Then we continued with some in-hand demonstrations by David with one of their young horses, William. He [the horse] was an absolutely adorable homebred, by the way. He showed us how they start all of the young horses at their farm and ended giving us a try with our own horses. WELL...William sure made these four 'basic' tasks look easy!
I worked with my borrowed horse for the week, Nick, with the other campers in the covered arena. Note that Nick is an 6 year old chestnut appendix that looks mostly like a QH, and is a real sweet heart. David, Karen, Cathy, and Hannah [part of the OCET] taught us all how to accomplish the responses we were looking for in a way that does not tell your horse "NO." I was impressed with that fact that David, Karen, and Hannah all came around and helped every camper one-on-one. I mean, it IS all about having a connection with your horse and establishing the relationship that will make riding the horse that much easier.
I really liked the way that they stressed the 3-part-system: first you ask your horse to do something, then you tell him, then you make him. This system calls for different aids accordingly. Everything done on the ground with our horses is also transferrable to riding! It is like doing your homework before going to class - practice makes perfect. We then had some lunch and culminated to ride in a Dressage lesson.
We began in three groups of six working, respectively with David, Karen, and Cathy. First, we worked on doing the same four movements we had taught our horses on the ground earlier that morning while mounted. Personally, I had a bit of difficulty with Nick this time as he wanted to back up and/or hop up in the air to avoid contact with me. By the end, we were able to complete the four tasks at hand, with a little help from David's riding skills. We worked at the walk and trot [Karen's group even did a bit of canter work] and finished with a fabulous, fun leg yielding exercise. Now that Nick and I had established this 'go forward then move laterally' concept, the leg yielding work went better than I had expected! He was an excellent student, a and a fast learner.
With the OCET's patient and perseverant attitude, I was able to complete all exercises mounted, the same as we did in hand, and felt accomplished at the end of the day! I learned how the rider's leg must be the aid for the horse's legs to move. Meaning that I could not use hand to pull Nick around, or even make him go more in the bridle. I used leg and body positioning to achieve the movements. Thoroughly pleased with my day of intense O'Connor training, we headed back to the barn for a drink and well deserved bath - for Nick, of course! =)
Later on, the Head Groom for the O'Connors, the marvelous Ms Max [not Sam], lectured on the importance of properly fitted tack for the event rider as well as having a live demo horse, Mandiba [Karen's most recent Olympic mount]. A model student wearing all three types of breastplate/martingales that Max piled on him, Mandiba did not care too much for the saddle fitting part. Then again, I am sure he smiled a little inside.
The OCET has proven to be patient, caring and accommodating. Their teaching methods are new to me, but very effective. Can't wait for what tomorrow may bring....!