It's a fact that we are never done with working on the foundation with our horses. With that in mind I headed off to a Trail Clinic last weekend. I had originally been signed up for one in May but it had to be cancelled when things shut down again during the third wave of covid.
I have gone to one clinic every year since my first time back in 2017. Each time I come out with something new or refined. I was disappointed to have the May clinic cancelled and when someone posted that there was an opening in their clinic in August, I jumped at it.
|Throw back to our first time over the teeter|
This time the clinic was at a large english barn, which would be my first time not with primarily western folk. The benefit was it closeness- the drive was about 90 minutes, mostly on highway and straight roads. When we got there I realized that this was the biggest, busiest place I had ever taken Carmen. There were horses out in small paddocks and people bringing horses in and out, cleaning stalls and generally bustling around. I found where we supposed to go and unloaded her. I was feeling pretty chill but I was prepared if Carmen was not so sure. However, she followed me in and went into her stall without hesitation.
And that was the way the whole weekend went. Carmen was a rock star. Nothing fazed her at all. Our morning session required us to walk down a road between paddocks full of curious horses. The location was in a large outside space with trees all around and houses at the other side of the trees. Carmen cared nothing. There was even a tent and she was all 'ooh what's that? Let's go see!'
|Me: c'mon put your ears up|
Carmen: it's too hot
Me: people will think you're grumpy
Carmen: they know I'm a sweetheart.
My goals were pretty simple- I wanted to keep her engaged with me and curious. I wanted to be soft and clear with her. I was curious to see how much freedom I could give her and have her follow my intent and body, not the lead-in.
It was nice to go to a clinic without a big problem that needed to be fixed. Rather I just wanted to check where we were with thing. And it seemed to be a pretty good place. I did ask Mike for advice on one thing: Carmen yields to poll pressure quite easily but if she steps on her lead when grazing and feels stuck she will fling her head and rear up a bit. Of course that results in the lead letting go so, from her perspective, that was the right thing. I've been asking her to yield with it lower and lower. Mike helped me to tweak that a bit and we've been working on it.
|Can you even handle the cuteness?|
The other thing I was super happy about was how chill she was in her stall. It was a portable stall in the ring. Across were smaller stalls that horses were brought to in order to prepare for lessons. Horses came and went and sometimes she was all by herself. She was fine with it.
|I was eating a granola bar and felt like I was being watched.....|
The weather was so hot and humid it was ridiculous. Once the fog burned off in the morning it was hot. Despite being basically dipped in sunscreen I felt like a piece of bacon by the time it done. The rest of the clinic was in the indoor. While it was still hot, it was out of the sun and felt a lot better. However, I have never enjoyed a shower more at the end of the day.
|The day we left. I didn't have the heart to kick her out|
It was fun to watch Carmen look at the obstacles with total confidence and happiness. She does love knowing the answer. It felt like a great way for us to connect and refine our communication. I loved meeting the new people and there was one young woman who was so keen on helping her horse and making huge gains in their confidence. I remembered being that person and I can remember how it felt. I was so happy for her and loved watching them work together.Carmen and I played with the car (her favourite thing) and I wanted to practice dragging it back. After a couple tries she was totally fine with this car rattling behind her. Here's a video of her pushing it back in 2019.