We started the lesson off by evaluating my saddle and shim pattern. I've been considering a Parelli saddle for a while now especially after having committed to attending the Fast Track and becoming serious about my career with horses. Jenny was gracious enough to let me try her Fluidity saddle on Aspen and let me ride in it for the lesson. I knew I'd love the saddle and I figured it would be way more comfortable on Aspen than the saddle I'd been using but I had no idea how big of a change I'd feel. The Parelli saddle didn't just help me get onto my balance point and stay there it cradled me on Aspen and in addition to the saddle hugging her back I felt like I was as well. The connection I could feel to Aspen through the saddle was incredible. I have never felt the horse so purely through a saddle - ever! I could feel her breathing, her ribs under me, I could feel when each hoof came off the ground and where it was. I felt more than ever that I was finally moving WITH her and I wasn't just on her and moving a little as a symptom of riding. Aspen was more willing to go forward and really started blowing out and taking big, deep breaths. A few times she even tried lifting her back and pushing into the saddle, elongating her stride, and stretching through her topline. It felt wonderful and everyone was was watching said it looked beautiful. Also, that nasty behavior she had when I'd push my hand into her mane for mounting or dismounting was greatly reduced to the point of nearly disappearing once she realized that the saddle wasn't going to pinch her withers when the rider leaned forward. We played with more correct hand position for me in my direct and indirect reins and partial disengagements with Aspen at the trot to help loosen her up, encourage her head to come down, and change to a walk. I am ecstatic to have found a saddle that will work perfectly for us, but a little sad that I now don't have anything to ride with currently. I guess it will just be lots of bareback riding for us - that's a warmer option anyway in this colder, crisper weather we've been having. I am in the market for a GP Fluidity Saddle now, she's on the cusp of the Standard and a Super Wide so I am considering both sizes, and will be looking at seat sizes of 17" or 17.5" for me. Prefer brown color saddle and would love to buy all the fittings with it.
Before getting on we played a little on the ground where Jenny discussed a few very interesting topics. One of the students had a mild LBE mare that was giving quite the attitude on-line on a circle. Jenny played with the mare and stuck with the circling game for a LONG time looking for rhythm, relaxation, connection, and EXPRESSION on this dominant mare. She talked about why the circling game is so important, especially for what horsenality types. Then she introduced the idea for the first time to me that at some point on a circle Z1 and Z5 meet! Z1 extends in front of the horse for a mile and Z5 behind the horse for a mile, on a circle the zones undoubtedly meet... How interesting! How many times did I think I was talking to Z1 when I was actually 'touching' Z5?? This was very important for me when considering influencing Aspen's zones in changes of gait and/or direction.
When playing with Aspen we decided to work some on the figure-8, a great pattern for any horse, especially more RB horses. Occasionally I struggle with missing Aspen in the change of direction and she'll blast right by me so Jenny had me back up to the fence so there was less opportunity for Aspen to run by if I backed on a more diagonal line toward the fence it helped cause her to find it easier to head back through the markers in the center on pattern. As she came with more rhythm around one marker and committed to making the change of direction and heading through the center of the pattern we then rewarded her at X. Therefore teaching her the sweet spot wasn't necessarily coming into me but in the middle of the pattern helping her look around her turn and keeping up her momentum. I also needed to keep more life in my body to help encourage and match her energy as well as use my stick LESS. When I did use it I tagged the spot I didn't want her to be in that she just left so she knew that was an uncomfortable spot to stall in. I was really surprised with how long we could play on one pattern and how much more fluid it got after numerous repetitions. I also learned to use a more direct feel on her halter and to associate it with a firm handshake and clear direction rather than a limp handshake and perhaps misunderstood direction. I was surprised that after spending all that time on the figure-8 that all of a sudden her backup had so dramatically improved. She'll always back out with a phase-1 to the end of her rope but now she was marching backward, straight, and with a positive expression. Her hips and shoulders also became much lighter as I could just rock them back and forth with just barely any driving pressure from me. HOW INTERESTING! I am still trying to soak on that for a while and connect the figure-8 work we did to an amazing, awesome back up and driving game. So cool!
I wish I had this lesson on video. I have so many thoughts about it all and I'm trying to burn in my brain every moment of it. On one hand all we did was very simple, but on the other hand everything was so profound that I don't want to forget or miss any of it!
Because Aspen was so great yesterday and I had her out for a total of 7 hours (not playing the whole time!) I decided to do something she'd like to do so we just hung out and grazed in the pasture for about an hour. There's no grass left in her paddock so the knee deep grass and alfalfa field is a special treat for her. I felt very good about our time today and feel really bonded to this special horse. :) :)
|Jenny with Aspen playing on the figure-8|
|My beautiful mare in the Parelli Fluidity Saddle|
|Here's the firm handshake, a clear "go right!".|
|Aspen a little worried here but working through it.|
|Left to Right: Ron & Gypsy, Jenny with Cinder, and Melanie.|
|My beautiful Aspen today in the pasture :)|
|Aspen and I :) Emma took this picture for us.|