Clay Wright Lesson

I’m still new to taking private lessons with my own horse, so today was quite the experience. Clay Wright is a local trainer who I watched a few times at my last barn, and jumped at a last minute open spot this weekend. V, who is working with Flash for/with me, takes lessons from him too, and I was hoping for some ground work and strength building exercises.

Backing up with engaged abs and not like a giraffe

Flash took 10 minutes to decide to load (to be fair, he’s only been trailered once since he moved to the new barn in March), hauled well except he got super sweaty. I love my new Trailer Eyes camera and that really helped my driving at least.

I’m listening to Clay, Flash is elsewhere clearly

The biggest thing I learned from Clay is a few concrete, slow and quiet ways to get Flash to tune into me. He’s very distractable and not always with me, which means taking him new places always feels like a bit of a gamble. I know he’s a solid, well travelled and well trained horse, but sometimes he hops off the trailer in a new place with limited space in his brain for working with me. Today we practiced exercises based on moving Flash’s weight forward and back, keeping his shoulder off of me and tuning into whatever speed I’m going took a whole hour…but what an educational hour! It was quite the workout for us both, even though we just walked around in a few circles and stood a lot.

Like watching paint dry…but so critical to further safe and enjoyable adventures!
Giving to pressure… eventually

Flash isn’t too spooky or reactive, just spacy, but by the end of the hour he was much more tuned into me and not bracing for whole minutes against the pressure of me asking for simple things, like lifting his weight up and back or just ever so slightly forward. He was definitely still able to be distracted but asking something of him constantly means he can’t fully tune me out, which was Clay’s point. The more I ask of him and keep his attention, the more he’ll realize it’s easier to stay with me and in turn be more confident with me.

Both of us more or less listening to Clay

There’s more buzzing around my head but this pregnant lady is tired and in desperate need of a shower! All photos on the post courtesy of the amazing V!

Always a post workout roll

Clinic Time!

For my birthday this year, I went full adult and splurged on a Celena Pentrack clinic. Time amazingly well spent with the endurance focused dressage trainer, and my Evernote app is full of pearls of wisdom on everything from saddle fit to working with a buddy sour horse. I was exceptionally lucky in that I was able to ride both days on two different horses, both of whom presented interesting challenges for Celena to guide me through.

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I put the kid in charge of taking pictures…time to get him a decent camera!

On Saturday I moseyed up to Shelton, settled in and met up again with 20 year old Shadow, whom I was able to squeak out my proudest completion two years ago, a 35 mile ride at Mt. Adams. I earned every mile of that ride, and god bless Shadow for chugging on through it with a rider who’s ankle died at mile 25. This weekend, however, he decided he was deeply in bromance with his owner’s other horse Rocky, so I spent most of my time with him convincing him I wasn’t the Boogeyman. I took him out for a trail ride on Saturday, walking the first mile before he settled down enough to mount.

My first highlight of the weekend came when I looked up, took a deep breath and realized I was once again out alone with just my dog and a good horse, miles of trails in front of me and the sun weakly shining down. My happy place.

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Clearly worried but willing!

Of course when we got back, saw Rocky, and I wanted to check to see if Shadow would go back out again, we had to spend a good quarter of an hour backing and circling and hollering down the driveway, but we did it and I stuck it.

A few hours later I hopped on Streak, the barn owner’s and my friend’s Texas bred Quarter Horse. Now, keep in mind this was this horse’s home facility, I’d spent a good chunk of last summer riding and working with this horse, and I put my kid on this horse for lead line lessons last summer. Streak decided he hated the bit, hated the corners of the arena, hated the chickens outside, and had totally forgotten what it meant to trot in a straight line. My low moment of the weekend came when Celena futzed with my seat and informed me I’d put my stirrups back on totally wrong.

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The makings of a ride camp dog!

My third highlight was once again sticking it out on a horse determined to holler and spin and squirrel his way through my riding time, but I almost learned more than if he’d been his normal even headed self. We dealt with his rooting at the bit, haunches turn, rating speed and responsiveness to my seat and the bit, and I eventually turned out a horse that remembered his job, mostly.

My third highlight of the weekend was piling blankets and pillows and dog beds in the back of the Emerald Queen and driving around the country block to the local drive in theater. Kade, the dog and I watched the Black Panther from the back of the SUV, scarfing down charred cheeseburgers and candy while cuddled together and watching the nation of Wakanda take shape before us.

Sunday morning I dragged my tired butt up and again put on riding clothes and my new, perfectly fitted half chaps for another spin with Shadow. He again wanted to have fits over his bro being in the outside round pen, so Celena and I spent the time working on my seat and engaging the poor lonely horse’s brain. He’s a good boy and eventually settled down, while Celena guided me through (ie tortured me) with two point trot poles. Man, have I still got a ways to go towards building strength for 50 miles of soft posting.

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Shadow considering his life choices

The last highlight of the weekend came during the after lesson chat. I’d last ridden with Celena a year ago, so this was an invaluable chance to check in with her about my progress, and boy she’s noticed! She said she barely recognized me when I drove in, nearly 40 pounds and a bunch of hair lighter. I still have a ways to go, but she’s pleased most especially with my quiet seat (minus the occasional unsoft landing), solid legs and grit, which she terms stick to itness. High praise indeed from an exacting trainer who expects us to give our best selves to our horses, so the horses can do the best for us as comfortably as possible.

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The main points I’m going to be focused on leading up to Grizzly are working with Ray and using some of Celena’s techniques to work through the first few miles of race brain, which includes letting him make mistakes I can softly correct, versus expecting him to race and holding onto his face. Continual core and leg strength building will continue, I really have to keep my arms and elbows hanging underneath my shoulders, instead of the constant “give away” I do now that leaves me sore after miles of incorrect positioning.

There’s so much more I learned while mounted and from watching other’s ride with her all weekend, things that will percolate in the background until I have need of them. Having this clinic at the excellent T&A ranch was icing on the cake, most especially the propane heaters for Sunday when the rain and wind really whipped up! If you’ve read this far, a million thanks to Celena, Andrea, Amie & Terry for a perfect birthday weekend.

Bonus: Celena declared Cyrus her favorite clinic auditor!

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