I still need to recap my semi crappy lesson from last week where I seemed to forget how to ride, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.
On Saturday, Batty, my friend Sandra, and I decided on a whim to head over to Blue Goose for a cavaletti clinic with the stable owner Darcy. She was nice enough to let the 2 of us split the session and the whole thing just seemed super casual and a fun way to spend a Saturday morning. All media is either my own paint diagrams or videos of Sandra riding. Warning this post is super long.
For those of you who don’t know, Batts used to HATE poles. I mean, HATE, HATE, HATE poles. He’d stop at them, duck out. If he’d go over them, he’d jump them like they were 4 feet high. If you’d have told me 7 years ago that I’d be taking him to a cavaletti clinic, I’d have told you you were insane. But, thanks to one boarding facility were he had to cross a pole daily to get to food and water, he quickly got over some of his fear. The rest dissipated over time. Now ground poles aren’t too bad. Ground lines are something to look at, but poles, no big deal.
One thing I did NOT do was give him any bute or lunge him. He’s been SO SOUND and loose lately that I didn’t think to do anything. Friday night was really cold and I’d had a lot of mud… As a result, he was super stiff and it took him a long time to loosen up. But, we did push through. He gave NO indication that he did NOT want to work. This horse will always tell you when he doesn’t want to do anything. He was ears forward and curious and willing the entire time. But, I could have prepped him a little better… Mostly just with some lunging…. My fault. It’s winter and he loosens so much better and faster without a rider on his back (He’s a little off, especially to the right but he’s OK to work and is more comfortable the more he works).
So we arrived and thankfully I was able to follow another trailer in to the field or else I would have turned down the driveway and discovered the gate was closed and would have had to back down the driveway like another trailer… Signs people. But thanks to leaving later than planned, I had a nice trailer to follow and was able to park in the field as planned. We tacked up and headed down to the ring with 4 other horses, all of whom knew Darcy. We were the odd ones out.
We started with just a simple exercise of trotting over one pole turning to the left at the end of the arena and then ultimately trotting over other pole turning right towards the end and coming back up through the center and repeating.
Poles were added and we continued alternating which direction we turned coming up off the center.
Then more poles were added and we continued alternating not only up the sides but up and down as well. We were allowed to pass the side by side as well.
Batty and I had some issues with multiple poles and we were trying to jump them at times rather than just trot. He wasn’t JUMPING, but jumping. The issue stemmed from me as I would tilt slightly as the base of the pole and Batts would take this as a cue to be enthusiastic and jump rather simply trot. To change this, I needed to sit deeper and engage my core and pull my shoulders deep to encourage him too trot rather than jump. I also was told to stop looking so far ahead and to look down at the pole one pole ahead since we were trotting them and not jumping. The combination of these too things really worked and we soon trotting through without issue. Darcy very quickly asked though if I were a hunter rider… Um… Yes…
At one point early on, one of the horses took off bucking and unseated her rider. We all halted and though she came super close to Batt, Batty just looked at horse with a look that said, “Why the hell would you work that hard? Are you insane?” That’s my horse. Why join in antics when you can just stand. I think I was holding the buckle why we were halted…
The last exercise I rode was more of the same with some diagonals thrown in. I wasn’t sure HOW Batty would take it. I screwed up the directions the first time and got lost (what a shock!). Basically, we headed over the sets of 3 poles heading toward the barn/sheds turned right went over the diagonal pole shoot thing turned and went up the center line.
The horses were a little tense going through the diagonal part so we were encouraged to scratch their withers to keep them calm and them make a fuss on the landing side. Batt was a star considering he’s done NONE of this (I mean, he’s done poles, but nothing this hard). I was complimented for my ability to keep him slow and not tense up on the reins. Once I figured out the body position thing, I didn’t need to be told again. I’m pretty good about having super soft hands.
At this point, Sandra hopped on and ran him through the 2 poles and 3 poles while Darcy swapped the course (she asked me how Sandra rode and I said semi similar which is true-ish). She mostly just commented to Sandra on making sure she helps him out by lifting him up some–Sandra’s long rein weakness.
Their exercise was completely different. Focused on straightness. Basically, it was a long line of poles both to go over and through. As the end there were 4 pieces of lumber forming an X. The needed to cross the center of the X and then continue trotting over the remaining poles. This was BEYOND what Batts has EVER seen or done.
This horse was a star. He struggled in places but made it through (especially the X part). It took few times but eventually he did it without any canter steps. We were proud. At first Sandra clucked at places, but Darcy explained just to close your leg/thigh instead as clucking introduces more stimulation that he doesn’t need. He was MUCH better without the cluck. But, clucking is so ingrained!
The last exercise (after everyone turned down the option to down something at the canter) was just for Sandra. Everyone else left the ring, but luckily Batty doesn’t care. It was just another straightness exercise but without the x part and more poles to go over. He did it SO well the first time that we called it a day there.
We chatted for a few minutes after mostly about Batty and his history and how she could see his wheels turning. You could see how much fun he had and we both said we’ll do this again (though we’ll probably each do a separate clinic) — she’s doing winter clinics at Pink Ribbon Farm in Oxford. He reached confident and fun, but not cocky and bored.
All and all and really fun morning. Can’t wait to do another one! I liked Darcy’s teaching style too. While it was more about the exercises here, I got some nice tips that I can definitely use. Batty liked the farm too which was definitely a plus!