Saturday, August 3, 2013

Andreas Hausberger clinic Part 2 (and Suki's new fly sheet)

The evening of July 21 I enjoyed a glass of wine, mulling over the days events waiting for Beth to arrive.  I actually even wrote several pages of the Suki book taking advantage of my second wind and relaxed state of mind and body. 

Beth arrived around 9:30 PM and after settling in in jammies we talked and laughed like teenage girls for the next couple of hours.  We have not seen one another for quite a long time though we keep in touch through texting.  In fact, she saw my FaceBook post about the clinic and commented that she wished she had known about it.  I promptly texted her saying that I had a room an a nearby inn and invited her to join me.  She was only able to stay for one day, but I knew that she would enjoy it as much as I had that day.  The early hour of 5:15 would be upon us all too soon, so we forced ourselves to a lights out.

July 22, 2013
Yep, 5:15 came mighty quick but we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the pond in preparation for our day.  Many thanks to Gary and Eileen for getting up so early to put out a lovely breakfast!

Unable to find my written directions (GPS takes a circuitous route) I assured Beth that I knew where I was going, having found Waltzing Horse Farm so easily the day before.  Indeed!  So after several turn arounds (I blame this on the fact that I had not yet been caffeinated) we found the Stewart's near the Farm and ran in for Mt Dew (me) and Diet Coke (Beth).  One more brief misdirection and we arrived at the farm.  The first lesson had already started so we quietly took our places.

I would like to point out that I am not trying to be an arm chair quarterback in these discussions, but simply recording my observations.  I am the first to admit that I have my own bad habits and inconsistencies and am by no means a professional.  It is always easier to sit on the sidelines and critique than it is to be in the saddle trying to improve.  I commend all of the riders for their hard work during these sessions. 

Ride #1: 19 yo Danish Warmblood:  Already he looked more connected than he had the day before.  The spiraling in exercise was used again to prepare for pirouettes and I liked the way it prepared the horse by allowing him to gradually collect on each subsequently smaller circle leading to the result of an almost pirouette.  Once again Andreas tapped the rhythm near the horse's hocks but when he stopped the rider was able to maintain the cadence. Then taking the horse back out on the 20 meter circle and collecting the canter the rider asked for a few half pirouettes then full pirouette.  It was much more correct than it had been the day before.  They again did some work in piaffe, with Andreas encouraging the horse with the whip near his hocks.  The horse definitely understood more quickly and showed some nice steps.

Ride #2: Lipizzaner stallion: The day before this boy's rider had her stirrups taken away to discourage standing on the toes during sitting trot.  I thought she started off much better on this second day, but could see that within 15 minutes the habit resurfaced (Who doesn't know THAT feeling!) so they crossed the stirrups once again.  During her early time with stirrups the horse was more engaged in the beginning of the ride than he had been the day before.  She seemed to have more difficulty keeping him connected which may have been due to her own fatigue and/or the horse's.  Andreas got after her a bit as he too was becoming frustrated with the horse's lack of response.  In some cases the rider was not responding quickly enough to the horse's actions.  It seemed also that the seat was doing more driving but the hands were not allowing the horse to soften in his jaw.  This is likely one of the challenges of riding him!  But she did have some lovely moments as they worked through some of the difficulties of collected, working and medium trot.  During this time Andreas did not become condescending, but he was pushing her hard, which is to be expected.

Ride #3: Arab gelding: This was the rider who had some anxiety due to previous experiences with her horse.  She came into the arena maybe a little more confident than the day before but admitted that she was still a bit nervous.  They started at the walk once again trying to get the horse to soften and without the rider squeezing her legs too much.  She seemed to have a tendency to scrunch up her legs and pinch with the thigh.  The horse continued to try to thrust his head into the air so Andreas stopped her and said that he wanted to "feel" what she was doing with her hands.  He placed his hands over hers and directed her to "play".  Once he was able to feel that, he identified the problem to be what he had suspected: she was locking her wrists and not really using her fingers enough.  AH showed her what he wanted her to do and off they went again at the walk.  She improved at the walk, although the horse still tried to look out the door each time he passed.  Andreas was able to get her to prepare before reaching the door which greatly improved the outcome.   The difficulty resurfaced as horse and rider moved into the trot.  As they continued to work through this by doing transitions, etc the rider stopped and asked if she could drop her stirrups.  I thought this was a huge step forward given her anxiety!  She started off a little bouncy in the saddle and tight in her arms.  Once again through numerous transitions there was a bit more relaxation.  While they were not perfect at the end of the ride there was a definite improvement.  The horse noticeably relaxed when she stopped scrunching and driving.  This once again was a recurring theme for AH's corrections: the riders were driving too much with seat and legs.  So as this rider tried to keep her legs hanging loosely (which improved when she was without stirrups) they returned to the instructions from the day before: soft squeeze.  No response than kick hard.  Yesterday the rider's kicks were not as forceful, but today much improved.  This was apparent as the horse began to respond to just a soft squeeze earlier in that part of the session.

Ride #4: 6 yo Andalusian/Hanoverian: Yesterday AH had the rider show him what type of in hand work they had been doing, so today started by adding equipment.  Lunging cavesson, surcingle and side reins.  Rider was nearby with sugar cubes while AH worked the horse in hand.  They started with the side reins quite long, but they were adjusted as soon as AH evaluated what the correct length should be.  He wanted the horse soft but not curled, while maintaining the ability to move forward with an engaged hind end, into the hand.  Always so much to think about!  Using the whip behind near the hocks the horse was guided gently forward, encouraged to engage the hind end and move softly into the hand.  The horse responded well, but it took a few minutes for him to understand, of course.  Again, patience and constant reward paid off.  AH told the rider to mount.  To me she seemed to move quite slowly removing the equipment and getting ready to mount. The rider does have a lovely seat, which AH pointed out several times, but that came with similar comments from the day before about reaction time....too slow.  He expects a response from the rider immediately, and as the day before this became one of the common themes. The horse is very nice and quite responsive.  Her reaction time does need to be quicker and from my armchair that is apparent. : ) Rider's reaction time did improve by the end of the session and the horse looked really soft in the hand and up in the back by the end.

Ride #5: Lusitano stallion:  This horse definitely starts off tight in the back.  AH desperately wants to work this horse in hand but the rider insists that the horse becomes too focused on the handler by nibbling to really do well.  AH worked some steps in piaffe encouraging the horse from behind.  The steps appeared to be more correct than the day before.  This rider too he complimented on her seat but she too spent a little too much time in driving mode.  This pair too worked on the spiraling in exercise and work in the canter finally showed some relaxation.  He is a real cutie but his tension shows from time to time.  He tries to not focus sometimes by talking but his rider does a reasonably good job of making him pay attention.  This pair had some lovely medium canters finally and the horse finally stopped sticking out his tongue!  Next they worked on the four-tempis.  The horse's single changes were pretty clean and correct with nice lift and engagement behind.  The fours were a bit flat, so AH had them do a few diagonals with single changes in various locations.  They finished on that.

Mid morning break and once again a lovely spread of cheeses, bread and fruit.  The arena was groomed and everyone settled in for a few more hours of education.

The POA mare from yesterday started off much better today.  The rider had more understanding of what was expected.  There was still some resistant, but the trot was much more consistent and it carried over to the canter.  There was a lot of work on upward and downward transitions as well as within the gaits.  As before, medium means medium not working gait!  The rider was able to get the pony to show some nice differences between working and medium trot with several of those transitions keeping the pony soft.  AH continued to remind her to play "big" or "small" and to have the response ready quickly.

The 10 year old girl on her pony also started off better today.  She had some very nice trot work.  The canter was still a bit rushed, but transitions helped this as well.

Connemara Stallion: Long reins today.  This little guy had never been long-reined so AH hooked him up and had the rider walk near his head until he understood.  This did not take very long, so AH was able to work him fully around the arena.  At the walk he began to ask for bending in and out.  The horse was trying very hard and responded nicely.  The inward and outward bending was followed by some trot work doing the same.  Then some bend across the diagonal and finally some half pass.  The long whip slightly encouraging from behind, stronger when the response was not quick enough.  AH marched along behind quietly and patiently guiding the horse in more lateral work.  Once he kicked  out and AH softly said "oh, stop that".  I'm not sure I would have been so calm with hind feet so close to my head!

Beyond the open back door of the arena (gate across) I could see several Lipizzaner mares grazing with the mountains behind them.  Had I just been transported to the Austrian Alps?

Connemara mare, related to the stallion, ridden by same rider on POA.  Cute mare.  AH was surprised tat she was all Connemara because she was fairly tall.  This rider has a nice seat.  Young girl, with good basics.  She didn't understand half pass so AH did a great job of explaining how to achieve it.  They did it at the walk, then moved to the shoulder in across the diagonal so she could feel the appropriate bend. Once in the trot they were able to achieve some reasonably good half pass.  She too was reprimanded for reaction time not quite quick enough.  At the canter in a circle around AH he laid out the tempo with his whip.  The "playing" with the reins needs to be timed correctly so AH talked her through it.  telling her when to play big or small and when to stop, all the while tapping out  the tempo.

At the end of the day Beth and I went into town and had a late lunch before heading back to the inn so she could collect her belongings and make the long drive home.  I was glad that she felt the long trip was worthwhile.  After she left I showered and headed out to the porch for a glass of wine and to do some writing.  One of the owner's friends was there so she sat out as well.  We were joined a short time later by another Beth who was also staying at the inn.  She had dropped off her horse at Waltzing Horse Farm.  Beth was lucky enough to secure a spot in the clinic for the next three days.  It started to rain so we had the gentle humming of rain on the porch roof, wine, and four women talking horses and life.  The beauty and peacefulness of my surroundings and pleasant conversation made me realize just how much I had needed to decompress!  I plan on going back to The Shamrock and Thistle in October for a couple days to write and enjoy the fall foliage.

August 2nd: When I returned home I planned to implement what I had learned.  One thing I noticed immediately was that I had become a little sloppy about transitions when Nikki was being lunged.  When I ask for walk from trot it was taking Nikki maybe 3 or 4 strides to actually complete the transition...YIKES!  We worked on that immediately.  I extended my usual lunging time to work on this.  We had a definite improvement by the end of the first session.  So today the transitions were much sharper on the lunge.  Riding I have been thinking a lot about "over driving" trying to be sure that I am not.  I feel like I only do that occasionally, but I did catch myself a couple of times.  I have always been taught to expect sharpness off the aids.
 Before I left for the clinic I had given my fabulous blanket lady a more open mesh fly sheet for Suki.  This type of sheet would keep Suki cooler but I was concerned that the openness of the mesh would offer too much sun exposure to the skin on her back.  Sewing a piece of fabric to that area across the top should solve that problem so I traced out the area in need and Donna selected an appropriate breathable fabric.  She decided to use linen which would be soft against the skin and breathable enough to keep sweating.  Friday night I put it on Suki for the first time.  I thought it seemed a little large, but Suki is very good with her clothing so I was not overly concerned.

August 3rd:  Arriving at the barn at 7:30 AM I drove down the driveway.  The girls were happily grazing.  But wait.....something was wrong!
 Yep.  Suki was naked!!  I brought her and Nikki in then went back into the field in the drizzle to retrieve the sheet.
Upon close inspection the leg straps were still clipped and surcingle fastened.  Suki had somehow unbuckled the chest buckle (which I always completely close) and wiggled out of the sheet.  I am certain that she had several rolls after that!  The graft area looked fine with the exeption of one small rub, so all is fine!  Fortunately the day was over cast so the skin was not exposed to direct sunlightT  Clever girl!


  1. If a horse can...the horse will. What a gal she is.

    1. Yes indeed! She has never done anything like that before so it caught me by surprise. Suki provides plenty of smiles, that's for sure!