fever and inability to breath don't lend themselves to problem solving and planning. Any advice? 
I couldn't / didn't include this story in my last post, even though I ws in the middle of writing it, because I needed to process what happened. My mind just kind of went blank and I could barely wrap up what I was writing about.
I'm hoping all of you have a great Christmas - lots of love, food, drink, family and especially horse time. Sending you warm thoughts from here in Nova Scotia...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Another Cindy Ishoy Clinic

And various other updates...

Second Cindy Clinic of Fall 2012
I love Cindy's clinic's and this was no exception. I was a little slow off the mark though. Rogo tends to cold bloodedness and he needs a good warm up. We only had the indoor, so we didn't have much of a warm up before getting right to work. We'd just had three of the best lessons performance wise that we'd ever had leading up to the clinic, with our regular teacher Sue Fraser, and I'm going to back up and start my post with those.
Sue has been training horses for 40+ years and it shows - she's incredibly knowledgeable/experienced and intuitive (and I consider this the highest form of thought) when it comes to knowing what each individual horse needs. Rogo had been lugging on me and exhausting me within five minutes of mounting - no bend, no give, pull, pull, pull. After watching this for a couple of lessons she had us do very lengthy walk warm ups, with big exaggerated bends at every corner, on the tangents of circles and on serpentines. Rogo became a new horse! It was hard to believe - he became this lovely, supple, soft, pliable, did I say supple horse that was a pure pleasure to ride. If you want to try this, just stay in a nice marching walk and do 20 m circles and serpentines with strong bends (inside leg to outside rein) at every turn and / or tangent point. When this is working well go to trot, then to canter, repeating the exercise and it should stay the same. Voila - lovely, supple horse going willingly into your hands and forward.
After these great rides I went into the Cindy clinic and didn't have more than a turn or two around the arena at the walk before we went to work at the trot - you can guess what happened. Head in the air, and a jagged egg shape for a 20 m trot circle. This was my fault - I should have gone in sooner and walked around as the other lesson was finishing up. The next day we did this and it was soooo much better. We worked on strengthening our basics and did lots of trot / canter / trot transitions. Rogo finds it harder (probably the truth is that I find it harder) to canter from trot than walk, so we worked on this. Cindy pointed out that trot canter is a great exercise for strengthening the hind quarters and getting the horse to bring the hind legs under. We did the transitions repeatedly on a 20 m circle and they really improved as we worked on them. I worked on staying completely relaxed, preparing him with a half halt, shoulder fore and then aid.
Cindy also made me sharpen up my precision - I hadn't even realized I was slipping to the right when crossing the diagonal.
She was a complete star again about giving each of us extra time, even though it was cold in the barn. She is so generous with her time and knowledge. She's also a kind person who pushes each of us, but never makes us feel bad or nervous. I can't say enough good about her as a clinician who can help improve your ride.
Back to the present - we're working on lots and lots of leg yield from the wall in, and then straight before the end of the arena. This gets him listening to each leg. It's a great exercises and one we really need. Rogo does it better in canter than trot. For some reason his exercises in canter seems to come to him more easily than in trot.
He is finally just beginning to get more forward again. It left when his shoeing got off last May and is just getting good again now. Could it be the temperature?
Okay, that's it for now. I'll be lucky if anyone is reading this anymore I've been such a slacker of a blogger. All I can say is that the facility construction and travelling so far for lessons is taking all my time. Oh yeah, I also just finished my Equine Business Management course from Guelph which also took a lot of time. Those are my excuses and I'm sticking to them.