In fact I wasn't sure if there was much left for me to work on. I felt Smokey had come such a long way I didn't want to overwhelm him. My support crew (Donna and Trail Rider) came up to me, clearly brimming with ideas. I could see that they had that fever in their eyes - auditor fever. The fever that had them thinking of what they'd want to ask if they were in the arena.
Both of them had the same suggestion. Collection.
"Do I even do that at this stage with a baby?" I asked. Heck, I just got my horse to stop and turn. Now we were getting all dressagey all of a sudden. I tried to ignore the panic in my stomach. I wasn't a good enough rider to start trying that!
"It'll be a good question," they said, smiling.
"I'll think about it."
That evening several people gathered for dinner at the home of E & J with Mark and Crissie. You know how you think you like someone who is teaching you, but you wonder if in real life they are really, actually, not so great to be around?
This was not like that. Not at all.
It was a great dinner, Mark played guitar, the group sang along, food was great, we shared stories about our trials on trails. Mark and Crissie were as easy going and accessible just as they were in the arena. I felt I had grown an entire group of friends that night. I didn't want the night to end. Donna and I headed out for the long drive back to the East Mountains, songs still soaring in our heads.
But the many late nights and early mornings caught up with us and we opted to sleep in a bit.
(Thanks to Val at Fantastyk Voyage for these photos)
When we arrived, things were well underway. The palomino was back, still in too much discomfort to do saddle work, but working on ground work.
K was tearing around the barrels in a collected fashion on her sorrel. I wasn't sure exactly what they were working on - I got the idea that it was shoulder control and getting off on the correct lead after the first turn. But there was much cheering going on.
But here's the last team I wanted to talk about. Patricia and her mare.
Patricia had come to the first day of the clinic a big fan of Mark. She didn’t have anything in particular she wanted to work on, but rather was just thrilled to be there. Still, even though she was possibly Mark’s biggest fan, it was ironic that they had the hardest time communicating at first. He was trying to get her to see that her focus was on the things that upset her horse, she was trying to finish telling him about that, he was moving past it and trying to get her to work differently, she was really unable to hear him.
Then, on the last day, it all came together.
One thing Mark says that really resonated with me is that someone has to be the adult. Maybe because this applies to my workplace too (frankly every workplace I’ve ever been in), but I found this to be a nice clear way of summing up all this work and talk about leadership.
Pat’s mare would get worried about something – the fire extinguisher. “It’s like the 500 pound gorilla in the room. You decide you aren’t going to worry about it,” said Mark. “Then you say ‘I’m not worried about that 500 pound gorilla. No, sir, that 500 pound gorilla is no big deal. We are just riding past that 500 pound gorilla. Nothing to be scared of a 500 pound gorilla. Yep. We are not worried about that 500 pound gorilla!’ and pretty soon that the only thing in the room.”
Instead you acknowledge and move past. Oh yeah, I see that, but we are on our way over here, so let’s just get that done.
That’s being the grown up.
But Pat also made a mistake I’ve made on many of my other horses. Not being understanding. It’s as if the pendulum swings in our mind and we decide if we just have them confront the darn thing they will get over it. Well, you don’t get someone over their fear of tarantulas by dumping a bucket of them on their head.
So much of our mistakes with horses, or at least mine, come from seeing the goal and presuming we can get there by merely going from A to B. But for the horse we are really going from A to Q. We either don’t handle the situation in a way that builds confidence (dumping tarantulas on the person’s head while others hold them in place is just force and probably increases fear of the next thing – including those who took this approach in the first place), or we handle it through subtle and ongoing avoidance (can’t go outside because I saw a tarantula there last week and she freaked out, remember?).
Confidence building takes time and patience mixed with firmness and kindness.
On this, the last day of the clinic, things clicked for this team. Mark got Pat to stop over thinking and just DO. She had never cantered on her horse. So he did a game with her, sending her to different areas of the arena. She had to just respond and go. At first they were off at a trot, since that’s generally what she’s asked from her mare, but he pushed them to pick it up an GO.
When it was over, Pat was breathless and beaming. I was beyond thrilled for her. She had gone from being disenchanted the day before to having he entire experience exceed what she thought was possible. In three days they had worked on collection, confidence, and cantering.
And they had been transformed.
I was really looking forward to the afternoon. Especially since Val and Lisa were there to watch and provide moral support.