The insanity of the last week paid off—our clinic with Michael went off without a hitch (well, we did have to hail-Mary-repair the arena drag on Saturday morning, but Mr. Sprieser and I got ‘er dun). This clinic was composed almost exclusively of my students, which made it extra fun.
But there were a few highlights.
Ella’s highlight was quick and simple, and it came in the first lesson of the first day. As Michael astutely put it, the hardest thing to do with a horse, and the thing that keeps them from being good at Grand Prix or being great at Grand Prix, is the degree to which that horse can round both his neck and his hind legs simultaneously. Michael’s solution to my struggles with Ella? Don’t confuse round in the neck with low in the neck. As soon as I allowed Ella’s poll to come up, the withers followed, and everything got instantly easier. Duh. Brilliant.
Fender saved his highlight for Sunday, though he certainly wasn’t any slouch on Day 1. Day 2, in spite of removing a shoe in the first 10 minutes of his ride (delightful beast), we made the best REAL collected trot I’ve made from him. He spends so much time doing little transitions within the gaits, big-small, high-low, open-closed, and sometimes when I ride alone I think to myself, “Good LORD this must be boring to watch,” and then there are the days like Sunday where he GETS IT. And work that feels that good can’t look boring!
Midgey also saved his star power for Sunday, but unlike Fender, he was fairly terrifying on Saturday, when Michael, in an effort to give me some tools to help Midge think about more engagement behind in the passage (he bends his hocks spectacularly; his hips and low back, still learning), suggested I pick up a whip. I bet I’ve carried a whip on Midge less than 10 times in his whole life, and he is REALLY not a fan, and so we spent our Saturday ride doing a lot of whoaWhoaWHOA.
But man oh man, Sunday. He came out of his stall better (quite remarkable since he, too, removed a shoe for me; I’d yet to lose a shoe with my current farrier, Alan, and then lost two in one half-hour window. Fabulous boys) and never backed off, culminating in the most unbelievably gorgeous transition from this high, energetic, delightful piaffe to this tidy, crisp, hind-legs-under, croup-down, withers-up passage, all as easy as breathing. Incredible.
It wasn’t just my horses who were stars; my staff did their fair share. I’m so proud of Molly, who I’ve never seen sit so deeply or so well. And Allison is right on the brink of finding some of the major pieces of Grand Prix and has just the right temperament for it; she’s cool like Steffen Peters, ice in her veins.
And then there were my students. Nicohl, whose delightful Riley shows all the promise in the world towards being a Serious upper-level event horse. Renee, who I don’t get to help nearly as much as I’d like to, but who has done the most brilliant, diligent work with her Calvados, and who will also have everything for Grand Prix in a wonderful way very soon. And my incredible Jackie with incredible Odin, two of my favorites whose total is even greater than the sum of their many fine parts.
Billy arrived during Jackie’s ride. I looked at him, out in his field next to Ella, still at 20 so strong and healthy, next to all her youth and grace. I looked at Midge and Tres and, with Cleo in the back of my mind, counted to five. And then watching Jackie and Odin; our dear student Amy’s wonderful, talented 7-year-old Bo; Fender; and our newcomer to dressage, Jamie, on her new horse, Ysis. All that had been, and all that is, and all that will be.
Past, present, future, with highlights at every stage. Yeah, it was a helluva weekend.