Sunday, September 30, 2012


About a month ago one of my Mom's old students contacted me saying she would be in the area this weekend and she wanted to come to our barn. So after doing the appies feet, her Mom dropped her off to spend the day with us. It was like the time we had not seen her had not even happen. We quickly settled into conversation while grooming the horses. The only horse she knew from before was DaVinci and she saw how different he is now. He was roaming the barn while I groomed him and they worked on the girls. Kathleen was so impressed with how quiet he stayed. Once we sorted out what tack each horse would use, we all tacked one horse. I figured I would have to put DaVinci into his stall, but he stood still as I put his saddle on. Then he followed me, waited for me to put my helmet on before putting on his bridle. Five years ago, he would become stiff and nervous if we even approached him with tack so the change was wonderful. He and I walked out to the arena with a step ladder so we would be able to switch horses later.
Kathleen started out on Dottie. Dottie can read people well and would give us a good idea as to where her skill level is now.
Dottie was already relaxing
She was a little tentative at first riding Dottie, but after mom told her to get her moving the ride got better. She got Dottie moving through her back and rounding. Eventually Mom told her she could ask for canter. Dottie lifted her shoulders but could not complete the transition. With more encouragement she did pick up canter only to run into a stiff resistance from Kathleen. I have never seen someone so stiff in her hips and back. Once we recognized her problem, she was able to keep Dottie cantering better. Kathleen we found looked good on a horse, but did not know how to be effective when needed. The best aspect of Kathleen is that she took our guidance and improved greatly. Plus she asked relevant questions.
Now she was ready to try Rosemary. If her stiffness did not relax, Rosemary would not give her that big wonderful walk so this would be telling. Rosemary is also good at recognizing who is riding her and behaves for new people.
Kathleen and Rosemary
Mom did a few stretches to loosen her hips that seemed to help. Rosemary walked out covering ground. Kathleen was great about handling the fact that Rosemary does not steer well, but still making her move on at the trot.
Not bad for her first ride :)
While Kathleen worked Rosemary, Mom rode DaVinci doing lots of lateral work. She asked him to lengthen across the diagonal. At first he got fast, but just as I put the camera away DaVinci did an awesome lengthening. He was round and forward and happy. Even Kathleen saw his joy. And boy did he have a great canter which I felt when I rode him. He is an amazing horse. I rode Dottie and got an awesome canter out of her. She had those great happy floppy ears. Then she was like "Are we cantering again?" I love when my horses offer more and are happy doing it.
Then it came time for Kathleen's final exam: DaVinci. We told her he is sensitive and that tension would not go well with him.
Kathleen and DaVinci
She walked him well and even trotted. Then he got fast and she tried to use reins instead of weight aids to slow him. Wrong answer for him. The situation never got out of control and she never got tense. Completely different from when the college girls tried to ride him. After a chat with mom and I,  she tried again. She trotted, then DaVinci smoothly picked up canter. I did not realize at first that it was not her idea. We told her to half halt with the outside rein and saw that she was using too much inside rein, so told her to soften that arm. She initially pulled the rein back, but we talked her through rolling her shoulders back and down for the half halt. She also had the tendency to lean back, which is counter productive since it drives the horse forward.
See her shoulders and inside rein
During all this excitement DaVinci took it all in stride. He never got bent out of shape or tense. Yeah he inverted but that was to be expected. Changing direction kept him at the trot and gave her time to figure things out.
Moving better
Then she worked canter again with better results.
Happy pony
I do not know if Kathleen realizes how much she achieved with her ride on DaVinci. She did more than most people and she improved her aids so much. Seeing DaVinci so happy without tension even with a new rider made me ecstatic.
My horses were wonderful during the round robin and never got cranky. We let them all munch on their hay while we took Roscoe out to work. He was so quiet we had to look to make sure he had not been possessed. Kathleen was impressed as he figured out going over 3 trot poles for the first time and when we let him loose to move around. He of course put on his cutest face and gained another admirer. Winston showed his talent at clearing a hay bag and his cute face.

He was chewing on his bit in every picture
Then we decided to hook Rosemary up to the cart and take Kathleen for a drive. This was the first time we have driven her without Peggy, so we kept her on the lead line. Rosemary did not question working again and happily settled. She trotted up hills, supported the cart down hill and walked out so well I had trouble keeping up. When we got back to the arena, I drove her solo for the first time. She was great and did not take advantage of me at all.
As we walked her back to the barn we saw a bunch of vehicles taking up the drive way. There was just enough room to unhook her from the cart. Once we turned the horses out, then came the fun part. I had to move our truck so my mom could drive my car through the barn. The guests' cars had us completely blocked in and the only way to leave was to go through the pastures. I told Kathleen we were showing her the scenic route out of the barn. Luckily the horses were too busy eating and did not try to go through the gates with the car.
What an end to a wonderful day. My horses were super, well behaved and happy. Man, what a high.


  1. Sounds like a fantastic day.
    Sounds like you guys got a great improvement out of Kathleen, it sounded like she was riding lot better by the end of the day.

    1. As soon as she got home, she applied what she learned to the new horse she is riding. We got as much out of it as she did. I love watching certain people ride my horses :)