I joined QS because I had bought a young Arabian mare, Zkye (pronounced Sky), who is very pressure adverse, has an enormous personal space bubble and tends to be very emotional. I've been riding Arabians since I was 5 years old but this one has tested me to my limits.
This year I thought I would attend QSE Level 2 Camp. Coming in to the camp I didn't really know what to expect. I was told that I would get blue ticks from the journey and that Shane would help me get my Level 1 finished. I was looking forward to spending time with Zkye completely focused on the program.
The day before camp started Shane gave us a brief run down on how it would be structured - ground work for 4 days, 1 day off and 4 days of ridden. But as day one progressed things changed. After lunch Shane announced that we would be doing some bareback riding… I stopped breathing - how was I going to ride my emotional horse bareback on day one. To say it was outside of my comfort zone would be an understatement. So what happened? We warmed up with our ground work and she was going so calmly that I just got on. Of course I was gripping her mane but still we were up there. The rest of the afternoon flowed, I relaxed and she was amazing.
On trail walk day another student chased the cows and Zkye flipped out, she had all four feet off the ground and it felt like I was flying a dragon kite . But after some tuition from Shane we got it settled and she did some amazing jumps of a single barrel and a massive tree.
There is so much that we did, not all of it was great and sometimes it took us the longest to get there but overall our bond was growing and my asks were getting clearer and softer and she was responding. We achieved so much including our first liberty transitions, bareback riding, sideways on the circle, more impulsion in our spirals and our first successful group passenger lesson at a trot no less.
We even managed some canter transitions, albeit she had her teeth out and ears back but I was able to convince her to trust me enough to give me some canter strides. We are now working on this and extending it.
But what did I really learn from all this???
You will always make mistakes and working with a horse day to day will be different so every time you go do something you have to remember that one time that it all went perfectly.
My horse is pressure resistant so I need to be so soft and really ask first.
When she's emotional I have to give her something to do - stopping and waiting for her to calm only gives her more time to be emotional.
If something isn't working use the homework cards to break down the tasks and diagnose what is happening.
And the added bonus was watching Shane work with Tokay. It was the most amazing experience and I feel so grateful to have shared in that journey. Through watching Shane I learnt so much about position, feel, timing and release but most importantly that it's not about the task, it's about patience in building to the task and knowing it's time to walk away for today. But always remember to end in a calm safe place.
So did I get any blue ticks, no but I got so much more understanding of what I am doing and the changes I have to make within myself to get there. Did I finish Level 1, no not at camp but the weekend following camp I resubmitted my last assignment and got that Blue Tick
As I am just starting Level 2 this camp really gave me the foundation for getting on with the program and the inspiration to be a better horseman. Spending time with Shane and Meredith really made me start thinking about the why and how to. Spending time with other students opened up a world of different experiences and made the journey so much fun. Would I do it next year - definitely.. Or maybe we will be doing Level 3, Harmony and Motion or the Building Rapport camp or all three - it's good to have a goal.