So…what’s next?

One of my favorite things I have gained from my horsemanship journey are all the friends I have met + all the cool places they come from. Two weeks ago, a woman visited from the Philippines; she showed me a picture of one of her oceanside pastures and I wanted to fly home with her. This past week, a wonderful woman and her mom visited from Scotland. We got to hear all about the titling competitions she does, and I promised to visit to take a trip to Kelso, Scotland. She also compared Kelso to Valegro with his arena presence, and on May 10th, Kelso was called not cute but beautiful by her mom! A week for the books. 😉

As if the compliments of being called beautiful + a mini Valegro weren’t enough to almost make me to fall off Kelso, Paul casually told me I could “experiment” this week; he promptly took this encouragement back as soon as he realized I would probably run wild with any free rein he gave me. After all, my whole journey has been a series of me experimenting with every crazy thing Kelso and I could learn. I had to ride away to hide my giggling.

The experiment we got to try were half-steps under saddle, they just had to wait until my Thursday morning lesson, instead. It was another lesson that plastered a smile to my face for the rest of the day. I could not have imagined Kelso and I would be piecing together half-steps,working pirouettes and flying changes when we arrived in January. If it weren’t for him, I would still be struggling with leg yields. It’s all possible cause of the Wonder Pony.

During this week’s dinner, Paul told me that I was stressing him out because I am making him fit a year long internship education into seven months; I pleaded the fifth but then told him he was the one who taught me how to do half steps and I never asked for the changes. He then told me “Yes, your question you ask every week of ‘so….if we were hypothetically going to move on, what would be next?’ is totally innocent.” I blame Kelso for being so clever and quick to learn. But I can’t say I blame Paul for keeping such a close eye on us…

This week’s lesson started out with half-steps in-hand to warm them up. We have to focus on keeping Kelso straight, and encourage him to move forward. He can get bunched up and then he will lose the rhythm of the movement. When mounted, we moved through our normal lateral work and then introduced half-steps under saddle.

Paul stood next to Kelso on the ground for some encouragement but avoided helping as much as possible so I could learn to do them independently mounted. I really collected his walk and then encouraged more hindquarter action by using my seat, legs and whip. My whip was used minimally because he reacted really well to my seat and leg, but this aid is familiar from in-hand work. I was able to control the rhythm of the steps with my seat, which is an advantage over working them in-hand. We really focused on letting him relax into them as Paul says “he just tries too hard.” The feeling of him rounding his back, engaging his core and rocking back on his haunches was absolutely incredible. If that’s what little baby half-steps feel like, I can’t imagine the power of a full piaffe.

From here, we moved on to our canter. Paul warned me that things tend to fall apart when flying changes are introduced, and this has been true with our canter-walk transitions. As soon as I go to rock his canter up, he does a flying change. We decided I have to be very quick in asking him to walk after he loads his hindquarters to beat him before he flips leads on me. We then progressed to working on our travers on a circle. Paul informed me that they looked balanced and swinging, so I can make them smaller and even call them working pirouettes. You could have knocked me off with a feather.

We then introduced a new pattern for flying changes. Previously, I would change from counter canter on a circle to true canter. This week, we used a figure-8 pattern; we would start on a true canter circle, come across the middle of the arena, straighten, change leads, and then go the other direction in our new true canter. This helped because it would introduce the new bend to Kelso and encourage him to switch to that true canter lead. It also helped minimize how stuck he would get in the middle of the arena when I asked him to really collect his canter. From here, we will start doing changes on a short diagonal.

Off to go ask what’s next and practice my half-steps,

Erin and the Wonder Pony

Trivia answer for whatever week it is: Gueriniere, the inventor of shoulder-in and the man fond of medieval medicinal practices, is to thank for stating that contact should be “light, definite, and elastic.”

There won’t be a blog post next weekend as I will be dancing the night away at a military ball with my favorite two-legged guy. Stay tuned for the next post in two weeks!


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