Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was really adorable. The kids had so much fun! Baking cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, Daniel and Jonathan putting *lots* of Legos together, and Addie very busily rearranging her new “neigh neighs” in and out of her new barn are some sweet memories. On Christmas morning, I left the house at 4:45, in the hopes that I could feed all the girls and only do a couple stalls and be back in time for the kids to wake up. Of course by the time I got back, Jonathan said they had already been awake for an hour! 🙄
As the biggest Christmas present for myself, I got to have a lesson with Debbie McDonald on Christmas Eve! What a thrill! I’ve really enjoyed watching Jen’s lessons with Debbie on Betsy Juliano’s fabulous gelding, Handsome. And I’ve also gotten to watch her teach Lehua Custer on Ramzes, who is such an exciting horse for the future. Debbie has an absolute eagle eye. She manages to see everything and demand the highest standard without coming across as negative.
My experience was very similar. Debbie really liked Flow (how can you not?! 😉) but was extremely demanding that I get quieter with my hands, get her straighter and more upright between my left and right aids. Early on she said, “She’s the kind of horse where you can really do less and get more.” And I think that so true. Flow is very sensitive but not a hot horse, because she’s also quite confident naturally. She gets more and more sensitive as the ride goes on, and I need to remember to always try to do less once I get the feeling I’m after.
I also really liked the feeling in my lesson of making things feel very easy for her. In all Debbie’s lessons, she is so committed to the basics, and especially with the more sensitive horses, she is always trying to make it easy and super, super steady. Then from an “easy” canter or trot, adding more collection or more impulsion. Back at home, Patrick Tigchelaar, who helps me, calls this making Flow more “fuel efficient.” She is so flamboyant with the front legs, that it ends up pulling her apart and being a form of “wasted” energy.
Debbie was very helpful in working on the changes with Flow. She took the same tactic as Jen – making sure I can move the shoulders easily with a slight counter bend within the counter canter. But she was also adament that I can push her just a little bit forward in that, so that she doesn’t start going up and down and coming off the contact in that way. This resulted in clean changes (hallelujah!) without so much collection and without stress. They felt easy and sort of “ho-hum” instead of like such a big deal. That is a feeling I can take into tempis.
After this wonderful experience and a great Christmas, I managed to dislocate my pinkie toe on my left foot Wednesday evening. This happens to me about once a year. I think my pinkie toes are mangled from horses stepping on them over the years, and then when I catch it on a doorframe, it just pops out of joint so easily. I know immediately when I’ve done it. It’s so incredibly painful, and my poor husband has had to learn how to pull it back in place 😫 despite my screams. And then, unfortunately, even when it’s back in place, it’s swollen and super sore for a couple days. So I tried to ride yesterday, but it was too painful. Luckily, Jen was willing to hop on and ride them for me, and that is very helpful as well.
I thought to myself the other day how lucky we’ve been that none of the horses have had any lameness problems or terrible fungus problems, like so many often do down here in Florida. I shouldn’t have even thought it, since we still have another week left, and then I went and hurt myself. 🤦
Luckily today I was able to get a boot on and ride without too much pain. Walking still hurts a lot but riding isn’t too bad. (Who needs to walk anyway?) I had a super, super lesson with Jen early this morning, where Flow felt totally fabulous, and I was able to get three clean changes on the quarterline 😀🥳👏
Hard to believe our time here is coming to an end soon. So many friends are just arriving or planning to arrive right as I’m leaving. Hopefully I’ll get to say hi and have a dinner or two with folks before we head north again.