Nearly without fail, the first thing that people say when they meet Kelso is something along the lines of “He’s adorable! Oh my gosh, look at how cute and little he is!” I then get the inevitable question of what he is; the answer that he is a rescue horse starts another round of cooing and awwing over what many believe is my plush toy of a pony. [His true height is currently a point of contention. Paul is convinced his withers are located approximately at the middle of his neck, and that he is not a true pony. The jury is still out. One piece of good news is that if he is over 14.2 hands, he is clear to compete at the Olympics. Big horses are intimidated by ponies so they aren’t allowed to show at CDIs.]
Many people then question if I do dressage with him. True story: Someone met him and then looked at me in shock when I said he was my only horse. “Does he do dressage? Does he enjoy it? You take lessons on him…..with Paul?” He might be short but he is mighty. There are times when I get these questions where all I want to do is plant my feet, put my hands on my hips and shout “Take us seriously!” I instead just smile and nod. And then I smile and nod when I come back after a ride and they say “Wait, he’s actually a nice little guy!” Preaching to the choir, people.
To every person out there who is navigating the dressage waters that are filled with bigger and hotter warmblood sharks: Just keep swimming with what may be your minnow or whale of a horse. You have as much right to go down centerline with your draft, pony mutt or any combination of the two. Just keep swimming.
This week, Kelso and I brushed up on our half-pass theory and continued to swim towards flying lead changes.
When in our lesson, I asked about the correct angle for the half-pass and the weight load the outside hind carries. There is an inverse relationship with the sideways movement of the horse and how engaged their hindquarters are; the more sideways they travel, the less they are able to weight their haunches. This is because horses are not meant to move sideways. If a horse falls and does the splits, it usually seriously injures itself and is unable to stop their fall because they have no strength while their legs are splayed. This is why it is imperative to harness the forward energy in order to engage the haunches. It is also why you cannot have too much angle in the half-pass because it will then disengage the outside hind leg, the exact opposite of what is desired. The Spanish Riding School rides their half-pass at almost a diagonal so that there is no possibility that the hindquarters can begin to lead, thus losing their thrusting power.
The Wonder Pony has been quick to pick up flying changes, and will sometimes throw a couple out for good measure when I ask him to collect his canter more in his canter-walk transitions. Paul reminds me with a smirk that things usually fall apart when flying changes are introduced but it will work itself out again. This week we continued with crossing the middle of the ring and collecting his canter to get a flying lead change. At the close of the lesson, I asked Paul innocently “what was next?”
He rolled his eyes and replied that “you’re doing half-steps in-hand and flying changes and you want to know what’s next already?” When I promised him I wouldn’t start dreaming about one tempis, he said we would begin to work the Flying Changes on a short diagonal, and asking for them at a more specific time. In addition to this, we will start half-steps under saddle, as well as tightening my travers on a circle to work more towards canter pirouettes. It’s pretty wild to think what Kelso has taught me the last few months we have been here, and even wilder to dream of what will be learned by the close of our internship. It is all thanks to The Little Wonder Pony who could.
Off to go show the world what a pony can do,
Erin and The Wonder Pony
Week Eight Answer: It was pretty comical to read the different ailments and remedies that existed during the time of Gueriniere’s writing, and one of my favorites was what he did to treat cataracts. He would burn wood, and “when the wood is charcoal, remove it and carefully take out the salt, reduce it to the powder and introduce it into the eye with the thumb.” What could go wrong? He was also a big fan of bleeding and purging the horse. Thank heavens for modern science, right?
Week Nine Trivia: Who said contact should be “Light, Definite and Elastic?”