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June 29, 2010

Another Day With Walter Zettl And A Minor Truck Malfunction

Ike enjoys observing everything that goes on at Knights Gate Hanoverians. Photo by Barbra Reis.

After riding Wildflower on Saturday afternoon, I was anxious to get to the hotel to email my blog. As I got into the truck, turned the key and waited for the glow plug light to go off, I had a sinking feeling that something wasn’t right with the truck. It took four times to get it to start while at the barn, and then when I tried to start it again at my trailer, it was dead. Click click click. That's all I heard.

Great, am I going to be stranded in Canada? Well it couldn't be that bad—I'd have lots of young horses to ride at Knights Gate Hanoverian farm, but then my horses and students in Michigan might be a bit upset if I didn't come home.

I found David, the other owner of the farm, and told him of my plight. He quizzed me about the truck (what make, model, year, diesel or gasoline?) and popped the hood and said it sounded like a battery issue.

OK, not too bad then. I called my husband Brian, and he also said it sounded like a battery problem. David said he would look at it on Sunday because we (all the riders, Walter, his wife Heidi and David and Leslie) were going to dinner and had to be at the restaurant by 6 p.m.

I hitched a ride with David and Leslie to the restaurant, a huge place called Mandarin. It was an Asian food buffet with every imaginable type of sushi, egg roll, chicken, shrimp, beef, salad and dessert you could imagine. We had a great time and good conversation, and I'm sure everyone ate WAY too much!

On to Sunday....

With another day under our belt of riding with Heir Zettl, Ike and I felt ready to do a bit more. Once again we did our customary warm-up at the walk. Ike is starting to get the hang of stretching out towards the bit, and Walter was very enthusiastic!

Because the relaxation took less time at the walk, we proceeded to our trot work sooner. Walter started focusing more on my equitation, which really affected my function as a rider. My hands, although I think they are close together, need to be even closer together. Walter says that we should keep our hands close together in order to keep the horse framed in an imaginary triangle. He is also having me close my knees more against the horse at all gaits. I have a tendency to open my knees especially at the walk, which causes my lower leg to move around too much and bump the horse's side.

We continued working on transitions through the gaits, but today we started to collect the trot. I would pick up the sitting trot, then half-halt with my seat and legs and a tiny bit with my inside hand, then close my legs and get Ike to trot forward a bit more, then collect again, then push him forward.

By the end of this exercise I had him sitting back more on his hindquarters. We also worked on turn on the haunches, which has always been challenging for me. Walter explained that I need to use my aids LESS and be quieter with them. The horse should be slightly bent in the direction you are turning, with your inside leg as the driving leg and your outside KNEE turning the shoulders. The half-halt comes from the inside hand. After softening my outside leg and using my knee, we had some VERY nice turn on the haunches! One of my "AH HA" moments of the clinic.

The other exercise Walter had me work on was a shoulder-in on the rail, then taking two steps to the next track, then flexing to the right for a renvers. Another one was a travers on the rail, then two steps to the next track, then keeping the bend for the travers and pushing the horse back to the rail, like a zigzag. The goal of both these exercises was to engage Ike's hindquarters and get him to use his hocks more.

The lesson was so intense and focused that I didn't even realize my 45 minutes was up until the next rider came into the ring. Can't wait to see what Monday brings!

Once again after lessons were finished I had the privilege of riding one of the farm's young horses. Today it was Fydor, a 4-year-old gelding by Feiner Stein. He’s been under saddle about four months and is a solidly built dark bay with much thicker bone than Wildflower. His current rider is Ashley, and she said she wanted to see someone else ride him and give feedback.

Part of his routine has been to longe prior to the rider mounting, which was fine with me because Ashley told me he can sometimes spook at new things. Not a big deal, babies always look and see scary things, especially when their environment has changed because of new horses on the farm for a clinic.

He seemed fine after 10 minutes of longing, so I hopped on and started walking him around the arena. Sure, he was observant but not doing anything out of the ordinary.

Until he saw Lisa G.'s gray horse Willie. "YoYo," as Fydor is called, stopped dead in his tracks and just stared. Apparently he'd never seen a gray horse before since all the horses at the farm are either chestnut, bay or black. It was actually rather humorous!

Poor guy, it took me about 10 minutes of trotting to get him to ignore the gray monster hanging out by the door. He does like company in the arena and didn't seem phased by Amber, the Friesian mare that Bobby J. brought for the clinic.

Once I got YoYo's attention, he went right to work and surprisingly came over his back very nicely for me. He was quite different than Wildflower in his movement. She seems a bit more forward and although she takes a lot of leg (as most babies do), YoYo needs A LOT of leg and encouragement with a whip at times. He goes better to the left than the right, and he has a tendency to fall into the inside of the arena.

I had to use a lot of right leg and tapped a whip on his shoulder and eventually kept him along the rail. Such a nice horse. I did get a bit of canter to the right, but he needs a bit more time under saddle to get his balance in order to feel secure at that gait. I thoroughly enjoyed riding YoYo today.

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