Monday, August 8, 2011

Kiki Comes to Jesus, and We Have a Change of Plans

First off, if you happened to see a post about my average day in photos this morning, only to have it mysteriously vanish at around 9am, that would be because I meant to post it to my other blog (which has been seriously thirsty for some content of late) but in my foggy 8am state I accidentally published it here. If you want to see it, check out my other blog.

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!!


Suzie said...

I approve.

Sarah said...

Katherine, I read your blog all the time and sometimes it's hard not to feel totally embittered and jealous of your horses and your training and your travels, but you're just so dang decent and such a thoughtful horseperson that in the end I can't help but be happy for you. Sounds like you've made another wise decision on behalf of your equine charges, nice work :)

Deered said...

Silly comment from someone who's horses had never been in an indoor and an arena was just a part of the paddock with hopefully a straight dressage arena roped off!
How does she work (especially at the canter) if you take her out into a large paddock/field and do some flat work there and do canter work in REALLY big circles 50-60meter/yard diameter.
I had an OTTB that threw her toys (I can't believe that's not a common phrase in the US) That couldn't handle cantering for a while, so we worked on big circles and making them smaller, more collected and more balanced over time. When she didn't feel 'confined' she worked much better... so I spray pained the outline of a 40 x20m dressage arena on the short grass and got her working in that then added the area ropes once I knew she could work inside the space allowed.

Katherine Erickson said...

Hi Deered,
I actually already do flatwork out in our big field once or twice a week and it doesn't make much of a difference. It's not so much the confined space of the arena (which at home for me isn't even that confined - my arena is fairly large and has no border fence, so it feels very much part of the larger field) but the moments when I try to put more pressure on her that she currently acts up. But since our field has a small grade on it, it definitely will be useful in building strength and loving forward!

Katherine Erickson said...

*moving forward. Silly phone :)

Andrea said...

Gogo went through the same thing at her age. Just wait til the other side, it will be sooooo worth it ;)

Suzanne said...

Nice thoughtful decisions... I'll be sorry to see you leave Area 1.
You go girl!

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