August 16, 2020

Horse: Gidget

Lesson Comments:

Lesson Note 8/16

Vivi has a fantastic ground lesson yesterday. We talked about the horse’s structure and function – what Gidget needed to do to be able to bend – namely, flex/relax when she feels the rider’s hand and not pull through them and step under and push off behind, using her haunches. We talked about what each of her body parts did in a bend or connected circle and what they did when disengaging/crossing over behind. Vivi was thoughtful, observant, and happy; she said that she was somewhat stressed about school in the abstract but not immediately stressed because she didn’t have anything due at the moment and was very interactive, coming up with observances and metaphors about how Gidget was using her body that I had not not thought of before. Which was awesome! She identified that when Gidget was turning unbalanced, she was throwing her shoulder in and using it as a fulcrum, before I even mentioned a pivot point. Very cool.

She was able to see when Gidget was moving correctly vs incorrectly and was able to ask Gidget to bend and move on the circle herself, connecting where and how she asked Gigdet to move on a connected circle with where her leg would be while mounted. We discussed the two things we would be working on in the lesson today, which was having Gidget respect and not pull through her hand; and having her step under with her haunches to stay balanced through a corner. We also discussed how easily Gidget was able to do it on the ground – how that meant that she was capable of doing it under saddle and how Vivi would be more confident having seen that Gidget was able to do it – but also know that sometimes she would have to push Gidget to do it when she didn’t want to. Vivi was smiling, happy, and seemed excited at the end of the lesson.

The plan for the day was to work on those two skills through downward transitions, by coming to a halt after an obstacle (small jump, walk poles, trot poles etc) and asking the horse for a small step over. With the repetition of this exercise, the horse becomes more attentive and less resistant, giving the rider a great confidence boost from beginning to end as they see the horse respond more quickly and pay attention better. With the confidence and lack of stress Vivi exhibited in her lesson yesterday, and the fact that she had already done part of that/a similar pattern in her lesson last week (and I think the week before as well), I felt that it would be a natural skill progression, and that Vivi would be able to apply more purpose and knowledge to what she was asking Gidget to do and why. While Vivi was nervous last week about jumping, she did a crossrail successfully, and then was able to communicate her need to step down in difficulty afterwards, which we did. Especially after the success of her lesson yesterday, I had no thoughts that she would not be able to do the same today. I will admit to getting somewhat frustrated when she immediately started throwing up roadblocks to not being able to even attempt the exercise, after we had talked through it together in a question and answer format, and Vivi successfully answered the why’s and how’s of the purpose behind stopping and stepping the horse over. When she did do the course, it was a great first attempt and actually got some of the best steps over she has ever done.

At the end of the lesson, Vivi verbalized that she started stressing out when I told her that I may need her and Caitlin to briefly warm up more independently while I paid closer attention to Caroline as she figured out Murphy. Caroline did that fairly quickly (she has ridden him w/t/c/jump before, and I knew that she would), and I was able to discuss the pattern and purpose of the exercise with Vivi and Caitlin, while Caroline worked on trotting and relaxing. Vivi did express that she thought they couldn’t work together on the same skills; I wonder if Caroline not being able to steer at first made her think that she was a beginner? And in retrospect, she probably did not realize that she had ridden with Caroline the last two weeks.

All of the skills were appropriate for the students in the lesson today, and it is very valuable to see each other work on the same skills, especially when they are new skills, and everyone will struggle a bit. I like to do a lot of Q&A in a semi-private or group lesson and have them observe each other. This is similar to how Vivi is able to see what Gidget is doing more easily on the ground since it is hard for her to feel it. In addition, it’s nice to know that no one gets it right the first time.

Re: scheduling, Vivi has had a semi-private lesson with Caroline the last two weeks and ridden with more than one other person in the ring and additional people watching at least once in the last few weeks. I had absolutely no idea that a group lesson would freak her out, or that you did not know it was a group lesson. We are of course willing to schedule privates as needed.

1. Vivi is not able to verbalize what is stressing her out until after she has spiraled and started a meltdown. I do not expect her to be able to verbalize why she feels the way she does when she is in the middle of melting down. I would like to discuss giving her a safe word out of the lesson (if she thinks this may be a good idea) – when she is getting to that point, she can safeword out of the lesson, no further questions, no judgement. She can then decide if she needs to be done, leave and join back in, sit and watch if others are riding, reschedule, etc.
2. I would like Vivi to feel like she can communicate with me prior to the lesson. If she wakes up and has a rough day, let me know! I can adjust difficulty; I can suggest another time or day; I can more fully explain to her the exercises and plan for the day, and she can suggest accommodations she may need in the lesson. I thought that doing the skills covered, in the type of patterns we had been working with, would be non-stress inducing. I was wrong. I can attempt to also let Vivi know the exact exercises we will be doing to work on the skills we are discussing in the ground lesson, but I cannot guarantee that they will be exactly the same, as sometimes the lesson plan changes due to the fact that I am working with people and horses.
3. When Vivi is having a meltdown vs just nervous or not understanding or tired, etc, it is hard for me to tell whether to push her to attempt the task or to put no demands on her and let her try to self-regulate. If I push her to do the exercise, she stresses out more and cannot see the parts that she did well or cannot do the exercise or starts arguing. If I leave her to attempt to self-regulate, and then ask her if she is ready to do the exercise, or if she needs to be done, she often doesn’t know, and walking or sitting doesn’t seem to give her any more clarity as to whether or not she can try the exercise or needs to be done. Me telling her that she can be done also doesn’t seem to help. If she thinks it may help, I would like to sit down at some point and come up with a plan for her having a meltdown on the horse.
4. I have promised her multiple times that if I am ever angry, or upset, or disappointed, I will tell her outright; she does NOT have to guess. If she asks me how I am feeling towards her, I will tell her. If I ask her if she needs or wants to be done, it is not a ploy to get her to do something, I legitimately am asking with no rancor or bad feelings or ulterior motive, and she will not be penalized. I am not disappointed in her for how she ride today; I am always first and foremost concerned for her, because I care about her.

I don’t know how to end this note, other than I hope that this week is much less stressful, and if Vivi is amenable, maybe we can sit down after her ground lesson this week or over text and try to troubleshoot/plan.

April 20, 2019

Horse: Badger

Lesson Comments:

Nalani was in a great mood this morning. We rode on the lunge line next to the big ring because of the sloppy footing in the smaller ring next to the cross-ties. Because she had a hard time focusing for a long period of time in her first lesson, I kept her exercises short. We worked on balance at the walk by having her ride three circles on the lunge with her arms out to her side (airplane arms), then we would walk two laps working on holding the reins in the proper position.

Nalani was slightly shy at first when I asked her questions, but by the middle of the lesson, she was giving me verbal answers back, even asking questions of her own (she wanted to know what posting was because I kept asking her about it).

In addition to working on balance, she worked on posting and counting at the same time. I had her posting for ten posts, then we would do a random whoa, or would drop our reins and do airplane arms.

Having the shorter exercises and then mixing them up really kept her attentive to what I was saying and what we were doing. When I asked her to repeat things I said, she was able to do so without any hesitation, so she was definitely listening.

We worked on trotting a small bit–she’s not comfortable yet letting go of the saddle, which is fine, but still maintains a nice upright position, which is more important to me than if she were to let go of the saddle and collapse her shoulders and lean forward.

Nalani didn’t want to trot the second time, but after I coaxed her into it, she had fun. We ended the ride with her practicing her steering both on and off the lunge line. Badger even tried to escape while she did this and she handled it fantastically.

I did notice that once she’s off the horse (i.e. grooming), she gets a bit scattered about the order of which things need to proceed. She was ready to start brushing Badger, but had no idea she needed to take off her saddle and bridle. That will come with time, but may need to really reinforce chronological steps of doing things in order to give her more boundaries.

June 4, 2018

Horse: Draco

Lesson Comments:

great lesson continue to work on improving leg position to improve balance. worked on poles for balance to x-rails and verticals.

September 16, 2017

Time: Mid-Morning

Horse: Bunny

Mood: Happy, Content, Calm

Long Term Goal:

Groundwork: Unprompted, use two hands to independently push billet through buckle, then pull up and maintain tension on billet while pushing tongue of buckle in hole.

Riding: Posting at the walk with no hand support

Short Term Goal:

Groundwork goal: identify order of girth in tacking and assist in cinching by using one hand to either pull up on strap or pushing tongue through hole 100%.

Riding Goal: Walk with arms extended like an airplane for 10 steps on a straight line (assisted or unassisted) to encourage correct equitation and alignment as well as build core strength for eventual posting.

Lesson Comments:

Sharini –

9/16 – Veera said that her gross motor skills and talking have progressed rapidly, but her fine motor skills are still lagging behind. So now that Sharini is usually comfortable at the barn and staying 15-20 minutes after the ride to untack and brush, today we started arriving early so that she can target more fine motor skills while tacking the horse up (incl. holding the hoof pick properly, buckling her helmet, buckling the girth, snapping the reins on the halter, working the crossties, etc). N.B.: While Sharini was fine working with Brooke after the ride, she wanted me to be the one to help her before the ride (because new activity?) – need to work on getting her comfortable with new skills while working with a variety of people. I introduced buckling the girth today; she will need hand over hand assistance for awhile – primarily worked on identifying what the buckle was, where the strap went, and pushing the tongue through the hole.

Sharini recognized Marshmallow by sight and said his name when he entered the crossties, then voluntarily walked over to pet him! While riding, we said “Stephanie” and worked on balancing with her arms out. She did not voluntarily extend arms until giving another rider a high five. Steering continued as usual, with Sharini being very clear about where she wanted to go. Repeated “barn” from last week. Did not want to trot.

April 1, 2017

Horse: Moose

Lesson Comments:

Cavaletti U/S: Good upper body and steering.
Cavaletti O/F1: Great smile and navigating.