Phoebe was able to get a really amazing deal on Priceline for a really nice hotel about 5 minutes from the Expo. Her and Kathy left early on Friday. The speakers I really wanted to listen to were mainly on Saturday and Sunday, so I was able to squeeze in a ride. Charles had worked Thursday night and needed to sleep, so we ended up leaving for Timonium around 4:00 pm.
|Sleepy mare is sleepy.|
And DIIIRRRRRTY!!! That sheet is supposed to be black!
This beautiful beaded browband was hand-made for us by Karen.
I think Lily loves it as much as I do!!
|Lily post-ride. Like I've said before: I'm REALLY happy with her weight right now!!|
Right across the street from the hotel, we discovered a small outdoor mall. They had a Green Turtle, which is a cross between a restaurant and a bar, and we went in to sit down and have a couple of Blue Moons on tap. The place was packed with people and very noisy, as there were a couple of games playing, so we didn't linger too long.
The next morning, NEITHER of the TWO alarms I set went off, but thankfully Charles was awake and he woke me up on time so we could meet Phoebe and Kathy in the hotel lobby.
The Maryland Horse World Expo is da bomb. It's just $10 per person for the day (you can leave and come back in the same day, too), and you get to listen to and watch demos from some of the top trainers in the area. You can also participate in the demos with your horse. I have no idea how that works, but I was told that the cost is low, as the trainers need people to volunteer to ride/offer their horses so they can give their lectures. This would be an awesome thing to do...maybe next year!
Not only do you get to listen to the lectures, you have access to the Exhibit Hall. It is full of vendors of every kind of horsey thing imaginable, often with some pretty amazing deals. I scored a pair of insulated, waterproof riding pants with a double zipper and full seat like these...for $40!!
We arrived at the fairgrounds around 9:30 am. As you walked into the main building (yes, ALL of this is blissfully indoors! It was cold this weekend!), you were facing the back end of the grandstands that surrounded the main indoor arena.
I was able to see through the grandstands the head of a rider going by. Don't ask me how I knew, but I could tell by the lack of motion in his shoulders that he was on a Paso Fino. I exclaimed out loud, and Kathy, Phoebe, Charles and I all rushed over to find a seat. The Parade of Breeds was in full swing. The Paso Finos were gorgeous, and they had several different types, from trail/pleasure quality Pasos to show Pasos with their refined fino gait. We got to see the Arabians after that, Appaloosas, a couple of Friesians, and a mustang from the Outer Banks of NC (I vaguely remembered hearing in the past that there are wild horses down there too, but I didn't know they were mustangs; I figured they were related to the Chincoteague and Assateague horses).
We left shortly after seeing the mustang to go to the lectures we had marked on our itineraries. I had common interests with either Kathy or Phoebe at any one time, so it was usually two or all three of us going to the lectures together. Charles stayed until about noon, when he reached his limit of absorption of equine information. He offered to take all of our stuff to the car, and drove over to Baltimore (about 20 minutes away) to explore while we stayed at the Expo.
The first demo we watched was Scott Purdum's "Learn to Calm the Spooky Horse." He had some great advice. Most of his stuff is based on correct groundwork, but it was nice to watch him make the connection from groundwork to under saddle work, which was one of the big training blocks I'd been having with Lily this past summer. He was doing some giveaways, and one of them involved liking both his Facebook page and the photo his fiancee had taken of him working the horse in the arena at the moment. The signal was poor inside the building, so the photo took a million years to upload; no one in the crowd got to "like" it. Scott said he'd do the giveaway later, but if he did, we never heard about it. He has a bitless bridle that he designed that I really liked. It's made so it does not shift on the horse's head. I seriously considered buying one ($35, which is not that much more than buying the rope and rings and making the thing yourself), but it is not something I need, so I held off. Plus, $35 is the regular price (no show discount), so if I decided I really wanted it later, I could order it anytime. Also, I'm saving up for AERC in Atlanta come March. Those $35 could go towards cage stirrups at Convention.
The next speaker we watched was Suzanne Marshall, who talked about "The Power of Transitions in Dressage." Suzanne Marshall is trained in both classical (French) dressage (the style that I'm always going on and on about aka lightness), and German dressage (contact, sometimes excessive). She was riding a gorgeous gray Lusitano stallion in a double bridle who was also very fussy. He is an upper level horse, and Suzanne explained that he is used to really performing when he is in front of an audience. He was very impatient about being asked to just walk, and he made sure to let Suzanne know.
|The Lusitano looking beautiful.|
I. do. not. understand. this. sport. I'd seen this type of horse in action at an Open show that I went to with Julie back in FL, but Kathy had never seen this before. She was horrified when she saw the horses loping. The head bob that they have to do to go so, so slow makes them appear lame. Here is a random video I found on YouTube of an APHA show where you guys can see what I mean.
They start at the jog. Yes, that gait at the beginning of the video is a jog, aka slow trot! If you speed up to 2:50, you'll see what I mean about the canter.I was turned off by this demo, not because of what the clinician was saying (she is actually one of the few judges that does not award the kind of movement in the video above and it was interesting to hear how the judging works from her point of view), but because of the riders that had volunteered to participate. Not that they were riding incorrectly for their sport; I just don't like the sport. Personal preference. I was relieved when it was over. We stayed in our seats for Julie Goodnight's "Use Rein & Leg to Affect Your Horse's Stride," which came right after. Julie was riding a very dainty buckskin mare who reminded me a lot of Lily. The mare was owned by one of the other Western trainers at the Expo. You could see that she was young, but she was completely unfazed by the crowd and other horses in the arena. She was very highly trained and so sensitive that she was the perfect example for Julie to show how every little shift in weight or position can affect the way a horse moves. It was basically exactly the same thing that Suzanne Marshall had been talking about, but from a completely different perspective.
|Julie on the buckskin mare. You can see the English rider in the background. Check out her heels! I wish I could get mine that low.|
I had heard of Julie Goodnight in the past but had not seen or read anything of hers before. Phoebe is a huge fan. Watching this demo, I really, really liked her. I liked how she sat on the horse, as if she had been sculpted onto the saddle; I liked the finesse with which she handled the reins on the little mare that she had never ridden before; I liked how clearly she explained things and was able to show us what she was talking about. She went over natural aids (our body: seat, legs, arms, and mind. I loved that she included the mind!!) vs artificial aids (the reins, spurs, crop/whip). The thing that I really took away from this lecture was Julie's method of teaching a horse to stop by backing up. I have always sucked at backing up. I was never able to achieve it smoothly, easily. The only horses with whom I've been successful at it have been Lucero and Lily. Julie demonstrated backing up by shifting your weight back onto your seat while moving your legs slightly forward. The perk of teaching to back up, she said, is that you automatically teach the horse to stop with your seat, because the horse has to stop in order to reverse. She demonstrated on the buckskin mare. Not only did she stop with Julie's change in seat, she immediately shifted gears into reverse with barely a pause! It was SO cool! And I thought, "Lily can totally do that!"
After Julie's lecture was over, we went over to the main arena again to watch a demo on roping and another one on barrel racing. Both sports were alien to me, so it was just interesting to watch and hear the clinicians as they taught their volunteer riders.
Barrel racers warming up. The chestnut in the background was a mule! And that tiny pinto pony? Best barrel racing horse in the group. I wish I'd gotten a video!
On Sunday we woke up earlier (Charles decided to sleep in and checked out for us; he needed to get home to get some stuff done) because all three of us wanted to see Jim McDonald's "Improve the Relationship with Your Horse." He gave some great information at the beginning about your attitude around your horse. One of the things he said was that if you have problems catching your horse in the field, don't refer to it in your head as "catching." "Think about it as spending time with your horse. Don't feel rushed. Don't hide the halter behind your back; the horse isn't stupid, and it puts you into a predatory mindset. And don't refer to your horse in a derogatory manner; think about him or her with love and respect." I know we all go through moments where we get frustrated with our horses, where we'll think or say thinks like, "Jerkface was a total idiot today" as a way to express that frustration. But he did have a point with that...horses can read that kind of attitude too. The rest of the demo was about introducing groundwork. Jim went over ways to disengage the hindquarters and the shoulders. The horse he was working with had been volunteered by one of the Expo riders, and he was a rather frustrating TWH. The round pen where Jim was teaching was right next to the entrance to the main arena, and the Parade of Breeds was happening at the same time, so there was a constant flow of horses behind the roundpen. This had the TWH bonkers: pacing, screaming, distracted. Jim was still able to demonstrate to the audience what he was trying to explain. He was very gentle and patient with the horse, regardless.
- Direct rein - also known as the rein of opposition. It impedes forward motion, and is when the rider pulls the rein backwards, towards their hip. (This is how I was taught to turn when riding jumpers.)
- Leading rein -direct rein with no opposition. It is obtained by opening the arm to the side. It will be the inside rein or the turning rein. You see this type of rein used when Western trainers are breaking babies to saddle. It helps the horse turn without losing speed.
- Opening rein - opposite of the leading rein. Outside rein.
- Neck rein: a) True neck rein - no opposition, light touch of the rein on the horse's neck. If the horse doesn't respond, assist with the leading rein. NEVER cross outside rein over the midline of the horse, as it will turn the horse's nose in the opposite direction you want to travel. b) Bearing rein - neck rein pushes (has opposition). Used only in rollbacks to turn horse on his hocks. (Julie demonstrated on the buckskin mare. The mare would be at a standstill, Julie would use the bearing rein, and the mare would lift her front end, pivot on her hind end to make a 180 degree turn in one fell swoop so that she would then be standing facing the opposite direction. It was awesome!!)
- Indirect reins: diagonal pull towards your midline. (This is how I was taught to turn Paso Finos, and the way that you're also supposed to use the reins when riding French classical dressage. This is the first time that anyone has really explained to me why you would use this method vs others!) a) In front of withers - turn hand as if turning key, no opposition (no backward pull). Hand doesn't cross midline. Touches horse's neck in front of withers. Moves shoulder. Indirect can be used with opening rein as an invitation to move in that direction. b) Behind the withers - has opposition. Hand moves towards your opposite shoulder; same movement as for the one-rein stop. Moves the horse's hips.
|The buckskin mare leg yielding as Julie demonstrated correct leg position and cues for this lateral movement.|
|Western rider on palomino.|
|English rider on the TB.|
After this lecture, Phoebe and I went back to the Exhibit Hall to look around some more.
I wanted to try on helmets (still looking for a schooling helmet for the trails, but I'm demanding about fit, especially having a round head). Phoebe came with me and we found one large booth that had helmets. I tried several on, but none of them was quite right. I need to stop by a tack shop at some point and really start trying them on to know what fits and what doesn't, so at least I'll know what to get when I decide I'm ready to order the helmet. They didn't have any of the Ovation or Tipperary helmets (the Sportage doesn't work with my head shape; I'd like to try their other models) at the Expo. Bummer.
Phoebe bought a pair of beautiful hand-made ivory horse earrings from a lady that makes them by hand. I was good for the Expo: I had a very limited budget in cash for food for Charles and me, and one thing from the Exhibit Hall, but only if I found something I absolutely needed. All I purchased were the insulated riding overpants, as given our current weather conditions (8" of snow, with more to come tomorrow), I'm going to be using them plenty. It was fun to walk around and see what all of the vendors had. They had a Freeform Treeless Saddle booth, several sheepskin products booths, HorseLoverz had almost an entire corner of the Exhibit Hall, and a lot of local shops and stores were selling their wares, from handmade tack to grain and hay.
Scott drove him forward into a faster trot, until the horse started to want to slow down. Scott had him trot a little longer. Then Scott stopped and the horse asked to come in. Something had clicked in the gelding's head and you could see it in his expression. Scott had him stand and wait, pausing to talk to the audience and explain what was going on, then asked the horse to work again. He did. And it was a completely different horse: head down, licking and chewing, one ear turned towards the trainer. This time, Scott asked him to stop. Again the horse wanted to come in. Scott made him wait and rest at a distance. He explained, as he had in the first demo we had listened, about "giving the horse affection." Not by petting him or giving him treats, but by letting him be.
|The Appaloosa says, "As you wish, Herd Leader."|
|The gelding walking quietly next to Scott. He had almost run over several people when being put into the roundpen. Completely different horse!|
FYI: that horse responded great to the bitless bridle.
They repeated the giveway from the day before. I was able to go into Facebook and "like" the photo from the current lecture. And then I saw Julio Mendoza, one of the big local dressage trainers who had a booth at the Expo, ride past the round pen on a gorgeous palomino Lusitano decked out in a traditional Portuguese bridle and carrying a garrocha pole. Garrocha poles are used by Spanish vaqueros to move wild bulls. They use the long poles instead of ropes, and their horses are highly trained. Doma vaquera, the training used on Spanish vaquero horses, is dressage on steroids. It brings together skills from reining and Alta Escuela. The horses are worked often at maximum collection and ridden one-handed in double bridles. They can neck rein, but they can also be turned by minuscule finger movements on the reins, as they are held with an overhand grip. Here is a doma vaquera horse in action. Jesus Morales is among the sport's current top riders. Here he is putting this horse through the movements:
Pretty freaking awesome, right? Dressage with a working purpose. So add to those movements the presence of a 10'+ pole with which horse and rider dance. That is the sport of garrocha. I probably never would have heard about it if I hadn't started looking to learn more about classical dressage. But once I learned about it, it's been one of those things that I have been secretly yearning to try out for a long time. Except, as far as I knew, it was not yet a known sport in this country. Until the moment I saw Julio Mendoza with the garrocha pole waiting to the go into the main arena. I gasped. "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!! I want to see that!!" Kathy and Phoebe laughed. "Go see it!" they said, and moved so I could jump down from the stands. Scott was wrapping up and about to do his giveaway. I never win anything, so of course the last thing on my mind was the notion that I could possibly be the winner of the giveaway. I was able to catch Julio as he was preparing to go into the arena.
|Check out the horse's bridle!|
I got a huge kick out of watching that in person! And knowing that a trainer in this area knows what that is!...
And remember how I said I never win anything?
I won the damn bitless bridle I'd been drooling over. Except I wasn't there to receive it when Scott gave it away, so it went to someone else! DAMMIT!
And here's a garrocha video from the 2009 IALHA show. This is garrocha done by someone who specializes in it. You're welcome. Enjoy!
Afterwards, Phoebe had one more lecture she wanted to attend, but Kathy's and my brains were fried, so we just wandered around the Exhibit Hall, looking for caramel apples. When we finally found them, they were $8 apiece. Maybe we're stingy, but that seemed like a lot of money for caramel-covered apple. We decided the calories weren't worth the price.
We met up with Phoebe once her lecture was over, and piled into Phoebe's car for the 1-hour drive home. It was a wonderful horsey weekend spent with my two best barn buddies.
Charles picked me up at the barn that evening...after I'd gotten a ride on Lily.
More on that to follow!