So yesterday was the Wolfgang May Clinic! It went very well for it being Greta's first clinic. As you can see in the video, she was very unfocused, hiking her head up to see everything around her, but with the help of Wolfgang (transitions, transitions, transitions!) she began to focus and go into work mode and was a lot better at the later half of the lesson.
Before the lesson
I washed her up Saturday, though I didn't get to pull her mane because I put detangler in it. Oops. I lunged her Sunday morning, and she seemed particularly mellow, so I had my hopes up that she would be super awesome and not crazy in a new situation. My trainer was having a few lessons in the hours before her trailer would arrive, so I hung out with Greta and the other students. Once the trailer pulled up and after I put all of my stuff in there, I threw on Greta's purple cooler (she has been known to break out in a sweat from nervousness when we trailer her, but she's only been trailered twice with us before the clinic, so it's still a new thing I'm hoping to get her used to) and her fly mask (she likes the screen to be down so she can see outside, but we keep the bars up because she also likes to stick her head out as well, yikes! Adrenaline junkie!) and prepared to load her up. She was good about getting near the trailer, sniffing the ramp, and sticking her head in. She just wouldn't actually load. We tried repeatedly to just walk her in, but after a few minutes of refusals, our trainer pulled out the stud chain. I'm a bit iffy on those, but once Greta felt it on her, she knew we actually meant business and she loaded calmly. So it wasn't as stressful as her move to the new barn.
Greta did very well unloading and tacking up. She was fidgety, but she wasn't neighing and trying to break loose. After I took her for a walk around the arena, I lunged her in the arena just to cool her nerves a bit more - I also got some lunging tips from trainer after she realized I was letting Greta counterflex. Oops.
There was a llama in the pasture adjacent to the arena and Greta was absolutely fascinated by it. Once she tried to sniff it - I say "try" because the llama didn't return the favor - her interest waned and it was just another critter nearby. The other horses that trailered in, no problem. The guinea fowl that were squawking all over the place, whatever. Cats, she loves cats - one hopped into my grandmother's lap while she was watching and when I took Greta by after the ride all she wanted to do was nuzzle that kitty! Adorable! I need to get a picture of her with the barn cats.
But a board on the ground outside the arena... it was going to eat her. So that was the only thing that she was iffy about. She didn't spook at it, I just really had to push her into that corner and try to keep her from counterflexing as she tried to eye that board. It had her number, she was sure, and it was out to get her. So she had to keep an eye on that dastardly board on the ground :)
I was able to talk a bit to Wolfgang before I tacked Greta up, but Greta did not want me to leave her side for a few minutes - I turned to see my trainer's daughter who is also a student walking Greta around because she wouldn't stand still! - so I introduced myself, shook his hand, and excused myself. Trainer's daughter and I set up a hay bag to keep Greta preoccupied while we groomed her off and tacked her up. It worked very well. I took Greta into the arena and we walked around for a bit while the other lesson was finishing.
The actual lesson
Wolfgang, contrary to the whole strict German clinician stereotype, was very quiet, friendly, and funny. I felt very comfortable riding wit him as I did not feel I had to be amazingly perfect. He allowed for little mistakes especially since my trainer explained to him that this was both Greta and I's first clinic. Ever.
We started off the clinic with some discussing of what our abilities are: walk, trot, canter, rein back, turns on the forehand, leg yields, and stretching circles. From there we proceeded with the lesson. We solved a lot of Greta's "oooooh, what that over there, oh and over there, and ooooooh lemme take a lookie at that!" by doing lots of transitions to keep her focused on my aids and the task at hand. We did lots serpentines where trotted out the curves and walked on the centerline.
Another task was what I called a "bowtie" pattern: you start off at E (or B) go straight and do a half volte at F, just touching the centerline before going back to E, going straight and doing another half volte at (H?) and once again just touching the centerline before going back to E. We got the pattern down by doing it at a trot, then he introduced the real workout: cantering the half volte and trotting everything else. A weighty task indeed since when Greta canters, she wants to gallop. So at first, she wanted to just canter the whole way and it was very hard to slow her up. But after about four tries, I was able to bring her back down to a nice working trot (not a Standardbred race trot!) once we hit the centerline. So now the final pattern went like this: trot at E, do half volte, pick up a canter at E and start half volte. Trot at centerline and trot to E, pick up canter again at E and so on.
By the end of the lesson, Greta's transitions were amazing and she was much more focused, I wasn't resorting to neckreining trying to get her to go deep into the corners (Wolfgang picked up on my barrel racing past!) and my half halts and downward transitions from a canter didn't include sticking my legs forward ("water skiing" as Wolfgang called it) or strictly pulling on the reins. I was starting to use my whole body. It was a 45 minute lesson, and it was totally worth it!
My trainer is hoping to set up a schedule to where Wolfgang May has a clinic for her students every six weeks or so, as long as there are four or more riders. I'm looking forward to it. There's also Sport Horse Versatility clinic that my trainer told me about and is encouraging me to go to, so that might be in place of a Wolfgang May clinic in the future.
After the lesson
My trainer had to go pick up her horse at her place so she missed the lesson, but I did have her daughter who, though she is younger, has shown in eventing for most of her life and is quite capable in the art of horse loading. Beyond just loading, she was a huge help throughout, especially for me, who has never done something like this with Greta before. Greta was better for hauling, but we still needed to show her the stud chain, and she loaded right up and we were on our way. This was a different trailer that we took her home in: a three horse slant with a tack room up front, so Greta was a bit iffy about going through a dark narrow opening. Don't blame her. If I were her I'd be iffy about it too!
She hauled great, she always does, and got a good hosing down once we got back to the stables, and she went for a hearty roll in her stall: there was fresh shavings in there, I don't blame her. She got her carrots and hay and then it was time to go.
All in all, I was very proud of her: she did much better than I had feared she might. The times we went into the center of the arena to talk with Wolfgang she was very sweet and cuddly, enough so to get a "yes, you're a sweet girl" from him. If nothing else, she was social!
So hopefully as we trailer to clinics (and perhaps a show here or there) and other sites more often she'll get better about the whole situation.
Lastly, I learned a lot. If Wolfgang ever comes to an area near you, go to him. He's awesome.