Spoiler alert: it was a FANTASTIC experience. Carmen and I got so much out of it that I can't even figure out where to start.
So let me start with the disclaimer: this post is my understanding of what I learned in the clinic. I may have gotten it wrong and if so, please do not blame the Centred Riding folks- it's all my fault. Don't think 'that centred riding stuff is stupid' instead think 'Teresa is getting it all wrong. Again'.
Carmen and Irish loaded like professionals- both walked right and stood there without a bit of fuss. They travelled well and got off as good as they got on. Carmen was a bit hesitant about entering the stable. This is not new and often I need someone to help me encourage her from behind. But this time I wanted to do it myself as a test of how we're doing since Royce started working with us. There were some hesitations but she never pulled backwards and we made it in all by ourselves. (*pats self & Carmen on back).
After letting them chill for a bit we tacked them up and took them into the arena. There were three open doors: on the left to a paddock and there was a trailer parked there, on the right where there was tall grass and looked onto the stallion's paddock and at the far end where there was a manure pile and trees. All good spooking spots for Carmen. I made sure on my ground work that I let her see what was there but that I reinforced that we worked there and went towards them. When I mounted I did the same thing. And she was lovely - a few bobbles at the doors but I was able to work her towards them without any major blow ups or fuss.
After supper there was a lecture from the clinician - Sue Leffler. We all started with introducing ourselves, any limitations we had and our goals. When it was my turn I owned up that most of my 'baggage' was emotional and to my eternal embarrassment I cried. But she was good and said that she knew my story and I didn't need to explain myself. Phew. She was funny and informative and gave a ton of information. My problem is that after so much I can't take in anymore - especially at night. But she went over the anatomy and how it has to function to work with the horse. If I could boil it down to a few key points they would be this:
1. We all have physical or psychological limitations but we can learn to work around, through and with them to be better riders. We don't have to have perfect conformation and neither do our horses.
2. We ride 'back up to front'- the front end takes care of itself if we ride the back. And we always ride the 'up' of the horse to encourage them to lift their backs and go into contact. We don't take contact- the horses take it and we channel the energy
3. There are some simple fundamentals that we can all do (but are hard to remember as I found out) no matter our ability: Our eyes must be soft not hard. This allows us to be soft and flow with the horse rather then harsh and against the horse. We have to breath through our diaphragm to control relaxation and energy. We have to be centred- this gives us the strength and flexibility to ride correctly and not become unbalanced.
4. You must have clear intent - I loved this because is pretty much what Royce says- 'you have to be back or white with the horse, not wishy washy'. In other words you have to know what you want so that the horse knows what you want. I was reminded of when I would be pointed at a jump by an instructor and told to jump it even though I didn't really want to. No surprise that the horse would stop.
When the lecture was over Cynthia, Karen and I put the horses to bed and went for a swim in her pool. A glass of wine after and I went to bed with the points above rattling around in my head. Knowing how intense I can get and know that that is not a good thing I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.