It’s a weird year for me. I’m teaching a ton of clinics, which I love, but it means I’m away from home a lot of weekends. And with only Puck to ride at the moment, who will be showing first level next month (woo) but not with any illusions of grandeur, my focus is on my students and on their competitive and personal goals.
The last time my coach, Michael Barisone, came down for a clinic was last fall, when I rode five horses and was, therefore, half the clinic. For this weekend’s visit, I rode one.
It was my first time having anyone watch me ride Puck, and as we’ve been together a whopping total of three weeks, I didn’t really have any great insight to offer as to who he is or what we’re up to.
Michael hit on the things I’ve been addressing: Puck must be straight. Puck must yield his entire neck, not just parts. Puck must lift his belly. Lauren must sit up straight. We did those things, spent most of our time doing exciting things like a 20-meter circle and trot-canter transitions, and Michael declared him to be a Lovely Young Horse and off we went. It was very helpful, very fun, and very boring, and that’s very great.
The joy, for me, came in watching Michael work with my students. That’s always a joy, because he knows many of them and sees them rarely, so whereas sometimes my students get weighed down in the slow day-to-day progression, Michael gets to offer the big picture, that Student X is so much more organized than last time, that Horse Y has put on so much muscle. That’s always validating, both for my students and for myself.
But there was more than that. As a trainer of humans, nothing makes my heart happy like hearing my older, wiser and vastly more experienced coach identify the same things I address with my students, and address them in a similar fashion. I take such confidence knowing that he sees what I do, and then I love that when he tells my students the same things I do, he does it just ever-so-slightly differently, using different words to reach the same conclusion or idea. It’s a complimentary voice for my students to have in their heads, and sometimes Michael will use a phrase or an idea that helps what I’ve been telling them click.
The other grand part of the weekend was watching my students ride horses at the upper levels that we’ve made together. There were four doing grand prix level work this weekend: two amateurs who’ve made their horses up the levels themselves with help from me, among other folks; and two on horses I made up to grand prix myself.
Add in another two homemade small tour horses and a handful of others who are working their way up to the level, and as a trainer of horses, I couldn’t have been more chuffed. Being 32 and childless I know nothing of this sensation, but I imagine it’s a bit like watching your own children as parents: the tremendous pride when they do it right, the tremendous joy seeing the horses/children teach their new riders/your grandchildren new things, and the tremendous hilarity when it all goes sideways and it’s not your fault.
One of my favorite things to do is watch my wonderful friend and longtime partner Midgey torture his new owner, Liza, who I also adore. They’re both feisty redheads, and their respective bravado suits the other’s well, like when Liza trips over the one-tempis and then can’t turn them off. Always good for a laugh!
I’m eager to get back to doing Big Hairy Competitive Things myself. I head back to Europe next week to shop for another young horse, since one of the two I picked out on my last trip failed his pre-purchase, and I’d like to have a 3- to 4-year-old in my string.
We found the beginnings of what could have been a very scary injury for Danny early, and while he was never unsound it’s going to be a slow rehab process to make sure we do it right, and it’s hard not to be a little wistful watching my clients and their wonderful horses learn while I’m on the bench. But I’m full of pride, too. Now if I can just put that swell in my heart to good use by sitting up straight on Puck…