The past week plus since the Jim Wofford clinic has been full of "ah ha" moments for Kiki, but not without a little bit of western behavior along the way. As of right now I'm feeling good and confident, but have also come to realize that a bit of a change up is in order to proceed best with Kiki's training.
To put it short, we've hit a cusp. We've gotten to the point where she is obedient and quiet in her "basic" work--walk/trot/canter and plopping around over low jumps--even at shows now. This is a great thing and shows huge progress from her as a young horse, where it was pretty unpredictable as to whether she would decide to "throw her toys out of the pram" at the show, as the Brits like to say (aka have a total meltdown).
When I try to push her a little further, however, and really bring out her HUGE latent athleticism, especially in the dressage, we've hit a wall. I had a great lesson with Kim today with her where it became really clear that she has all the pieces and more to be a really great horse (Kim was seriously impressed with her and said that she has the potential to be as good on the flat as Ringo someday, which is certainly high praise in my book!!), but is facing a block when it comes to the canter that is just going to take good old fashioned time and patience to overcome. Kim gave me some wonderful tools and great confidence that I'm doing the right thing, but just need to keep confronting her about it (without getting angry or mean) in order to break through and enter into the next level of her training.
Basically when I ask her to canter at the moment, she goes from being calm and thinking to herself "I can!" to a little frantic and thinking to herself, "I not only can't, but I don't want to either!" Asking her to stick with it currently results in some fairly mega tantrums that range from bolting, to rooting, to literally throwing herself against the walls of the indoor (klassy). But, when she gets it, she really gets it!
So it's just going to take time, patience, and commitment on my part (and hopefully as much help from Kim as I can get!). I'm going to take a step back and start incorporating more lunging into our weekly routine to get her feeling more confident in her own balance without her having to worry about me flopping around on her back. Kim also suggested long lining, which I know she knows how to do but that I admit (somewhat sheepishly) I've never done before, and so might also give a try if I can get the guts up. Under saddle, we're going to spend a lot more time in canter than we have been, not necessarily grinding on her but just chilling there so that she starts to realize that the canter isn't something that she grits her teeth (literally), holds her breath, and tries to just survive through.
The nuts and bolts effect of this realization is that I've decided to withdraw her from GMHA and Richland. She has proven that she knows what shows are about and can be a good civilized pony at them, but in the meantime isn't ready to be competitive at the level I want to compete her at. She is so special that I don't see that reason in using her miles up at shows where she's not yet ready to be a star.
I've been pondering this decision for a while now and have worried that I was doing it because I was feeling chicken (which has been true in the past), but I honestly don't think that's the case here. I've been approaching Kiki that way I approached my career with Dually, which just doesn't make sense. Dually was already experienced and ready to show when I started eventing him, and I needed to push myself to go out and show even when I felt a bit scared sometimes in order to build my own confidence and show experience. Now with Kiki it's me that is the more experienced member of the partnership, and I don't need to be going out showing just for the sake of getting my own experience or chasing ribbons. Now that the groundwork has been lain in terms of getting her settled and workmanlike at the shows, I need to take as much time as she needs to bring her from her current "sleeper athlete" (where glimmers of her awesomeness appear and are almost as quickly lost) to just "athlete."
I'm bummed because this means that I won't be getting out on cross country soon, but I feel good in my decision. This just means that I'll be looking forward to my next cross country round that much more!!