Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Sienna goes to a clinic with Ian Roberts

So took Sienna to a clinic with Ian Roberts yesterday. Of course the beast died the day before – who’s surprised by this? Sheesh. But Steve very kindly agreed to rescue me (thanks again Steve!) and was at the barn early Sat am to hook up his truck to my trailer so we (another girl was coming with me) could still go. As we drove up I got to play the fun game of watching the temperature on my car thermometer drop. Now I know my car has a sense of humour, but really this was pushing it a little. When we got there it read -22.5 (that’d be about -8.5 in American; doesn’t sound nearly as impressive, but trust me, it’s *cold*).

The BO kindly let us tack up inside which was greatly appreciated. Both horses were really well behaved – stood quietly while we got ready. I was thoroughly impressed. Then down to the arena we headed. Sienna lost it about the time I opened the arena door; wanted nothing to do with going through. But given time, she put on her big girl panties and bravely entered the arena. I walked her and jogged her around the ring, as is our usual routine on cold days. Except that this time instead of trotting quietly beside me she was running tiny circles around me as I went in a reasonably straight line. Ummmm less of a good sign.

So I stopped her, chilled her out a bit, prepared to get on, and next thing I know she’s dancing around on her hind legs – with her front feet well over my head. Ummmm less of a good sign. Thinking this could rapidly go from bad to worse and remembering Denny’s adage of “10 minutes on the lunge is better than 10 months in traction” I borrowed a lungeline that was hanging nearby and let her run around a bit. Fortunately the clinician was not in the ring to see any of this; unfortunately he returned before I had her anywhere near as chilled as I would’ve liked. But at least she wasn’t standing on her hind legs anymore.

So while he was doing the introduction thing with the other two riders, I hopped on Sienna. Stopping to chat with the clinician was not going to be an option @ that moment, so I rode her around instead. And honestly, she was pretty good. It definitely took me a while to find her brain, but while it was missing she never did anything particularly dumb. There was one spin and bolt, but I had her back in less than five strides and it didn’t lead to the kind of meltdown we’ve seen in the past.

The other two horses were being amazing; one was clearly an old schoolie so to be expected, but the other one who had come with us is also reasonably green, so I was quite impressed to see how she was going. Her rider is a confirmed hunter who was a little nervous about coming over to the dark side, but when I could steal a second from Sienna’s antics to watch how it was going, she was learning all about lateral work and it seemed to be going well.

I was impressed and grateful that our clinician mostly left me alone to sort out my horse. He gave me a few things to think about while I was doing so, but he didn’t try to dictate what I should do or how I should do it, just worked with the other two riders for the first few minutes till I located and installed Sienna’s brain. Which with lots of random figures and changing things up every few strides, I eventually did.

At which point he started to work with us. Instantly identified the key issue – which of course I was already aware of – and gave me some suggestions for dealing with it. One thing I was impressed with in the warmup was that he had each rider working independently and was able to focus the exercises according to the individual. You don’t see that too often in group scenarios.

So when it came time to jump we started with raised trotting poles on a circle, which of course Si can do in her sleep now. The other two were having some challenges with that though, so we had to wait a bit till they got sorted out. Then it was a wheel of death with two canter cavelleti. After a few rounds of this he called a halt and gave the group some pointers on how to more accurately hit the correct spot; then had us go again. Sienna was pretty much 100% on that, and we were told to stop after only a couple rounds. We occasionally got a little deep, but we were supposed to (idea being she wants to be long and low so put her a little deep so she comes up) so that was all good. When I have that much rideability in competition, I’ll be thrilled. For that matter, I was thrilled that with three horses cantering and jumping on a 20m circle, she was able to maintain her focus and keep listening to me. 6 mths ago, even thinking about such an exercise might’ve been disastrous!

From this we moved to the one-at-a-time exercises. The wheel of death was repositioned so that the jumps were on consecutive tangent points 3-4 strides apart (think X and just past K), then on the opposite side of the circle was a one stride gymnastic. Ride the circle, ride the gymnastic. This then grew to include a skinny that was on a bending line from the gymnastic.

Final exercise: wheel of death, gymnastic, left bending line to skinny, right rollback through the same gymnastic, wheel of death in reverse. This was all built up reasonably slowly. The only thing that was even slightly challenging for Si was making the turn on the reverse wheel of death – she wanted to go straight and fast and I was insisting on turn and collected. But she did it for me. And the second try was nearly perfect.

I would’ve preferred the gymnastic to have been bigger, so I could see if we could really land and balance in time for the skinny, since jumping fences as little as those were has very little effect on her. But since both the other riders were having difficulties with the exercise as it stood, that would’ve been inappropriate.

Overall though even though the exercise wasn’t particularly challenging for Miss Sienna, I was happy. I took her out, she had a complete meltdown, and she was able to recover from it. This bodes really well for show season and is such a huge step up for her. Of course in a perfect world we’d skip the meltdown step altogether, but I was pleased to see she could come back from it. And happy I wasn’t riding like an idiot which has certainly happened on occasion in the past >;-P She jumped beautifully and we got some good advice about things to work on to improve her jump
before we get to the level where we’ll need it.

And the brave hunter who visited the dark side? She learned a ton and had a both she and horse had a really positive experience. Maybe not a convert yet, but there’s hope >;-P


Post a Comment