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June 30, 2010

Rainy Day With Walter Zettl

Screamer is one of the barn cats. She's not pregnant, just very fat! Photo by Barbra Reis.

A cloudy day greeted us on our fourth day riding with the great master Walter Zettl. Rain was forecast on and off throughout the day, but we were lucky to have a spacious indoor arena for our clinic.

First to ride was Bobbi J. and Amber, a 9-year-old German-bred Friesian mare that is currently showing second level. Bobbi has been a student of Walter's for many years and came to know him due to their mutual friend, Colonel Von Zeigner. Amber can be a tense horse at times, so Bobbi and Amber have been working on relaxation and exercises to get the horse to be less tense.

Ary L. and Thunderstryke were next to go. "Stryker" is a 5-year-old Appaloosa Sport Horse gelding that Ary purchased from California at three months of age. She has a natural horsemanship background and has been working with her spotted boy doing in-hand sport horse shows as well as starting his journey in dressage. Walter focused on having Ary ride Stryker forward for her lesson, getting him to reach for the bit and move off the seat and leg. Walter’s aim for this team has been great basics for a good foundation.

Ike and I were the third of the day's rides. Walter commented how much better Ike was today as far as his relaxation of the walk. It was fabulous, until it started pouring rain.

Ike doesn't normally spook at things, but this rain started so quickly and was so loud on the roof that he darted forward into a trot, so we just kept trotting instead of trying to bring him back to the walk. His working trot was certainly forward during the downpour!

Once he got over the loudness of the rain, we were able to come back down to the walk and work on collected walk, medium walk and extended walk. Walter had me "lift up to the heavens" with my seat and body and push down into my stirrups to communicate the changes of rhythm. Boy did it work!

From there we went into some trot/walk/trot/walk transitions (Walter loves transitions, and they seem to really help Ike to strengthen his hindquarters), then started with a bit of lateral work. We did an exercise that consisted of shoulder-in down the long side on the rail, then straight on the diagonal for a step, then back to shoulder-in again. This exercise can be done at the travers or renvers also. It’s meant to engage the hindquarters either at walk, trot or canter. I really felt Ike come up under my seat, and then he started to soften in my hands. VERY COOL!

From this lateral work we graduated to the canter. Once again we attempted to engage the hindquarters and get Ike stepping underneath himself so that as soon as I put my outside leg on his side he would push off with his outside hind leg and pick up the canter. For the downward transition Walter had me use my inside rein to half-halt and then use the outside rein to block the forward energy, sit "up into heaven" and push my heels down for the downward transition. It worked very well!

We ended by doing some extended trots. They were FABULOUS!

Walter had me pick up a medium trot, then collect it, then have Ike go forward, then shorten it, then turn across the short diagonal and just PUSH him forward with my lower legs. Holy cow it was a wonderful feeling!

We did this about four times in each direction, and at the end the auditors were clapping. Walter's comment was, "He's got quite a trot."

Yes, yes he does. Not bad for my little brown horse!