Monday, July 6, 2009

First Day Done!

Day one - so far, so good!
And what a great day - I just love that little horse of mine!

Our first session was a private dressage lesson with Sylva Martin. I tend to be a bit exclusive with my dressage instruction and rarely venture away from an instructor once I settle on them, so this morning was a big test for us. And it was wonderful! Aside from Sylva being lovely and really pushing Katchi and me into a new level of our work - it was a huge triumph for us to have ready to be pushed on. It is a great credit to my instructor, Elizabeth Madlener, that Katchi has come so far that he just took on this new challenge with skill and confidence. Now, that being said - wow, did Sylva work us! I had watched the first lesson of the day to try to get an idea of what I might be in for - the first rider rode for about 20 minutes to warm-up, took a quick break, then really went to work for another 20 minutes. My break never came! I am SO glad I've stepped up my "running" (for anyone who knows me, you know, I am only a wannabe runner). Funny enough, that dressage lessoon took more out of my lungs than our entire galloping session later in the afternoon! Right, so, back to the lesson - I told Sylva that my dressage tests pretty consistently say, "needs more energy from behind" - yea, we got that today! Katchi worked his little butt off! Sylva said "he must finish each step" - I liked that. It sort of put a visual in my head to push his hind legs all the way through until they hit the ground - maybe it's a bit like when you throw a basketball, you're supposed to follow the ball all the way through the hoop with your eyes, hands and wrists. Okay, admittedly, definitely not a basketball player either, but there seems to be something there??

We had a few hours off in the middle of the day before our session with Jennie Brannigan and Ryan Wood on galloping position and pace. We started with Jennie, who shared some very valuable insight she learned from Mark Phillips earlier this year. Jennie was very humble about her experiences with Mark - who apparently has much to say about galloping positions! Amazing how you can be an advanced level eventer and still have many things to learn - certainly makes you feel a bit better about competing Novice and not being perfect!! Jennie had us shorten our stirrups and really get comfortable letting our weight come out of our heels and into the balls of our feet, while straightening the angles in our knees, and using a bridged rein to push down against the horses's neck - all with the purpose of letting us work a little less hard and free up our horse's back and balance to let him be more efficient and free while galloping. We were all a bit awkward at first, but by the end, we were very thankful for Jennie's tips which really did seem to save a bit of energy.

Jennie then passed the instructor torch to Ryan Woods who helped us transfer the work Jennie did with us into smoothe and accurate paces around Phillip's one horse-width track. We started going around the 800m track at 400m/min, without the benefit of a watch. The first rider in our group came in exactly on time! Wow, that was a tough act to follow! Katchi and I came in 7 seconds fast - which only figures to be about 2 seconds at each 30 second marker, so not too bad without a watch! Next we went around again, same pace - with a watch. Much better! For our third time around, the other two riders (whose horses were a bit eager) stayed at 400 mpm. Katchi and I went around at 450 mpm and made it right on the target time! It was an absolutely beautiful day, and I cannot tell you how fun it was to spin around the track with my lovely horse! Everyone was all smiles - including Katchi!

Okay, one side-note on today - now, when I was a young rider, we had TWO - yes, TWO guys who evented in all of Area V. Today, in wandering around Phillip's and watching his riders work horses, I just want to ask - where did Phillip find all these guys?? Whatever the application process is to work with Phillip, I hope he keeps it up! I had this inner struggle all day today between whether I should be looking at the spectacular horse floating around the arena (normally the obvious choice!) or the equally interesting guy up top . Seriously where does Phillip find these guys?! Australia?! Oh right, that must be it!

The day ended with a demonstration by Devecoux about saddle design and fitting - complete with wine and cheese - and a free hat! If I get nothing else out of this clinic (ha!), I've already got two great hats!

A few pictures from today are below - the mound jump, indoor dressage arena, and a few shots from the galloping session. Thanks to my mom for taking pictures and babysitting Katchi and the grass today - he seems to have developed a new technique for avoiding the not-good grass and focusing on the clover. We're all relieved.
Tomorrow will be a big day for Katchi - at 9:30 he is scheduled to have his one-on-one with Phillip, which will include Phillip taking him for a spin! I suspect Katchi will do a bit of growing up tomorrow by 10:00 AM!

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