Monday, August 31, 2015

Suki Continuing to Work Under Saddle and Learning About Contact Again

Sitting on Suki for the first time since the fire was so surreal.  A big goal, but not the end of the story.  In fact, just the beginning.  The beginning of what, I have no idea.  The next goal is to trot while sitting on her.  It is similar to starting a young horse under saddle yet also very different.  When you sit on a young horse for the first time they have very little history. Clean slate.  You bring them along slowly and carefully as they are prepared for a rider.  That first time you swing your leg over their back and settle in the saddle is sometimes unnerving for a young horse.  Suddenly you are physically at a higher level than their head,  and there are legs touching their sides with extra weight on their back.  When prepared thoughtfully for this day the reaction is typically minimal.  The handful of horses that I have started under saddle were quite nonchalant when I sat on them for the first time.  Suki, also, was quite unfazed when I sat on her the first time.  Of course this time we have history.  The training meltdown from when the BNT I was riding with pushed Suki to much as a young horse (yes, I knew better and should have questioned it).  Then Heather Mason to the rescue and finally helping us get through it.  Those months just before the fire saw so much progress, sealing our bond and partnership and a promise of a future.

Of course the fire changed everything physically for Suki, though mentally she seems to have come through with her usual determination.  The physical challenge of returning to the saddle comes with numerous complications.  The lack of hair on her back with just skin (scarred skin) between Suki and the saddle.  Lameness/stiffness.  Suki is 15 now and has some associated arthritis and perhaps unknown injury from her jaunt in the night with Whisby over several miles of roads and fields.  So this "first time" ride came with a bit of anxiety.  My greatest concern with sitting on Suki was her back.  How would it feel to her without that extra layer of hair?  Would the small amount of movement and extra weight cause harm to her skin?  Would she remember that she had experienced having a rider on her back?  So many questions, so many concerns.  I knew it was time, though.  Our preparation was appropriate and complete.  What was I waiting for??

One thing I noticed during that first ride was lack of steering, which is understandable.  It HAS been 6 years!  For the next ride I had Louise with me again, and I definitely was much less apprehensive putting my foot in the stirrup!  Louise led me around the arena, letting me out on the lunge a little at times while I tried to navigate up there a little bit more!  We also worked on walk-halt transitions….those all important brakes!  She actually did well with that.  Certainly better than the steering!  Suki was really very good about all of it though a little fussy in the bridle.  I have her in a very mild 3 piece KK snaffle, which is what she had been ridden in before the fire and also what I ride Nikki in.  She didn't fuss with it on the lunge without side reins so I believe it has to do with understanding contact again.  I am pretty quiet with my hands, plus I haven't even really taken up much contact.

Awhile ago I had started to work Suki in side reins to get her used to contact and to see how movement of the surcingle affected the skin on her back.  After doing that for awhile I stopped using the side reins, then moved onto the saddle.  I was so focused on how she reacted to having a saddle on her back again, and how it affected the skin on her back that I kind of forgot about the contact situation.  So after the first ride I added side reins to the surcingle again and moved her forward.  As she moved into the slight resistance of the side reins she set her chin briefly then relaxed into a soft contact, a flash of recognition and relaxation in her eyes.  It was so lovely to see a flicker of the old Suki, looking like a dressage horse, relaxed and soft, moving forward.  Of course she currently does not have the strength to maintain this so we keep the sessions short, to rebuild muscling and strength.

Following the second ride I started using long lines again.  I had learned to use long lines at BHF and found it to be a great training tool.  Using long lines as opposed to lunging actually allows you to feel both sides of the horse's mouth, and for the horse to feel contact on both sides simultaneously, as they do with a rider.  Admittedly, I am a little rusty with this….  For the first attempt I lunged her for 10 minutes in side reins then switched to long lines.  Suki patiently stood while attached the long lines into place then proceeded to untangle them (I believe she was laughing at me silently, judging by the bemused look on her face!).  Of course once I got that all straightened out we proceeded at the walk.  In a circle at first than moving around the arena a bit.  Of course there were times that she almost walked up onto the grassy hill beside the arena.  I was able to guide her quickly away before could march up the hill to the grass!  There is a fence around the entire arena, so the hill is inside the fence which would have kept us from getting into TOO much trouble….but it was preferable to stay away from that area.  I didn't walk behind her this time because we are both acclimating to the long lines again.  Well, me more than Suki!  I tried to a bit more steering by doing true bend counter bend on a large circle.  That worked fairly well as I was able to get a bit of movement and feel on her mouth.  A little fussiness in the bridle, so I am going to have to rethink the bit for sure.  She had her teeth done in May, so is not due for a recheck until November.  It's not terrible.  Suki is not grabbing it and grinding and such.  Just not quite as soft and accepting as usual.

Continuing with this post I am sitting outside with a glass of wine, enjoying a lovely, cool early evening.  probably the last for at least a week, with temperatures expected to rise just over 90 with humidity.  A doe with her twins just walked across the hill above my house, pausing briefly to consider me then continuing to graze without concern.

Nikki is working reasonably well, but my crazy schedule has limited our time to lunging, with riding days thrown in whenever available.  Since I lunge as a training tool, incorporating transitions, exercises and trot poles into each session, it is a thinking, working training time.  When in the saddle Nikki has been relaxed for the most part, but she gets a little temperamental during her heat cycle.  I was trying her off the bi-weekly depo injection, but she definitely needs it!  For me I have been working on sitting straighter in the saddle as I tend to collapse a hip, which lends to my difficulty in right half pass.  Uggh!  I think I need some lunge lessons to focus on me!

Friday was a lovely, cool morning!  Final presentation for client in India at 7 AM went beautifully.  Feeling much more relaxed.  Several new projects starting but that BIG one is finished except for any questions that may arise (these will be relatively easy to address).  I couldn't get to the barn until midday, and the humidity is definitely climbing.  I worked Suki first, lunging in saddle and side reins.  Stiff to start with reasonable improvement.  Canter work was nice though it started with a big buck and squeal….then head toss and leap that would have made Jenny Any proud (she was the queen of airs above the ground!  Some days I miss her so much my heart aches).  I laughed when she did this because it seemed to be less disobedience and more like uncontrollable joy (though I was thankful to have not been sitting on her back at the time!!!  So silly and such fun.  Of course then I growled at her to make her listen!  Suki went right back to work.  She just needed to express herself!  I always put Suki through trot poles and today I asked for a halt right after.  The first time she had 3 or 4 walk steps, but next time halted on a dime.  Then she turned her head to look at me, head cocked, ears forward.  so funny!

Nikki was a little nervous to start, though I don't really know why.  She relaxed after a few minutes on the lunge.  I decided not to connect the side reins and to just do a brief stretchy warm up before getting on.  I was already hot from working Suki and Nikki seemed ready.  She doesn't need a long lunge warm up.  I mainly do it to allow her to stretch her legs and through her back.

Long lining Suki continues to progress, fussiness decreasing, my skills improving.  The steering is
getting better and I am trying to soften her mouth (long distance!).  We are a work in progress.  There is no hurry, though I realize to many that seems I am moving at glacial pace!  It feels like that  to me as well, but with hectic schedules that is reality.  Ironically, once school starts for Isaiah (tomorrow, Sept 1) I think I will be able to get back into a better routine.

Each time Suki wears a saddle or surcingle I check the skin on her back.  So far everything seems to be fine.

Sunday was another cool morning so when I arrived at the barn at 6:15 the girls were not running to the gate!  I set the trot poles again hoping they would make their way down the field, which they did.

I rode Nikki first and she was initially distracted by the mare in the field across from the arena (the one who nearly killed us during last week's ride!).  V came running across the field as I led Nikki from the barn, but the settled to eat grass fairly quickly.  She called to Nikki a couple of times but Nikki did not answer.  This was a major improvement over last week when the mare was running and screaming, and Nikki was a little crazed!  But this week was much better and Nikki settled nicely into her work.  She was a little too on the forehand for the right lead canter so I did several transitions between trot and canter to set her back on her hind end.  This resulted in a really lovely canter to walk transition, which I finished with

Suki had great lunging/long lining session in the arena!  We worked quite a bit on changing direction and taking the right rein, which is my weakness.  I have the short lunge whip now, because on Friday while I was setting the trot poles, Miss Suki was standing on the tip of the rod portion of the lunge whip.  Not realizing this I tried to pull it along with me and SNAP!  I forgot to buy another while at the tack shop on friday afternoon.  And I LOVED my pink lunge whip!  We did a bit of trot, though I did not change direction while she was trotting.  I asked for some counter bend and true bend in each direction though and accidentally got a bit of shoulder in!

The most important thing is that we are making progress.  I will be getting on Suki again this week and we will continue to work on steering.  I will be moving the girls to a new barn toward the end of September.  The barn manager was one of Suki's nurses while she was in ICU at New Bolton, so that is a fun twist! There is a round pen which I am looking forward to using, and an indoor arena so we can train through the winter.  Change is always difficult, but I am excited about making new friends and not having training limited by weather conditions (unless of course I can't get there because of weather!).  We have been at the current barn for several years so I will certainly miss the friends that I have made while there.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Suki's Big Day: Back in the Saddle!

Monday, 3 August 2015
So today I decided that Friday will be the day that I get on Suki (with a little persuasion from Louise!).  It is time and I believe she is well prepared.  This week I will lunge Suki on two days then before I get on.  Louise will be at her head and for moral support, and Jenn will be there for moral support and to take photos.  My very good friend Beth was supposed to be present also, but scheduling might be tough since she lives 2 hours away.

Monday is typically a day off for Suki and Nikki, so today I just groomed, massaged and did stretches with them.  That time is very special to me.  I love how they both breathe on my neck when I pick their feet and when I dig around their grooming boxes.  When I turn my face toward them we touch noses.  Sweet horse breath.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015
T-3 days.

Buggy and warm.  I rode Nikki and she was diving at her chest to get the green head flies.  Then shaking her head violently when they landed on her forehead.  Not fun, though I can't blame her!  But we worked through it and had some excellent lateral work.  I really considered some of the comments made by Arthur Kottas as I worked Nikki through shoulder in and half pass.  Not brilliant, but good.  And actually excellent at times.  When I dismounted we worked on turn on the forehand and haunches in in hand.  Nikki was very responsive, with only an occasional step back, which I corrected immediately.  A few steps of baby piaffe and we were finished.

Full tack for Suki.  We are in go mode.  She seems really ready, so I just have to prepare mentally.  We worked through transitions, stirrups banging at her sides and trot poles.  Mounting block work was good in spite of the bugs.  Suki continues to be more interested in the tall weeds by the mounting block than anything I am doing!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015
T-2 days.
Okay.  I think I want to use something to take the edge off Suki when I get on her.  She seems fine, but it has been 6 years since I sat on her.  Today I gave her a tube of Ultra Chill to see how it worked for her.

I gave Suki the calming paste then rode Nikki.    She had some beautiful canter work, so clearly something is going right (at least today)!  It is hot and buggy again, but not unbearable.  I needed to work both of them so I kept the ride fairly short.  It was quite productive, and that’s what counts!  

Tacking Suki up one hour after giving her the calming paste, I don't really notice anything different in her mood or behavior.  She is always pretty mellow during the "getting ready" process.  Walking out to the arena Suki lifted her head when the mower at the top of the field caught her eye, not in nervousness, just acknowledging its presence.  But that is how she has been behaving anyway.  Warming up she was quite a bit stiffer than she was yesterday, but once she loosened up the stiffness was all but gone.  I kept the work simple.  Just a bit of walk/trot for about 15 minutes.  At the mounting block Suki stood quietly, no different than any other day.  My confidence was wavering.  I know that calming pastes don’t work on all horses but I was really hoping that it would make a difference in Suki.  Just to help ME relax more about climbing aboard!  Suddenly I realized that I had not put any weight in the stirrups.  Hmmm, that could be a showstopper!  So I leaned all of my weight into my hands on each stirrup, with no reaction from Suki at all.  Maybe it was the paste, maybe it was just Suki!

Thursday, 6 August 2015
T-1 Day
Tomorrow I will sit on Suki for the first time since the fire more than 6 years ago.  There are so many emotions running through my brain as I drive to the barn.  Excitement, anxiety, overwhelming joy.  A fellow boarder uses 25mg of acepromazine in tablet form prior to going out fox hunting, so I asked her if I could try it on Suki.  I wasn't planning on working her today because with tomorrow's adventure that would be four days in a row for her.  Janet said that it takes approximately 45 minutes to take effect, so I pulled Nikki's mane, cleaned tack, then took Suki out of her stall.  Immediately I noticed a difference.  She seemed very relaxed as I put her on cross ties.  To test her level of relaxation I decided to try to pull her mane.  She hates this!  Nikki falls asleep during it but Suki body slams, throws her head, etc.  I only do her mane when she has been sedated for something or with another person at her head bribing her with treats.  Today, I was able to pull her mane!  Oh yeah, this will be good!

Friday, 7 August 2015
Well, today is the day.  I tried so hard not to be nervous as I dressed in breeches, prepared to ride.  My original plan was to ride Nikki first, but the timing wasn't working out and I think I was just too keyed up, which would not have made for a good ride.  So I groomed Nikki, gave Suki the ace and cleaned my tack.  Suki seemed fairly chill when she came out of her stall so I went through my usual preparation with Louise and Jenn standing by.  I lunged her briefly then went to the mounting block.  Janet was also there, having come to see her horse just at the right time!  To keep the routine the same I performed the usual mounting block exercises: snapping the stirrups, leaning over her and patting her on all sides.

I was really nervous, having no idea how Suki would react as I swung my leg over her back and sat down.  Louise stood at her head holding the lunge line and gave her some sugar cubes.  I took a deep breath and put my foot in the stirrup.  Suki did not tense as I swung my leg over and sat down.  Another deep breath and Louise led us away from the mounting block.  As we walked along Louise reminded me to speak to Suki as if on the lunge.  Of course I know this, but it left my brain completely!!  We halted for some photos and I took in the moment.  So surreal.  Sitting on Suki, six years after the fire.  They warned me at New Bolton (and rightly so!) that I would likely never ride her again and I accepted that.  When the worst burn on her back would not heal I resigned myself to that fact.  Then, Dr. Mike Fugaro, who I knew from when we were at Heather's and who guided me through the recovery process, offered to take Suki at Centenary College.  He teaches there and is the veterinarian for the equine science program and the equestrian team.  Mike performed a skin graft (pro bono!) and I paid to board Suki at the college.  Team Suki (Becky, Sarah, Meagan and Kim) and Equine Studies students helped with the care, treatments etc.  The skin graft was the turning point.  Once it healed,suddenly the possibility of riding Suki again became a reality.

Louise disconnected me from the lunge line.  As I stood there and took another deep breath, the tears came.  The hopes, the dreams, and here I was.  Sitting on her.  All we did was walk.  I took a little contact and she fussed slightly, so the next step is to add side reins.  Steering seemed to not be great, but  that was probably due to lack of contact.  No hurry.  First step conquered.  So much support from all over the world, for me and Suki, just a girl and her horse.  Thank you…..

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Training Update for Suki and Auditing the Arthur Kottas Clinic

Yikes!  Time flies when life is crazy busy!  With that bear of a report finished (until the client requests changes, additions, etc) I have a few days of breathing room.  Once again with my busy schedule and the hard footing in the arena I have had to slow down a bit with working Suki and Nikki.  Important to protect those legs!

As much fun as it is to have Suki working in full tack it is quite time consuming to do this with two horses on an abbreviated schedule!  I have found that some weeks it is easier to alternate the days they work. Some days the horse that doesn't get ridden or lunged has a stretching session or in hand exercises without tack.  Other days the non-working horse just gets groomed.  It still rounds out to a busy week, but then neither horse is rushed and I am able to focus on each one's work.

Not that I am complaining about having to put a saddle and bridle on Suki!  It is something  never expected to happen, and I am thrilled!  There is so much support from all over the world, which I find heartwarming.  I think there is just something about Suki that has gives her this instant connection with people…..even those who have never met her.  Sometimes, when I am having a bit of a tough day (for whatever reason) reading comments about Suki's FB posts just makes me smile.  How can we fail with so many people cheering us on!

With Nikki I am trying to work on attaining more collection and showing a clear difference between working, medium and collected.  To achieve this I have been changing out a variety of exercises to keep Nikki from being bored and to focus on different aspects of the gaits and transitions.  Overall I am pleased with how Nikki is working.  I am disappointed in myself for not having as much time as I need or want to make it better.  Often our rides are shorter than I would like, but I try to make that time as productive as possible.  We have had some humid days with the green head flies in attack mode.  In fact this past Friday (31 July) I cut my ride really short.  The green heads were landing on Nikki's chest so she was diving at them with her teeth.  Landing on her face so she would shake her head trying to get them off.  Tenacious little buggers.  A twitch of the skin does not usually get them off.  Following her shower, Nikki loves to be towel dried and have her face rubbed.  I put the entire towel on her head and rub.  She loves it!

Suki is progressing nicely and I know that it is time to get on.  So I have to plan.  She is very nonchalant about going to the arena and working.  Saddle: no problem.  Flapping stirrups: who cares?  Mounting block: piece of cake.  Leaning and lying over her back: time to nibble on the grass by the mounting block.  So I guess at this point it is a bit of my own anxiety.  I lie over her and pat her right side and she seems to not be bothered by it.  So it is just that next critical step….swinging the leg over and sitting in the saddle.  Yes, I have anxiety about what she will do…..but I also worry about the additional weight on her back, and how that will feel to her, which of course affects how she reacts.  We are still using the treeless saddle most kindly loaned to me by Louise.  The new saddle pad, so generously sent to us by Ecogold seems to work beautifully!  So comfort wise I think she seems fine.  Thank you Ecogold!

It's funny, I am always really sensitive about putting on the bridle.  Suki still sometimes has issues about her ears, so I am ever so careful about putting the bridle over her ears.  This morning I was not even thinking about it.  I was hot and sweaty from riding Nikki, tired from my long day yesterday (Arthur Kottas Clinic) and I just put the bridle on Suki.  One-two-three.  While I was securing the throat latch I realized what I had just done.  Very cool.  She really is becoming just like any other horse (well, in the getting ready aspect!).  Today's work was amazing.  She was hardly stiff, and the recent rain gave us a bit softer footing so I did not even see any foot soreness.  After lunge work we did a few turns on the forehand and haunches then finished with the mounting block.  Of course it is easy to say this now, showered, a glass of wine at my side and watching the birds attack the feeders, but had I been wearing a helmet I probably could have gotten on.  Though no one was there and I do want someone at her head!  Woulda, coulda, shoulda!

I received another generous gift recently also.  Suki wears several different fly sheets of varying weights, and three of them are Weatherbeetas.  We often struggle with her staying cool underneath them on hot days.  Although she is inside during the day, even with a fan Suki doesn't wear a sheet inside.  But going out at 4 in the afternoon it is often still quite hot.  On the hottest days she just wears sunscreen.  Weatherbeeta very kindly sent Suki a CoolKoat fly sheet.  It is surprisingly cool underneath and fit nicely into her rotation.  Another problem is that the moisturizer on Suki's back makes the fly sheets dirty and oily on the inside, so I have to wash them frequently, making it necessary to have many options available as at least one is always out of rotation due to being washed or repaired!  So many thanks to Weatherbeeta!

Isaiah also had another dressage show on July 26.  He did a great job and received good scores and feedback from the judge.  And two blue ribbons to add to his growing collection.  The first test was better than the second and Isaiah referred to the second one as "horrific".  It was not horrific!  Because of the location of the arena, horses had to enter from the side then trot around the inside of the arena to go down center line.  During the second test Rusty considered making an exit but Isaiah quickly corrected him and prevented that from happening.  It was nice to see him respond and prevent.

I was unable to attend the Andreas Hausberger clinic at Waltzing Horse Farm due to difficulty finding an acceptable place to stay (I am already looking for next year!) which actually turned out to be fine because work was busy and I would have had to do some work in the evenings while away.  But another opportunity to audit a clinic given by a Spanish Riding School (former) chief rider just 2 hours away so I was able to attend one of the three days.  The Arthur Kottas clinic was held at Four Winds Farm in Bridgeton, NJ.  Horses were clean and braided and riders were dressed appropriately.  Very nice.

Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg was a member of the Spanish Riding School from 1960 to 2002. In 1980 he was made Chief Rider and was the youngest person to have held this post in the 400 years of the School's history. He is a trainer and instructor of the highest international repute who has successfully trained riders and horses up to Olympic medal standard. His classical schooling methods do not rely on the use of force by the rider. The following quote from Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg, helps summarize his training philosophy, “ If the horse enjoys his work, then it will always have fun. You have to keep them very happy, so the horses are not thinking, God, I have to come to the school again. No, no, if they could talk they have to say, I like to do it, take me there; I’m ready. A horse in piaffe, enjoying the moment of suspension, and its own strength and lightness. You know, they are still animals, and you have to remember that.” (excerpt from AK biography page)

Mr. Kottas began the session by explaining that he was not there to criticize, but to help.  He stressed the importance of the horse as a partner and how the rider must "invite" the horse to work.  "You must love the horse."  Amen!

So rather than get into individual rides and commentary, which might hurt feelings (though I would just be repeating what was said during a lesson), I will address common themes throughout all of the lessons, and specific comments without identifying.  I must also preface this with saying that I was not in the saddle.  I give the riders credit for going up in front of such a dressage master.

AK stressed the importance of rider fitness.  Overall he observed that many riders were not really fit.  "You expect a certain fitness level from your horse so you must also be fit as the athlete rider."  Many people only ride one horse each day so fitness must come from off the horse training.  AK was appalled if someone said that they only ride 4 days a week, but for some that is really the best they can do.  He wants horses ridden 6 days per week so if you are unable to do it yourself enlist help.  Best to ride horse 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon.  I completely understand his points, but some of those expectations are unrealistic.  Okay, but fitness, good seat and quiet hands are not an unrealistic expectation.

A few riders had some difficulty with sitting the trot.  AK pointed out how tight their backs are and therefore were not absorbing the horse's movement.  He asked several riders to do turn on the forehand, because he feels that this is a good indication of how much the horse has been trained to the seat and leg.  And working on TOFH and turn on the haunches can be used to help the horse understand seat and legs for lateral work.

Another common theme was level of the horses.  Several horses were said to be at 3rd level, but AK felt that they did not have the collection to compete at that level.  This was obvious in watching the horses being worked.  He feels that too many people say "Oh, my horse can move sideways so he is ready for 2nd/3rd level."This is a very common theme in the US, especially in schooling shows.  Part of the problem is that I think people get bored.  They are tired of doing 1st level so if they sort of have the "tricks" down they move up.  But it goes hand-in-hand with the fact that anyone can call themselves riding instructors, which is not the case in many European countries.  That said, we do have some amazing trainers/instructors in this country.

Okay, so back to the collection issue.  Several riders were asked to do simple changes of lead which led to some difficulty. Many were unable to perform very clear walk steps before asking for the canter in the opposite lead.  As AK pointed out, if you can't do this the horse is not ready for flying changes.  This was also demonstrated by some pairs.  The changes were not clear or correct.  When asked to do a simple change they had some difficulty achieving the very clear walk steps before asking for canter again.  Without that collection during the walk steps, the canter depart was late (or through trot steps) with the horse's hind end out a little behind instead of stepping under.  Working through the simple changes rider was able to make her horse understand what the intention was.  The rider told AK: "He always does this."  Of course AK is not accepting this as an excuse, because the horse "does things" because he/she is asked (perhaps inadvertently) or does not understand. This was demonstrated by a rider who could not keep her horse in the right lead canter on a 20m circle.  He kept switching to the left.  Her comment too, was "He always does this."  AK pointed out that she kept moving her inside leg back so the horse perceived that as asking for the change.  The rider didn't realize that she was doing this.  AK was getting a little frustrated with her, which I understand.  However, habits are hard to change in an hour!  As a rider we intellectually get what you are telling us and we may be able to do it for a few minutes before reverting back.  So it is frustrating for the rider as well.  When I rode Lion (a schoolmaster at BHF) he did the lead switching thing on me from time to time.  I was slightly shifting my seat, which for Lion was enough to say "flying change!"  I'll bet that on the second day of the clinic the rider was more prepared for that.  I had originally planned to attend the clinic for two days because it is nice to see how the riders and horses progress.

Lengthening of stride at the canter.  A couple of the riders were able to achieve this fairly well.  Most just went faster.  But again it came down to the horse being too far on the forehand and unable to get the big push from behind, necessary for a true lengthening.  AK Had the riders count strides down the long side in the regular canter.  For the medium there should be 4-5 fewer strides.  That really helped the riders feel it and you could see the improvement as they sat more to get the push they needed to actually lengthen the stride.

Hands were another big issue.  AK felt that the majority of the riders had busy hands and that a problem he sees quite often is riders thinking hands before seat.  Seat and weight must be first.  Improper balance of weight in the seat and stirrups will prevent the horse from having appropriate bend and step.  Again he went back to the busy hands and balancing off the hands.  Too much inside hand observed in shoulder in and half pass.  He doesn't think that many people understand the importance of the outside rein.

AK stressed the importance of time spent on the lunge to develop an independent seat and to properly learn to use weight to influence the horse.  He asked several people how often they read about dressage and watch videos.  Both instructional and competition.

Overall it was a great experience, but I enjoyed watching Andreas Hausberger a bit more.  AK talked about himself a fair amount, which AH didn't really do.  AH was also more engaged when auditors asked questions, and had each rider tell a little about themselves and their horse. He also did some in hand with just about every horse, demonstrating the benefits of this type of work.  AK did not do this with the riders at all, with the exception of one rider who had apparently requested it as part of her lesson.  She did not attend on Saturday so I did not see that work.  The caliber of riders was higher at the AH clinic, so perhaps some of the arrogance I was observing at the AK clinic was frustration.  AK did compliment riders when they corrected something appropriately or rode a piece well.  And he was kind at times.  He even joked occasionally.  But let's face it, training can be harsh as well as a reality check.  It would have been interesting to see the next two days of the clinic to observe changes that the riders made.  Kudos to the riders for putting themselves out there and riding with someone of AK's caliber.  It is most likely that they have never before ridden with anyone like that.  He is an excellent instructor and his corrections and requests were easy to understand.  It is always a treat to be exposed to someone of that caliber and observe their training philosophies and process.