Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sven Smienk Clinic: Day 2

This is how Annie felt about the new rules, haha.
I rode mid-morning on Day 2, which meant I was able to leave my horse trailer hooked up for the evening. It was convenient and I was able to hit the road with Annie at a decent hour, well ahead of schedule.

During the drive out there, I felt more reserved and less than excited to ride my mare. I enjoyed the instructor, but the particular lesson we were having felt very... basic and borderline embarrassing. There is something to be said for dumbing things down to the most simplistic of things and as a rider, it makes me feel very... unaccomplished and silly.

We did get some good moments!
She sure moves so much nicer when she's not being nagged
every single stride - much freer and less restricted.
It's the way she goes tho, and clearly Annie and I needed a second set of eyes to push us through it because we weren't overcoming it on our own anytime soon. The mare was beginning to become comfortable in just... not and I was becoming comfortable in just letting her not.

And the cycle needed to be broken.

With it tho, a sliver of self-esteem chipped off. It sounds so melodramatic to say, but I kicked myself (and continue to kick myself) for the lesson and for letting it get so bad that we needed to literally have a pony club kick-a-thon.

It's weird how altho she looks less schooled in terms of connection
to the bridle, she looks much more stronger and... elastic?
But, enough of the doldrums that young horses bring and it's important to remember that after this downswing, we will hit the upswing again. It's just that... horses suck sometimes and it can really affect your riding mojo when you get inside your own head. After this clinic, I trail rode once before disappearing to visit the boy for the better part of a week. During my visit, I avoided even thinking about the horse, and more specifically our forward problem... because running from your horsey problems and avoiding them is the best remedy. Sigh.

Anyone have a tiny violin?

Annie would like a tiny violin as well.
Note that hind leg reach!
The lesson itself was more productive than our first - we were able to make additional headway and start to piece together more parts of the puzzle, like asking Annie to start engaging herself and lowering her poll. I wasn't 100% keen on the way it was explained, but it's possible I misunderstood what the clinician was meaning or that because my lesson was so basic, I was given a very basic direction. I take it at face value tho, and part of me would love to take a few more lessons with Sven once we have our forward button reinstalled so I can get some "real" lessons and work on more than just the meat and potatoes that is riding.

Annie came out of the trailer nicely again, tied well, and quietly munched from her hay bag. She seemed more "up" than the previous day, but other than looking around more, she didn't do much.

Not the best balance (and whyyy am I grabbing
with my inside rein), but she's forward!
This lesson day also symbolized a super exciting day - my new Dressage saddle finally arrived!! Since October last year, I hemmed and hawed about the demos I got to try from Kelsey (yes, the same Kelsey who makes the clay ornaments is a saddle fitter now!). I finally settled on a Hastilow Concept Elevation Dressage saddle, but Kelsey took some additional measurements to make it more customized to both me and Annie.

It was a bit of a wait for the production to begin, as I scrounged up a down deposit and started to sell my other saddles I didn't need (ie. the Bates and Western that didn't fit Annie). Kelsey was amazing with me the entire time - she was super understanding that I couldn't dump $$$ on the saddle ASAP and took payments very leisurely over the course of 6 months. I appreciated the fact she worked with me like that, because I don't particularly like laying down a big sum of cash because it is often when other things go wrong.

For those curious, that's an AP pad, haha.
Since Kelsey was in town, we met up at Barn C and I arrived well before my ride time so she could adjust the flocking to Annie and we could make any other necessary adjustments. It fit pretty well, but required some additional flocking on the left panel (which we did after my lesson). I was super excited for the saddle and tried to play it down like everything was cool, but inside my stomach was flipping and I was SO excited to ride in it, haha. I'll need to get some new leathers and girth now to match as my Dressage gear when I had Suzie was already verrrry second hand (like... my leathers are flaking black bits and showing the brown underneath...).

Kelsey also gave me some samplers of Higher Standards leather soap and conditioner, as well as some oil. I have a container of some soap already, but never got to try the conditioner.

Once we got the saddle on, leathers and stirrups changed, we wandered over to the indoor and waited to be called in like the days previous. When we did, Sven did a double take in our direction and commented on our Dressage get up. I filled him in on the whole "dis is my new saddle!!" and he seemed pretty stoked to see I was in actual proper attire, haha. Unfortunately, I didn't plan my riding outfit well and it kind of clashed with my pad choice... sigh. C'est la vie, I guess.

We started out as we had the day previous. Some of the points to remember, and some of the things I found interesting:

  • She needs to learn to carry you and herself - you aren't asking for anything huge or unreasonable.
  • Horses who lack forward need things drawn in black and white, but at the same time, it's important to be careful when re-affirming the forward button. You don't want to create a resentful horse when re-teaching them what your leg means. (In a word, take no shit but be fair).
  • Things will be messy and ugly before they get better. It's part of the training process. Believe in it and persist.
This? This isn't feel ugly.

  • You ride your horse like an owner and you need to start riding her like a trainer. Owners get down and defeated about problems, trainers brainstorm and take the problem at face value and aren't afraid to go back to the basics to build things back up again. Don't be afraid to do just that.
  • When you ride a young horse, you have no choice but to be a trainer. You can't get frustrated and you can't avoid the problems. Face them, learn from them, and do better.
  • Sometimes when she does a down transition, you are expecting her to dump you and end up sitting too heavy/braced and she botches her transition. Try to be more in tune with her movements and let her carry you into the transition. Trust her a bit.
  • Ride TO YOUR LETTERS. (This was during a diagonal line that I kept turning too early for, haha). Be disciplined in your figures.

I found Sven to be incredibly practical and kind when it came to the fact Annie is still very green and young. He didn't pull any punches, but didn't make us feel like we were worthless or didn't belong in the ring. He made us work, but made me understand that young horses are fickle things and that sometimes we can't be a pet owner, we have to be someone who takes no bullshit. Zero tolerance, as it were.

So yah. It was a tough lesson to learn, not physically, but mentally. It really made me sit back on my ass and feel a pinch of self-pity, haha. I try not to bring my whining to the blog, but this particular set of lessons and problem we are currently facing have not been very fun. And sometimes, you have to do a bit of whining to get past it.

Wat are you doing inside rein, haha.
All things considered, despite the mare being downright PISSED about the new arrangement, she did try, and was (in a way) less pissed on this day about all of it. 

We did make progress... and that's all I can really ask for.

Plus, I have a pretty new saddle so... yay?


  1. "When you ride a young horse, you have no choice but to be a trainer." -- uhhh yeah, I needed to read that today. Totally feel you on the young horse slog. So many ups and downs! But I think a new saddle definitely counts as an up ;) so pretty!

    1. That statement kinda blew my mind haha. And I’m glad it helped you too!!

  2. So much great, practical advice! I really like this clinician :D

    1. He’s very no nonsense and very... practical (as you said) in his approach.

  3. That hard, basic work really paid off though! Look at her in these photos! Her step is so much bigger, and she's much more uphill. Great job!

  4. Yay new saddle!! He sounds like a good clinician even if you didn't have the most fun because Baby Horse. She's looking awfully fancy in those pics!

    1. Hooray for the new saddle indeed haha.

      It is getting there - it’s just the whole flip flopping back to our status quo as she figures out this is a permanent change.

  5. Excellent take away points. Emi and I resemble them. :)

    1. It was a good lesson to have that’s for sure

  6. i think you look great in the new saddle and yay for a good lesson. She looks fantastic in a lot of those shots. What a lot of fun riding you are getting to do. Makes up for being in 17 feet of snow this winter I bet :)

    keep on doing. You guys look great!! And that instructor sounds fabulous!!

    1. Thank you!! I love the new saddle it’s supwe comfy.

      And yes it certainly does lol

  7. Yay for new saddle! Riding young/green horses is so very humbling. I have definitely cried about it haha. Sounds like there were some great pearls of wisdom in your lesson.
    P.S. I would love Kelsey's contact info (maybe she can help me fit Mystic).

    1. We should all get together and have a crying party with ice cream and wine lol.

      Is there a way I can message you? I don’t remember who I have on Facebook.

  8. Having just paid for a very similar lesson with a big clinician, I can totally relate. It was the hardest walk-trot lesson of my life though... and really made me think twice about letting my standards ever slip again in the future! But I've already reaped huge rewards out of it, in just a few weeks of consistency. So we can continue our leg-means-go-every-time-no-I-really-mean-it-every-time adventures together. :)

    1. Continuing the journey after the clinic has been hard. Because I’ve gotten some good rides and some flops... we’ll keep pushing tho.

  9. Congrats on the new saddle! The whole being a trainer and not an owner really rings a bell for me. I’ll have to noodle on that.

    1. Thank you!!

      Right? It kinda blew my mind a bit haha.

  10. LOVE that note about riding like a trainer and not an owner and the difference between the two. SO very important to remember!