After the bead shop I hooked up with N and we went to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo. J and T went to an Avalanche game for J's birthday and I got to spend it doing horse things. Everyone ended up happy.
When we got to the expo, it was a little after 11 and we made our way to the Event Center to listen to a guy talking about collection. It took about 30 minutes for us to determine he was talking strictly about riding gaited horses, so we left and went looking for food. As we were standing in line to get our order, I realized we were standing next to a boarder from the barn, who moved out a while ago. We started to say hi and then things got really strange. I still really have no idea what happened, but N and I went and sat down to eat lunch, feeling very bemused by the whole interaction. Sometimes the politics of owning a horse are just beyond me.
After lunch, we found the Mark Rashid table and introduced ourselves. Mark spent about fifteen minutes talking with N about a riding issue she had just discovered this week. She is much stronger on her right side and is riding tilted to her right. She's been thinking that she needs to weaken her right in order to strengthen her left and Mark told her that what she really needs to do is focus on being balanced and in the center of her horse. One of the things that happened was Mark told her to engage her core and she took a deep breath. He laughed and said all she had done was brace through her body. He tapped her abdomen and said that was all it took for her to be engaged in her core. Engagement does not mean tension, it really means readiness. N was really thinking about her riding when we left. One of the things she said is that she needs to ride every step. Which is something Mark talked about in one of his books: that we have to be present and active with the horse whenever we are riding. We don't get the luxury of riding like a lump.
I bought A Journey to Softness and had Mark autograph the books. I've wanted them since he announced their development and I have already looked through the first book, which is a collection of sayings students have written down and remembered from his clinics. I'll do a review when I am done. Then we wandered through the displays and ended up in the Stadium arena where Mark was doing a clinic.
This clinic was on how to sit the trot and Mark spent fifteen minutes or so talking about energy movement within the horse and with the horse and rider. I found his energy flows easier to image than the flow of energy that Cassandra has talked about, it makes more sense to me. According to Mark, there are several flows of energy that move through a horse's body. The first starts at the horse's hind foot (which one determines the direction of the flow). Let's say the RH. The energy comes up from the hind leg, across the back of the haunch, across the back to the rider's seat, curves down the rider's leg and back to the RH hoof. That is one pulley. The RF hoof creates a circle of energy that starts with the hoof, travels up the rider's leg, across the withers, down the shoulder and back to the hoof. That creates a second pulley or energy engine. Those two pulleys work in unison in a horse that is riderless. With a rider, sometimes the front energy engine works backwards, so they create tension and clashing. The main flow of energy runs like a trac of a tank, that moves from the front hooves, to the rear hooves, flows up the rump, across the back, up the neck, down the face and back around. That flow can be affected by tension in the rider's back.
Mark then explained that the most important part of a rider's body is the lower back. If tension is held there, the energy flow is disrupted. I swear if you had been there you would have seen a light bulb go off over my head. That was the first epiphany. The second was when he was talking about the way in which a rider should allow their hips to move. It is not a forward and backward rocking motion. It is actually a side to side with the hips motion. It starts with the lower back and curves out to the point of the hip, then directly back to the lower back, then out to the point of hip on the other side, and back. Swear there was a second light bulb going off over my head. I was very excited about that concept. We went back to his booth after getting ice cream and seeing Cassandra at the warm up arena and I mentioned my back. He said my issue was the tension I was holding all the way up my back, touching my back to show me. At his touch the tension became very noticable, and going forward, I will work on stretches and movement to relax that part of my body.
After the expo we went to the barn. I was happy to see that the boy had reduced back pain, like none before our ride. That tells me it was definitely the saddle. I spent some time shaving his girth area. It looks kind of funny, but he was much less girthy when I went to put the saddle on. I think the hair has been pulling and he hasn't liked it. Remember, he's a bit of a princess when it comes to that sort of thing. He seemed much happier to have the hair gone, and you can't really see the difference under saddle, but he does look funny. I'm not going to do a trace clip or other full body clip, just because I think he will have a hard time auto regulating his temp if his hair is gone and I don't want to blanket him. The little patch I did won't make him cold. I hope.
Our ride was very good. We did a lot of trot-canter transitions. Ashke is still popping up into the canter on a lot of take offs, and he hates sharing the arena with the QH's, lots of head snapping and pinned ears during our ride last night. He especially hates bays and chestnuts. I don't know why, but I'm sure he has his reasons. We are also struggling with the downward transition. I'm not sure how to set him up better for moving from canter to trot. He listens well and does what I request, but he kind of comes apart when we do it. I'm hoping it is like our walk-trot transitions, and it gets better with repetition. He is getting better at continuing to move forward when we transition down, instead of coming to a screeching halt, but it is still a work in progress.
I am riding better in the saddle each time we go out, but am not sure how comfortable I will be on the trail. We will see today, since N and I are doing a trail ride.
We finished up our ride by riding through the Training Test 1 we would be taking at the schooling show on March 22nd, if I bite the bullet and do so. There is a part where the rider is supposed to get the horse to go long and low on the bit at a trot on a 20 meter circle and post at the same time. I think I can get Ashke to go long and low, if we work on it a bit, (I tell him to get his head very low, which he does) but there is no way I am posting. It throws us both off balance and he hates it. So, I will get marked off for that bit, but otherwise, it should be okay. I haven't decided what I am going to do. In part, it is a financial decision, since we are also buying Broncos tix this month and paying for car insurance, but I also think I would really like to go watch a show before I decide if this is something I really want to do.
Now, I am off to replace our bathroom sink. Wish me luck. I hate plumbing.