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Olli was busy in Warendorf this morning coaching the U25 riders for the quadrille this Sunday in Aachen. I got to sleep in a little and come to the barn a little later. They had me ride Fred, my favorite little 4 year old Fürstenball gelding. He is so wonderful! He’s built a bit like a pony, and apparently he has broken his splint bone on the RH either twice or three times (??!!) depending on who you ask. Because of this, he is not as far along in his training (but still way farther along than the average 4 year old at home). Some days there is a lot of swelling in that hind leg, other days not so much. It’s hard to find out from them what all has been done/is being done to rectify this. But I just do what I’m told and work him lightly. He is super sensitive, which I love. It’s a bit crazy to ride the green ones in this little indoor with so much going on. Olli was back and having a lesson from Herr Meyer zu Strohen on Floriscount, and they were doing work in hand with him, while three other horses were working as well. Trying to trot and canter this sensitive baby was a bit much, but he handled it really well.

Jutta (Olli’s wife) complimented me the other day when I rode Fred. This never happens. Not that Jutta isn’t super nice (she is wonderful!) but they just don’t seem to ever say whether they thought your horse looked great or horrendous. So it was nice to hear that she thought I was doing a good job. Then today Olli told me he looked really super. He said, “This is your horse!” And he’s right. Well, he’s not right that he’s mine, unless he’d like to give him to me. But he’s right in that I just totally click with this guy. (There is also the strong possibility that they are hoping I will buy him, so that’s why I’m being told how great he looks…)

We then did a lesson with Four Seasons, which was really super. He had me warm him up lower and more forward in canter to try to get him to really let go in the back. He wanted him very low and reaching from the base of the neck to try to get rid of every ounce of under neck. And then he wanted the canter VERY forward to get him really in front of me and really up and soft in his back. It’s a bit confusing sometimes to have Olli talk to me about getting Four Seasons in front of my aids, since he’s so sensitive and so overly forward. But I understand the difference between a horse that’s running forward and a horse that’s really in front of the leg and seat.

We then worked on the transition from walk to half steps. This was really good to practice, because this shows off that he is NOT actually in front of my leg, even though he’s sometimes running away in every gait, including the walk. Often, I will get him feeling good in walk, make him wait for me, then I ask for trot and ….. nothing. Or he takes a huge first step. But getting a quick, active hind leg reaction is surprisingly hard. But it makes sense that when he is running away with his front end, he’s on the forehand and can’t access his hind legs easily, because he’s falling forward every stride with big steps. It’s just that it still looks nice, because he’s a beautiful mover. But when I finally got some good transitions from walk to half steps – voila! He was light in the hand and waiting for me. Once I could reliably do that, then we did walk – trot. But still the same idea – a small, quick first step, then let it out into a big, beautiful collected trot.

Next we rode transitions from trot to passage and then passage – piaffe – passage. I was better today at trusting him to do the piaffe without too much leg from me. Olli keeps saying, “just use your seat,” for the piaffe. This confused me at first, because I was not taught to use my seat much in piaffe. I was always told to sit lightly so that the horse could lift in the back. But Four Seasons needs a bit of a deeper seat to keep him on the spot. Olli helped a little from the ground, which is tricky, because this horse is TERRIFIED of the whip. But Olli didn’t actually touch him. He just stood near him and clucked. The piaffe was really, really amazing – very seated and active and big off the ground. Olli said if he could keep his tongue in, it’s some of the best piaffe and passage in the world.

We let him walk after each good set, and then I just did some posting, stretchy trot to end. I asked Olli what he thinks I need to improve as a rider, now that he has seen me ride many horses. He said in the beginning I didn’t really RIDE them – I sat up there and did the movements, but I didn’t get into the horses and change/improve their way of going. But now he thinks I am doing that much better. He said I need to learn to get the half halts to go through the whole horse while keeping the back up and swinging, so that I don’t stop them with the half halts. This happens when I can sit deeper and use my seat instead of too much hand. He said at first my half halts would block them in the back and make them go flatter instead of rounder over their backs.

So, no biggy. I’ll just do that from now on 😉