Monday, February 13, 2012

Parting Thoughts on the Atkins Adventure

“Ask often, expect little, reward often”

Upon reflection on my experience in Ocala, I think that sums it up best.

The training horses are asked to work and more importantly *try* hard. They are rewarded lavishly.

The training session begins the moment Peter has mounted. The horse is asked to be attentive and on the aids immediately. There is no lollygagging around in the guise of a warm-up (I am very guilty of this).

The session proceeds with the horse constantly being asked questions. Can you move your haunches here? Shoulders here? There is bending, leg yields, and every variation of lateral work. The horse is truly being “gymnasticized”. I don’t think I saw Peter ride a plain old 20m circle once –not even on the babies. And everyone did counter-canter –the advanced horses and the green beans.

I can’t stress enough how much the horses were working constantly –backs swinging and legs crossing. It really made me evaluate how I ride Moose. No more boring arena circuits or 20m circles for us.

These sessions are often short as the horses are constantly asked to think and work.  You can see the horses Peter has fully trained asking, “You want this?” “Is this good?” They are all triers and pleasers…it almost seems as if they think they are training him…”if I do this I can make him get off and give me a treat!” And this is what I want Moose to be.

The Horse -Its Always About the Horse

Everything was about the horse.

All the horses at Atkins Eventing live out 24/7, only coming in to eat meals.
Yes, Even Henry. 
As tempting as it might be to bubble wrap this famous gelding, Henry (is treated just like a horse) lives out with a group.

The dentist as well as chiropractor made visits while I was there. Peter does his own farrier work and afternoons often found him tinkering with shoes.

A variety of therapies are employed –from  lasers to “Vitafloor” (a vibrational therapy), each horse had a therapeutic treatment daily.

And treats. Lots of treats and kind words are part of each horse’s daily regime.

On Being a "Working" Student

Ok. So I was not a “real” working student. I was (very sadly) not there long due to work commitments. But I got a small taste. And it was a gift.

Sorry folks, but there is truly no way a trainer gets back what they give when they take on a working student. There has been lots of discussion on the forums about working students and working student positions. And my take is this-when you account for the trainer’s overhead and time there are not enough hours in the day to work off what you gain. In a few days time I was lucky enough to get lessons but I also learned buckets watching everything around me.

There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained just from watching. 
And not near enough stalls to clean or jumps to paint to compensate for this sharing of knowledge.

Live Each Day...

I left my dream trip on Thursday…and Friday morning I was back riding a desk. As is my custom, I scanned Eventing Nation as I drank my coffee. And my heart fell. The news of the explosion at KESMARC caused me to think of all my new friends –human and equine. Peter and Amy both use KESMARC for swimming and therapy – this was devastating news and my heart goes out to all that are affected by the loss of life.

Hug your people. Hug your ponies (and as Peter says never miss an opportunity to give them treats).

Here is his ride from last weekend on the very special Firedrake (this is going to be a big-time horse – you have my word). It is dedicated to the KESMARC family.

In closing, this was indeed a very special trip. There now are some checks on my buckets list –go to Ocala, get private lessons with a special mentor and above all continue to live the dream and take every opportunity offered.

Thank you Atkins Eventing.

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