We started around 10 in the morning and had quite an ecletic mix of riders. Digs was really calm coming off the trailer and getting saddled. I took him over into the corral/arena first (it's really a HUGE roundpen, great format). He was a bit snorty at the bull that lives a corral panel or two over, but got busy with some ground work. He settled in pretty quickly and I mounted up before too long. However, the more horses that came over and started to ride around with us, the more agitated he became. After he couldn't decide whether to whirl around to stare at someone, or spook at something else, I decided safety first and got off and worked his little butt of in the center of the ring for a while. Took loping quite a few circles with several quick changes of direction to get his focus back on me and his mind on the task at hand (and for him to realize he was NOT, in fact, going to die
Kim came in and got us started, she had everyone line up along the rail, then one at a time we went into the middle and did a few rounds to show where we were at with our training. The first was a boyfriend/husband, obviously very green to horses, on an older paint gelding. He was followed by girlfriend/wife, again a green/unschooled rider on a more well trained, but young grey mare. Turns out the gelding was her old horse, who she's had for 12 years. She recently purchased the mare, who has "training", and they were attending to both become more schooled riders. She said new horse has buttons she wants to learn how to work. :)
Diego and I went next. He retained his calm demeanor and gave me a few nice trotting circles around, relaxed and supple. We leg yielded across the center to change directions. I was fortunate and was just turning back to the left when Kim asked me if I would lope him (something we didn't do last time) and he obliged quickly with just a kiss and a squeeze into a left lead - his strong preference. He was a bit tense, Kim asked if I had noticed and I had, but I could tell he wasn't that bad and after a few strides he loped along nicely. I thought I heard one person mention "That's a nice lope." Diego carries himself very well, uphill and driving from behind. He stopped quickly and I beamed with getting some compliments. Turns out that was more or less the best he'd be all day! LOL
A lady on a cute QH gelding named Blue went next, followed by Ronda and Quik. Then one of Kim's reining students on what was easily the most well-trained horse there, aside from Kim's handsome drool-worthy roan stallion she was riding. There was a lady on a hot little grey Arab, and another chestnut Arab that was a student of Kim's. A lady just getting started in western riding, mounted on a cute Haflinger (who Dig was highly suspicious of at first - way too much fluffy hair for him), followed by friend Elizabeth and her TWH mare Dixie. You can click on the link for her account. So a total of 10 of us.
After everyone had a chance to show where they were at, Kim started working with us from the greenest to the more experienced. It was great to watch and listen to what she was having people do, and seeing the transformation in their horses. She had a lot of people work on rib and shoulder control by doing a counter-arc. This was the same focus we had for Diego two weeks ago - to gain control over and help free up his shoulders. This is a pretty good video to explain what it is: Counter Arc Kim had us start circling the same direction their nose was tipped in, then to keep a hold of their nose, and ask them to change direction and start to step across with their legs/bodies. It's sometimes easier to start on a straight line, but it was helpful to see how many of us were working on this same concept, and how each of the horses would respond.
Kim worked her more experienced students in to demonstrate various manuevers throughout the first course of one-on-ones, so it happened that Diego and I were the last ones to go individually. She wanted me to work on a right lead circle, since he had already done some nice ones to the left. I wailed about, "But that's WHY I went left the first time!!!" ;) and we laughed. That's what we were there for, to learn and work on the issues. So right-lead it was. Mr. Dig was all tense after having stood around for a few hours, so we had to trot a few circles to get loosened up and get his head on straight again. Kim worked me through trying to get him to pick up his right lead. I've been taught to cue by using my inside leg to support the bend, and then ask for the upward transition with my outside leg.
This wasn't working for Diego, and he was getting frustrated with being asked, then brought down to a trot when he'd pick the wrong lead, then being asked, slowed, etc. and he got pissy and after a couple head-shake warnings, let loose one good buck. Kim had me immediately turn him in a much tighter circle to the right, then get after him and ask him to lope off again. He had displayed some of his pissyness two weeks ago, he will get mad and fight me, but this week we were trying a different tactic of NOT backing down and doing something else, but instead pushing him through and making him do it. So I kept him in a small (10 m.?) circle and went back to pushing him through it. After a few more failed attempts, she had me work on counter arc, and then asking him. He picked it up and got the lead! I relaxed and let him cruise in a bigger circle before we stopped him fully. She had me repeate the small circle to counter arc to correct lead successfully one more time and then we all took a short break.
Near the end of the break, I started riding Diego around again. Asking him to work off my legs and stay light in my hands. Again, the more horses that joined us, the more aggitated he became. I did my best to stay relaxed and with him, but was getting a little frustrated. There was a lot of loud commenting of "Really, REALLY?!?!" and "Knock it off" coming out of my mouth. Dork. But he did get his head on straight (er, mostly) and we cantered around one or two more times before lining back up on the rail.
Again, Kim worked through most of the other students first, and actually that worked out well, as E, Ronda and I were the last three remaining. We're all fairly close together with where we're at, or as E so perfectly stated: "not polished at what we do, not rank beginners, not afraid to TRY at any speed". Kim had me working with Dig again, then sent us to the fence to do rollbacks. These used to be one of my FAVORITE manuevers to perform with a good reining, cutting, cow-working horse - actually, they still are REALLY fun! But boy-howdy do they make you WORK! We weren't looking for a lot of finesse, or slow, it needed to be quick, quick, quick, with Dig listening to my outside (cueing) leg and deciding to pick up the correct lead more on his own. Whew, was it both fun and hard! It took me a bit to coordinate myself, I kept wanting to kick with both feet coming out of the turn, and Kim wanted me to only kick with my outside leg. So I had to kick, kick, ride, sit up, sit down, pull him around to the inside (fence), then grab and kick, kick with my new outside leg. We were both panting hard after a few times. After he picked up the right lead a few times on his own (I couldn't really tell, working that hard, Kim would let me know and pull him around soon if he chose the wrong one), we let him canter on his right lead off the fence and then stop. Both E and Ronda started cracking up laughing. I had stopped facing them, and I guess Dig had the most perfect "little kid that just got in BIG trouble" look on his face. =) But he DID it!!! Good boy. He also stood perfectly still while they worked on stops, until we did it one more time. Kim told me to take him to the center, counter arc and ask for the right lead, and then send him down the fence again if he didn't take it on the first try. So more rollbacks for us. Pant, pant, grin, grin!!! I don't know about Diego, but I LOVED IT!
So, I'm totally loving the lessons and can't wait to get back. Plans are for a long ride this weekend (my last before Rides of March), then our club has motocross race the next weekend, then AERC Convention, then Rides of March. So next lesson probably won't be until that weekend of 3/25. Already looking forward to it.