I went with Brett to his clinic with Mark Rashid. I wanted to be there to support Brett, but I was also intensely curious to see this guy at work. Even though I'm one of "those dressage riders" Mark disparages a bit, I am in lock-sync with his approach to horses. My primary hope for the clinic was that Mark would help Brett and Mufasa; that Mufasa would learn to trust a bit more and that Brett would learn to ride from a place of energy and feel. There was no doubt in my mind that Brett could do it if he just understood how. The results on both those fronts blew the lid right off of my expectation box. You know that from my last three posts.
While Brett took care of Mufasa and practiced directing his energy to pull Mufasa to him, I was busy watching all the other rides and absorbing things to apply to my riding. My attraction to dressage isn't the "tricks" or the fancy moves, although they are very cool. I want the harmony between horse and rider, the unspoken felt connection that creates a dance between the two of you. I felt it first with Starman -- we did our transitions based on thought and they were mind blowing in their accuracy because we were in perfect sync. I was trying to get there with Jackson, and we were making progress, before he was retired. Winston -- nope, never. But with Lucy I know we can get there. She is already very light and I have been working on getting to softness. As Mark says, "Light is not the same as soft."
I ride Lucy with contact; just enough so we stay connected but I never pull. I was pleased to hear Mark talk about being close enough through connection to communicate. Most of the time, Lucy carries herself and I just keep myself in balance, soft and following so I don't mess her up. Mark talked about doing just that so I will continue to concentrate on keeping my shoulders, arms and elbows soft while riding. Lucy is incredibly responsive when I am soft.
Lucy hates walking under trees. I have no idea why but she just can't handle it. Mark talked about one of his horses that is fantastic at everything he does except trail rides through the walnut groves. Marks advise was to work on it with the horse if it is of critical importance to you but if not, to just let it go. And don't take it personally. We all have things we are better and worse at; things we like or don't. Lucy will be happy to know that I am not going to keep walking her under the trees that make her nervous. She is gold in the arena and brave about most things. I don't personally care about walking under trees and if I do get the urge to do so both Pistol and Jackson love it. I'm going to let that go.
Lucy is also not a fan of having her ears touched. I'm going to practice some energy work on that. She's a bit head shy (nothing like Mufasa was) at times so I'll use the same technique of resting my hand and releasing when she gives. Of course, there are also days when she snuggles her head between my arm and my belly in a hug -- like a dog will do when you stop petting them.
I loved how Mark taught backing. Lucy and I haven't done any backing work but I'm going to start. I want to get to fluid walk-halt-back and eventually add turn on the haunches. ...and do it with 0.5 pressure (or less); doing it from thought would be awesome.
And if Jackson stays sound, I'm going to continue learning to dance with him as well.
Lastly, I'm going to learn more about Masterson touch therapy and try to master the technique. Mark's wife, Chrissy, does body work and she worked on Mufasa before we headed home yesterday afternoon. He loved it.