This will be my final post on the clinic - and I'm leaving so much out, I feel terrible about it. But realistically I only have so much time to write and I'd like to start talking about where we are now, 10 days past the clinic.
Couple quick notes - KK asked about my saddle. Crissie checked it and it fits Smokey fine - although it may not in a few months, she said. It's an old big horn barrel saddle, via ebay. Light, sturdy, leather is not exactly in good shape (not even leather CPR made much of a dent). But the tree is solid and it fits.
I sold my other saddle (sob) at the clinic - to Robin. Her 45 pound roping saddle was hard on her older mare. She moved out much better with mine. Not knowing if it would ever fit Smokey, I couldn't justify keeping it and was relieved to find someone it could make happy. Not to mention that when Robin lifted it, she couldn't believe how light it was and nearly threw it over her horse completely.
Robin is on the right in this photo, and she's in the saddle in this picture.
Smokey and I discussed the options for our last day. To be honest I really didn't have another idea. I'd ask about collection.
I decided to ask largely because of something Mark said to K about her sorrel gelding. He noted that the gelding had underdeveloped hindquarters and riding more collected would help him use his body more effectively.
What could I do, or should I do, to ensure that this didn't happen with Smokey? Mark, gratefully, kept it simple. "Decide where you want his head and keep it there."
"Won't I be in his mouth all the time?" I asked.
"Isn't he in your hands?" her responded.
"Well, it's both, isn't it?"
Mark explained that I have to set the parameters and as long as I was fair and consistent - where he would find relief in carrying his head correctly, then he'd learn to use his body well.
So we got started. I was back to staring at my horse's ears, and quite quickly he was dropping his head and keeping it in the right place at the walk.
We headed out to practice under Crissie's watchful eye (she'd also helped us with standing still when I got in the saddle and our stops).
Pretty soon we were solid at the walk. So we stepped it up to the trot.
All of this was done with reins. Maybe because that's all Mark feels newbies can handle, maybe because he keeps things simple.
By the time we came back up to show Mark, we were cookin'.
The only thing we hadn't worked on at the clinic was cantering, but we'd come so far, it was time to take a collected victory lap and call it done.
So we did. At a trot.
We've had our adventures back home, where Smokey wasn't sure if all that stuff just applied in New Mexico. That first day riding at home we rode into the bushes. But that was the last of it. Smokey get's that this is the new normal. We're back to turning - as requested.
We still have a good bit of work to do to cement the clinic world although most everything is at the place it was when we left (after just a bit of regression).
Mainly we've got some speed issues at the canter - which turned into a gallop today ( more on that later, I'll be looking for advice).
But I'm not worried. I see our work coming together, our understanding growing and my ability to handle what gets thrown in the mix better than ever. I'm becoming the leader that's needed for this horse. I can breathe from my belly, ride with intention, feel my horse and, on occassion, stop with a mere thought.
If you get an opportunity, see Mark in action. Ride one of his clinics. Read any of his books (I have his latest Whole Heart, Whole Horse and got it signed by the clinic participants - it's great). He's not just an amzaing horseman - he's a great teacher, solid guitar player, and someone you'll be glad to share some time with.
(Auditors were invited to demos and dinner, by the way - pretty cool.)