Man Made

Kelso and I had the honor to ride with Kate Phillips in January, and it lit a fire under our little pony butt. It can also be mentioned that the pony’s butt probably felt like it was on fire because of all the collecting work he did.  Footage below for your viewing pleasure. {I like big pony butts and I can not lie…;) } I digress.

The largest theme of the weekend was to keep developing Kelso’s overall through-ness and also to really hone in on his pirouette canter. I have gotten very particular with him and his through-ness in the last few weeks because there is a final inch where he can be holding back and “faking the movements” versus really working over his back and engaging. This can show up in his canter by asking him to really sit on his hind legs while maintaining a steady base of the neck and solid head carriage. That last inch also happens to be the ‘Saint George’s Inch.’ Yes. Like Prix St. George. Like that’s where Kelso and I are headed. {I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times; He’s a rockstar and is one heck of a guy for letting me hitch a ride on his back while he teaches me everything.}

We also had a lot of fun with the Flying Changes and the had a big break-through with beginning to practice our tempis. {Okay, my last side-note but TEMPIS?! There will always be a large part of me who still thinks riding bareback in a field is the greatest thing and all I will amount to so to be able to say the words PSG, Pirouettes, and Tempis while talking about our journey is ridiculously humbling.} Kate discussed how there are trainers who are brilliant at teaching changes, where others often fall short in this movement. This is often because trainers will begin to teach F.Cs from a place of nervousness, and then the horse will become a loaded gun who loses their mind every time you ask them for it.

While nervousness and excitement can be expected in the learning process, there are better ways than just running your horse off their feet so they’re forced to change how they’re swinging, or collecting them so much they become frightened or claustrophobic. I have been babying the changes for too long because I was afraid Kelso would become a monster; there was a brief period where everything meant a flying change, so I was a bit trigger shy. However, avoiding them is not going to get us through the FEI levels, so marching on we go. Kate introduced using a double cluck for the preparation stride to prepare them for the Flying Change. Kelso is way smarter than me and by the fourth time I signaled with the double cluck he popped over into a beautifully clean and forward change. Kate then explained how Changes should just be thought of as teaching a trick, which can help take the drama out of them.

From here, we began to really work on our canter pirouettes. We had to confuse Kelso with this exercise because after working on changes I would try to collect him and he would fire off a quick change. Talk about trick training….We first really worked on collecting his canter down the long side, and then began to cross the diagonal. When on the diagonal, I would bring his canter back so we were cantering almost on the spot, then let him out in the counter canter. It’s a character-building exercise for Kelso to counter canter nowadays because he’s a change machine, so we would hold this until the next diagonal. Over this diagonal, I would again collect the canter over X and then do a large pirouette; this mimics the pattern in Fourth Level Test 3 and would bring us back to our true lead.

Kelso then wanted to show off his pony piaffe, and Kate responded with our favorite phrase to hear….she said that it was heading in the right direction, and that we can focus on strengthening the piaffe without even doing the piaffe. Instead, we would trot around the ring and work on collecting almost to our piaffe, and then extending that. Mr. WP really enjoys going forward, so it is a nice tool to use as a reward when he needs one, but it is important to be able to stop and collect, too. {Details.} I now have an extension and not just a medium to play with, and I think we both have just as much fun when he gets to strut our stuff across the diagonal.

At the end of the lesson, Kate commended my journey with Kelso and mentioned how he falls into the category of “man-made.” I am always humbled and relieved when trainers I respect tell me I haven’t totally screwed up my little guy, but I do have to give all the credit to him. During each lesson and throughout all the new movements I have asked him to learn, he has shown up to give it all he’s got and more. He has been flexible and forgiving while I was figuring it out, too. He constantly reminds me of why he is The Wonder Pony, and I am so lucky he is mine.

Off to go practice our tempis,

Erin and The Wonder Pony


One thought on “Man Made


    So I ventured back in your blogs to find Kelso during your stay with Paul and compared videos. What a big difference and so nice to see the progress. What a nice inspiration.


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