I really was not prepared for how this experience would stretch and test my horsemanship. I'm pleased to say that Cricket was a total rock star even when I wasn't.
One of my biggest issues in riding with a group is Cricket's intense defensiveness of her space. She pins her ears, can lunge and has wheeled to kick. It looks aggressive but I know better. Cricket is so overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of me because for so long I was such a poor leader from the saddle.
On the first day of camp, I mounted up and we were in the arena with about 35 other horses. After a brief walk to warm up, we moved out into a crazy forward trot and made our way all around the arena, weaving through horses in various stages of saddling, cinching, warm-up etc. It was crazy! And Cricket was amazing because my focus was on going somewhere and taking us through the "minefield." I won't say we were perfect every day - she did pin her ears and she nearly kicked the little Gypsy Vanner - but on the whole she was INCREDIBLE!
Another issue we have is trail riding. We went out twice, wending our way down paths that had been mowed in the hay field. The first outing was strictly walk, with most of the camp group, and we went down to a small obstacle course. Cricket handled every thing I asked like an absolute pro. Having never done an "in and out" she was one of the few horses to take it completely in stride. Some of the "seasoned trail horses" refused to go in or rushed the exit but not my rock star pony! We passed on the "scootch hill" - I'm still a little freaked out by hills. Maybe next year?
I had a session about re-shimming my saddle. We stripped it down to just a center foam shim and I love it! By the third day, Cricket was noticeably less defensive about girthing and by the last day she was actually nudging the pad and saddle towards her back. Pretty cool!
I have some brief notes - some thoughts collected through the days but most are from the last day.
- Phase 4 means "game over" - you get one touch and then it's back to phase 1
- If your leg = go, use lateral flexion then disengage, then return to lateral flexion. When you do, change your energy AND your body position . . . neutral, active, neutral (e.g. sit back up - I kept missing this step and wondered why Cricket wouldn't return to lateral flexion)
- Circle game send - weight should be on the back leg; weight on the front leg=attack and causes your horse to come in and through you vs. out and onto the circle
- If your horse is moving, stop driving!
- Use rockslide, falling leaf, etc as purpose - get the energy up or as point to point; don't do it "just because"
- Under saddle, once you get the stretch, do something with it - snakey bends, etc.
- Circle game: energy for upward transition can be 180/90 behind the horse OR behind the drive line (for the more technical folks!)
- If you can cause your horse to engage, he'll offer incredible things.
- You need respect (the appropriate response to pressure) before you can truly activate "the game."
- "Feel of, feel for, feel together" can easily get lost in the complacency of familiarity
- There is not a brace that doesn't affect EVERYTHING you do with your horse
I signed up again for next year. I hope it works out so I can go . . .