Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7/1-2/2017: GP Trainer Comes to Town

**We're still looking into what's wrong with Penn- we think we've pinpointed it but we're waiting for bloodwork to come back. Until then, I'm going to post other stuff.**

Like cats eating gnomes.

The last few weeks of June were a whirlwind of prep- GP Trainer was coming to our barn to teach a 2-day clinic and was staying at my house instead of a hotel. Husband and I took care of all of the outside stuff that we'd been meaning to do: cut new flower bed lines to make it easier for him to mow, pull weeds, put down mulch.

Fresh flower bed lines and mowed grass!

My house finally got the spring cleaning it deserved too- Mom came over and between the two of us, we washed, scrubbed, wiped, and dusted EVERYTHING the day before GP Trainer arrived. I clean sporadically (I spend too much time at the barn), and so everything in the house needed to be freshly cleaned. I was just disappointed that two of the projects we started earlier weren't done: the living room update (my house has good bones and 50s style), and the gutters that were damaged by the tree that fell on the house (the contractor will be here end of July/beginning of August to put all new gutters on the whole house).

BO got the farm ready- endless mowing and more sand for the indoor. OMG the indoor is so nice now! They spent an entire day or two dragging it though- there's some lingering deep spots near X, but for the most part the footing is LOVELY!

I was first up to ride on Saturday. GP Trainer confirmed that we were all qualified for Championships (check), then asked what the plan was for the rest of the year. I said I had been playing with Penn's changes, and that I'd really like to finish my bronze this year. I stressed that I only wanted to ride 3-1 since I know his canter is not really up to par for canter half pass. She actually agreed we could do that! And there would be plenty of time to get him put back together for first level championships in September, so now is a good time. I told her I was planning on trying it at two local schooling shows before recognized- the one has a very generous judge (to give me some confidence) and the other will give me a more realistic view on where he's at.

We warmed up and she commented on how much stronger he looked than he did in May. I always like hearing those comments. I try so hard to do my homework, and every time I see her she's always saying how much further along he is.

We did more of the same work we've done in the past- reviewing the laterals and me trying not to throw him into them, using 10m canter circles to find a slow collected canter, and then we got into some new territory- flying changes! It came with the disclaimer of "He's not quite ready, but if you're going to try them, you may as well encourage them to be clean eventually." Haha!

To start (this is almost direct, word for word from the video), and explanation of the exercise and the reasoning:
  • Collected canter from our circle work (20m circle with 10m circles at the points)
  • Ride shoulder fore at the canter (no crazy angle) down the long wall, then change it to the idea of renvers. Shoulders to the inside, but haunches and nose looking out.
  • Sliding the inside leg back to achieve this, which is very similar to the cue for a flying change. If he offers any part of a change, good bad or ugly, no problem. Walk, reorganize, canter again.
  • The challenge to the changes is that the horse has to be incredibly itchy to change and incredibly level, all at the same time. We want to tease him, just a little bit.
  • Renvers positioning makes it easier for him to change clean, but he also has to be patient.

Then directions in the work:
  • Slide the inside leg back, allow with the inside hand.
  • No swinging my body in, stay in the middle of him.
  • Don't let the canter change!
  • Keep the haunches on the same line as they were in shoulder fore (I kept putting him on a steeper angle after thinking renvers).
  • Very little angle! We're talking inches here, not feet.
  • Eventually be able to apply a half halt to hock him back while in renvers, and be able to let go and let him carry himself.

To do the flying changes:
  • Bring him onto the diagonal in the idea of renvers.
  • Big half halt, ask, touch with stick if needed.

The right to left change ended up a bit "superman"-like. Penn wants to lurch and leap through the change, so GP Trainer directed to make it quite up and down. Obviously that's not the final end result we want, but he has to learn not to lurch through them first. We took a short break and then went to the left with the shoulder-fore to renvers feeling. I cut out some of the good lateral practice work in the below video, only because Penn really needed a break and I was editing on my phone and it cut the video to 2:24 minutes from like 6 min, lol.

GP Trainer told me a while ago that the more difficult flying change, pirouette, etc would end up being the easier one in the end. The left to right has always been more difficult (I think because he struggles with the organization of the left lead), and yet since this lesson, the left has proven to be the quieter change. Still more difficult to get, but quieter.

Saturday night we had a grill and BBQ party featuring the farm's organic black pasture hog in burger, sausage, and pulled pork form. One of the highlight foods were the "adult fruit" aka apples and watermelon soaked in I believe vodka and tequila respectively. The party was a lot of fun! GP Trainer and I peaced out a bit early though- she'd been up for a long time and we had to be up early the next day to come back, and it's a 40 min drive back to my house.

I'd share the group pics we got took, but kids under 18 are front and center and I don't want to basically feature them on a blog. Just imagine like 20 people sitting down one very long table while raising red solo cups and smiling their heads off.

My lesson Sunday was a lot of the same trot and canter work from the day before, sans changes, and very similar to videos I've already shared. We quickly found that Penn was running out of gas, which was a reason we didn't touch the changes at all. All of the sit work from Saturday showed on Sunday and he was pretty tired. All the horses that did day one were pretty tired on day two!

We took it easy on him and quit a little early, and I took him for a walk on the trail as a reward. He almost stepped on a turkey hen hiding in the brush though. It blasted out from under him and he was rightly surprised. He was so tired though, he barely hopped away!

The clinic was filled to the brim- 10 rides each day! I watched them all (or all that I could since it was hard for me to watch rides directly before and after my own lessons), while running and fetching GP Trainer anything she needed. A common theme for all of the lessons on both days were working from the inside leg to the outside rein, but everyone had improved by the end of their 45 minutes.

So tired!

GP Trainer got an overwhelmingly positive response, with auditors and riders alike asking, "When is she coming back?" So I'm pleased to announce she'll be back Dec 2-3 for some winter shenanigans! Of course I'll see her before then, but it will be nice to get a tune up at home before she leaves for Florida!


  1. That's so cool that you can work with GP trainer at home too! And sounds like not only did you have a productive ride, but everybody else did too! Sorry to hear something is going on with Penn, hopefully the bloodwork comes back ASAP and helps you get him sorted out.

    1. Yes! We're hoping to have her up to our barn every 4 months. I'd like her up more often, but the barn owner would like to have other trainers in as well (so we have someone coming in every 2 months). It was a very productive weekend for everyone, which is nice!

      Right now, Penn's suspected problem isn't preventing him from doing his job, but it will be a problem if we let it go. It is perfectly treatable once confirmed, albeit expensive. Either way, if his blood work comes back the way we think, I should be able to toss money at him and he'll be just fine!

  2. So awesome! Penn's canter is looking so much stronger too!

  3. Very cool to have her at your barn and you guys look amazing!! I'd really hoped it was such a small thing that when I started reading this post I went "what? Penn's NQR?" and then had to go back and read the previous post. I've got my fingers crossed that you'll get a confirmation (or determination) and he'll be on the road to full recovery soon!

    1. It was so nice to be busy all weekend, then drive 45 min home, sans horse lol. I'm glad we're going to have her up several times per year! I am hoping to get an answer today for Penn's NQR.

  4. Sounds like a really fun and productive weekend...progress on flying changes AND a clean house, what more could you ask for? lol

    1. Haha yes! Put like that, it was extremely productive!