WELL. Remember how I spent my first week in Aiken soaking up unending sunshine and glorious 70º days? Well now I'm stuck just remembering it too, because we've had nothing of the sort for the better part of the last week! The weather has turned decidedly poisonous, and it was even warmer up home in Carlisle a few days ago than it was here. Needless to say, I'm feeling far less clever about escaping to the "sunny" south of late than I did when I first got down here.
(Kim Severson on the high-flying Fantasy Impromptu)
Fortunately, the sun did come out yesterday just in time for another round of the USET Training Sessions, this time with show jumping specialist Katie Prudent. I managed to nip out for the morning sessions before coming back to ride my own, and it was seriously worth the trip. Katie was audible (a HUGE advantage over Captain Phillips) and really made her opinions known. If she didn't like something, we all heard about it QUICKLY and LOUDLY. I really felt like I learned a lot, though I'm not sure I would necessarily enjoy taking a lesson from her myself.
(Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda)
I got to watch three group lessons. In each, Katie set up slightly different exercises that all tested the same basic principle: the need to be able to control the horse's length of stride. Most groups started out, after some intensive flatwork, over poles on the ground, trying to fit increasingly collected numbers of strides in. I thought about my triumph of cantering between two poles on Kiki without having her totally lose her sh** and realized how very, very we have to go together!!
Then, they moved on to jumping lines and some short courses, all with the same focus on accuracy and adjustability. Katie accepted absolutely nothing but the best from the horses and the riders, and was very clear in the sort of results she wanted. I really appreciated the clarity of her vision and her ability to give the riders enough guidance to properly execute what she wanted to see.
(Jennie Brannigan on Walkabout, who was a bit of a wild man but who I seriously liked)
I would definitely say that these lessons seemed tougher on the horses than the lessons with Captain Phillips had been. Those private lessons had often lasted just around twenty minutes and been tailored exactly to an issue the rider wanted to work on. They would jump just enough to get the result they wanted, and then quit with the horses feeling relaxed and happy. I'd actually been really happily surprised with how well they'd seem to have gone.
(Kim Severson on Wiley Post, a horse I loved at the last training session but who seemed a little unglued yesterday)
In contrast, the lessons yesterday were not custom-tailored to any one rider but required them all to fit their ride into what Katie wanted to see that day. The horses were pushed very hard, and I think sometimes got confused or a little panicked throughout the course of the lesson. I definitely didn't see anyone leaving as relaxed and happy as they did from the Captain Phillips lesson. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing -- sometimes a lesson needs to be a little rattling to really bring the horse and rider up to the next level -- but it was very interesting to note the different teaching styles at play.
(Will Faudree and Pawlow)
After a few hours, it was back to the farm to ride and run for the day. Both ventures are going well, though we've been spending a lot more time hacking out on the road than anything recently because of all the foul weather. Here's to some more sunshine in the near future!