As you know I've been looking into various ways to have some coaching with Carmen. My philosophy is that no matter how advanced you may be (and I'm not) you always need someone to help you improve. However, this has not been easy in my area at all. I do have options if I want to trailer but they are all about 2 hours away. Again, while that is useful it's a long and tiring day and harder to arrange when you work full time.
One day I saw a FB post by Roz Moskovits. She's a highly respected equine coach that I had encountered at various shows (here's her website: http://rozmoskovits.com). I always enjoyed listening to her coach her students at the shows. She lives a ways away from me but had a post that she was open to travelling. In a fit of desperation I sent her a long pleading email asking if she would consider coming my way. She wrote back and I started to read expecting the "I'm sorry it's just too far" but instead she said she would love to come. But she would need some more riders. I put a FB post out and have one other interested party (besides me and Cynthia). She agreed to come anyway and we set the date for yesterday (Thursday).
That morning I dragged the ring, brought up lawn chairs and mowed the grass path up to the ring. My plan was to work with Carmen before our lesson and be ready for when she came. Of course she was early (an equine coach who's early?!). We chatted in the barn about Carmen, her personality, my goals and our progress and issues. I said my biggest issue was that she did not trust the grass and leaves blowing on one side of my ring and while I can work through it on the ground it's much harder under saddle. Roz also has an Andalusian and is familiar with their personality and quirks.
We headed up to the ring for our lesson. She watched me do the ground work and gave me some general pointers but overall seemed happy enough with what I was doing. I then got on and we started our ride. Just as I was coming around by the trees a gust of breeze sent the leaves off and Carmen gave a big spook into the middle of the ring. I lost my balance but stayed on. Roz said 'whoa that was a close one'. I guess it was but funnily enough those don't bother me anymore. I know that she won't do more than that and I can ride it out so I'm not so worried.
Initially Carmen was very tight and short strided. Roz had us work on slowing her tempo and asking her to bend and relax. She gave me some solutions to stop the spinning into the middle which was essentially to raise up the inside hand to block the shoulder from dropping in. It really worked. We just kept working quietly and calmly. Roz has a very calm and matter of fact approach to teaching that I really liked. There was no raised voices, there was no 'you musts'. She just talked us through our issues. I was actually glad that Carmen was tense and a bit spooky because that's what I need help with.
What I also liked about the lesson was that Roz never argued with me. When Carmen and I came by the gate she slowed right down and when I asked to go forward she pinned her ears so I gave a short, sharp kick and she moved on. Roz asked me to instead just give a series of gentle squeezes. I explained that seemed to get her more pissed off but the short kick works. Roz didn't argue, instead she gave me another way of looking at it which was that (and I will likely not do her justice here) if I want Carmen to learn and understand give her the time she needs to respond by asking and asking so she can figure it out and that it's all okay. And then I laughed because she said "and if she's just being bitchy, sure give a kick and tell her to get on with it". I loved how she explained the whys and wherefores of what she was asking me to do and how that would translate into our future work. She was respectful and obviously cares that people and horses work well together and are happy in the partnership.
We worked on slowing Carmen down and asking her to work from behind. I needed to sit up more and give forward with my hands, not drop them. In the end we had Carmen working back to front and flowing in her trot. She was happy to go forward and no longer cared about the leaves or anything else. I would have loved to do more but it was Cynthia's turn so I took her back to the barn and hosed her off. She was happy enough to stay down by the barn away from Irish and only called once when I left her all alone.
Irish and Cynthia did very well in their lesson and she got some of the best walk-canter transitions I've seen on him in a long time. He went from being stiff and on the forehand to being relaxed and forward. It was lovely.
And Roz offered to come back next week while I'm still on vacation (*insert happy dance*). After that we can work out a schedule on Saturdays. She still has space if anyone is interested.