Michael Storms In, Day Two

Oct 29, 2012 - 12:55 AM
Michael says that the thing that makes good horses good also makes them sketchy, but like Midge, they all come around with good riding. Photo by Lisa Slade.

I’ve only felt a “runner’s high” a few times before today, and never twice in one day. It’s when the world disappears, your vision goes a little fuzzy around the edge, pain disappears, and it’s just you and your feet hitting the pavement. I felt it today running 4 miles at a blistering 9:09/mile, thankyouverymuch, for which I’m sure I will pay tomorrow. But I also felt something like it while riding Fender. And it was amazing.

It’s not exactly the same when it happens when I’m on a horse. “Runner’s high” is when you’re exercising so strenuously that you surpass a threshold that activates endorphin production (public school biology class, what’s up!). That tunnel-vision-thing that happens on the horse isn’t really about exercise so much as it’s just about focus.

Wherever it comes from, it’s pretty incredible. We started our lesson with our normal posting trot, working canter, walk break, blah blah blah. And then we just trotted and cantered, thinking about straight, thinking about sitting down and pushing and carrying. For the first time, I felt like I sat INTO his back like an FEI horse instead of like a baby. And he said, “Great. Let’s go. What can I do for you?”


We didn’t do anything big and splashy. A few half-passes, a little counter canter. But it was a big kick in the butt for me that this is no longer a baby horse, and that the more I raise the bar, the more keen he is to meet it. What a little rockstar.

Midge and Ella were great too. Ella is still spending her time mostly on a 20-meter circle, working on strength, working on response to the aids, working on her body’s ability to compress without her hind legs stopping. We talked about Rudolf Zeilinger, with whom I’ve never worked, and how his students spend much time on a 20-meter circle just creating little adjustable, gymnastic gaits with the whip as support, not nailing the horses, just touching the hind leg when it slows to encourage it, and that was very inspiring. She feels so great in her body, just in need of a little bit more before it all becomes quite incredible. Hoorah!

And Michael reinvigorated my mojo for Midgey. We worked today again on the same thing as yesterday, making the passage both adjustable and influenceable from my leg without Midge losing rhythm or falling out of the passage altogether. This is REALLY exciting, because it’s really been the last piece of the puzzle that I’ve struggle with; any other mistakes we make in a test are just rotten luck or when I forget to count/steer/plan ahead/all of the above. And in two days, the difference is HUGE. Midge never broke out of passage for more than a step or two in his whole ride on Sunday, whereas on Saturday there was quite a bit of cantering and floundering about. This is going to be HUGE.

Because I’m trying to give Midge a little downtime, I shared his lesson today with Allison and Tres, who got a serious crash-course in Grand Prix. Allison, who was a USDF Silver Medalist and had her I1 scores for her Gold before coming to work for me, was in need of one more third level score to complete her Bronze, so we’d been focusing on getting her and Tres to the BLMs for one outing at third to check that off her list (67 percent, second place in a BIG class, atta girl!).

Which means that we’d really left any sense of Grand Prix alone, and while Michael was understanding, he chucked her in the deep end, and we all (Allison included) had a great time watching little tiny Allison and little tiny Tres make big, powerful work. I’m so proud of them both.

My students also rode quite a bit over the weekend. Kristin and Lala, who’ve gone from learning about on-the-bit last summer to being members of the Prix St. Georges 2014 Or Bust Club, worked on clean changes and serious half-halts. Virginia, with her plucky and excitable little Roadie, rode with their hair on fire, and Michael quipped one of my favorite Michaelisms: No one ever failed by going forward. And Amy’s Bo, a wonderfully talented third level horse who, at age 7, sometimes listens to the devil on his left shoulder instead of the angel on his right, earned another excellent Michaelism: The thing that makes them good is usually also the thing that makes them sketchy.

But in the end, good, forward riding prevails. When you’re clear and consistent and fair with them, they all come around. The last Michaelism, and my favorite of the lot: They’ll figure it out.



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