Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hanging out at the High Performance Training Sessions!

Day 4 in Aiken. Still lovin' it! Sunday was nearly 80 degrees; Monday didn't hit 50! Katchi has been thoroughly enjoying his quality time with his "glamma" - and has been super well behaved despite his mandatory rest. Until yesterday - when he was making all sorts of faces at us. I finally put my face down near his mouth to see if he had a stick in there or something - and wouldn't you know it - he had a big old chunk of his lip detached and flapping around. Fantastic. Silva called her vet for me, who decided it couldn't be stitched and would have to be cut off. Luckily it was only the size of about 10 m&m's, and it's on the very under/tip of his lips, so it won't be noticeable to anyone except me - and Katchi! Feeding him carrots later on, he was dropping little pieces all over - so I said (through my tears), "what, you got a hole in your lip or something?" Then I laughed and cried. Un-freakin-believable.

My mom at the entrance to Bridle Creek - the equestrian development that houses Phillip Dutton, Kevin Keane, Boyd Martin, Doug Payne... and the USET Training sessions!

Phillip Dutton's Barn

On Sunday afternoon, Kevin Keane was so kind to take about an hour to give us the whole tour of his barn and house!! We learned all sorts of excellent tidbits about barn design. My mom and I are dying to sit down and start making sketches for our (MY) dream barn! :)

Monday morning was the start of four days of High Performance Training sessions! With Katchi limited to walking, this was one of the big motivators for me to go ahead with this trip. And I cannot say enough about the opportunity to watch and learn from such high caliber horses, riders, and eyes on the ground. Over the past 15 years or so, I've had the priviledge of watching quite a few of these training sessions with Captain Mark Phillips - and yet again, from an auditor's perspective, he did not disappoint. Monday was all dressage, and although the audio system was a bit troubled by static, we still learned an amazing amount! One of my favorite things I heard Mark Phillips say over and over again (which I fully intend to plagiarize for my own students) - "I'm after a feeling, not a frame. If you get the feeling, you can make the frame where you want it." Mark was adamant about making the horses push through and seek the contact forward - rather then holding themselves up, stiff and limited in their power. My other favorite thing was a bit of vindication for me - every since I was about 10 years old and read Ginny Leng's book about training event horses, I have taken to absolute heart her insistance that hacking is focused work. It's serious business. And it's an opportunity to be better. The horses can be on a long rein, but they must always accept the contact and move off the leg, and leg yield, and bend, and engage, and be balanced. So, when Boyd got a bit of a lecture from Mark about the way he had been hacking out his horses earlier in the morning - loose rein, letting them wander about and look wherever - I thought, Ginny would be happy to hear this lecture! Mark explained that hacking is the ideal time to show the horses "the rules of life" - so that when they come into the sandbox to focus on dressage, it's not tragic and terrible for them. Because any time they are ridden they are to focus and work. Period.

Mark riding Boyd's Ying Yang Yo.

Mark with Jennie Brannigan

There was only one jumping lesson this morning - Will Faudre on Powlow. I have to admit that after all my lessons with Phillip, I was 1) disappointed in the simplicity of the lines (NOTHING like what PD has thrown at me the past few months), and 2) thrilled to see a horse with such similar issues to Katchi. As Will said, the horse is super careful, but he struggles with the quality of the canter. It was such an education for me to watch the "wrong" canter and the resulting jump versus the "right" canter and the resulting jump. It was Katchi in so many ways. So, it was great for me to see the tact and skill with which Will was able to work through Mark's directions. Although, I essentially couldn't hear much of anything (no audio hook up to Mark at all) - by body language and the few words I did catch, it was clear - it's all about the "right" canter.

And then I saw him. Katchi, I love you dearly, but I WANT THIS HORSE. Not only was he stunning in his work, but he's one cool pony too! At the end of his lesson, as Will and Mark were discussing some issues, Twizzel just hung out (not even being held onto) and made faces at the crowd. We were all enamored with him. I was seriously tempted to just walk in the ring and take him. I have room in the trailer to bring home another horse! I think Katchi wants a big brother!


The weather was so much warmer today that I was able to make my fingers work the video camera for a few minutes of several rides. Luckily, the audio system was working really well too, so hopefully you can pick up on a bit of Mark's comments.

Boyd & Otis (the French horse)

Will & Twizzle (MY horse!)

Boyd & Neville (the People's horse!)

Susan & ("look at that trot") Wolf

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