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July 2, 2010

A Different Sort Of Day At The Walter Zettl Clinic

When not riding, there was a little time for sight-seeing! Photo by Barbra Reis.

I was first to ride on Tuesday and was up at 6 a.m. to make sure Ike had some turnout time before my ride.

I had all my tack sparkling clean, my boots polished and a WHITE saddle pad for today's ride. I tacked Ike up at 9:10 a.m. and walked him around the arena. Walter usually arrives about 9:15/9:20. By 9:25 I was becoming a bit concerned—where was Walter? 

Leslie, the barn owner, came into the barn and said Walter had called her and apparently he was going to have to cancel all the lessons due to come technical difficulties with his microphone and earbud equipment. 

For those of you that haven't been to a Walter Zettl clinic, Herr Zettl has a VERY soft voice and instead of trying to shout across the arena, he uses a microphone to talk to the riders, who would be wearing ear buds. 

I untacked Ike and put him back outside. DARN! I was really looking forward to my ride today to work even more on my canter transitions and trot extensions. Oh well....

So I watched Bobbi J. school Amber, the Friesian mare. Amber likes to listen to the ghosts that are in the round bales located at the far end of the arena, so Bobbi thought she really needed to school Amber by the spooky objects. She used many of the techniques that Walter teaches and after about 20 minutes, Amber was relaxed. 

Bobbi has been showing her second level and wanted to work on her flying changes at the clinic. She used a couple of the exercises from Walter and was able to get a clean flying change out of Amber by the end of her schooling session. YEAH!

Since Bobbi has been studying with Walter for more than 10 years, I asked her if she would assist me with my canter-walk transitions. She took what Walter had been working on with me and really explained it so I could utilize the methods even more effectively. I found that Ike really responded to my "lifting up to the heavens" with my seat and using an inside rein half-halt, then a holding outside rein for my downward transition to the walk from the canter.

By the end of my time working with Bobbi I felt as if I had built on my four days of lessons with Walter and accomplished quite a bit. Too bad Bobbi doesn't live closer to me—she's a fantastic interpreter of Walter's work!

Following my ride with Ike, I went out into the pasture to get Wildflower. She seems to know me now and comes willingly into the barn. My goal with her was to work on forward from the leg and soft with the hand for downward transitions. Success! She is a very smart horse and learns quickly. I even had her moving in a small leg yield off of my right leg to the wall. I'm going to miss her when I return to Michigan!

Bobbi and I decided to go for an expedition after our rides. She’d been to the area last year and remembered going to the Niagara Whirlpool. She suggested we venture to the same area and see if we could hike down to the base of the whirlpool area. Sounded like a great idea, and since I got the truck fixed, thanks to Dave (the barn owner) and Steve (Bobbi's sponsor who owns Amber), one of the batteries for the F350 had been replaced and the truck started right up.

Niagara Falls was very close to the farm—only about 25 minutes away. Once we followed the signs for the scenic area, we discovered that the entrance that would get us down to the base of the whirlpool was going to cost us an admission fee (really? for a national site?) and had about 50 people standing in line for tickets.

At least we could see the whirlpool from one of the many scenic overlook areas along the drive.

We were heading back to meet the rest of our group in Niagara-on-the-Lake for dinner, when Bobbi shouted, "Pull over NOW!" I followed her command and we parked in a designated area that had a sign for a nature trail. Hmm, what was she planning? We had our walking shoes on and found the head of a trail that lead straight DOWN. Not sure where it went as there wasn't a sign, but it had stairs, if you wanted to call them that. I was game, so we began our descent down the rustic trail. BEAUTIFUL is the only way to describe it! After 10 or 15 minutes of heading down (and I mean down) the trail, we hit the end of the trail and were greeted by the edge of the water. In front of us was the whirlpool. WOW—what a sight! There was even a loon floating on the top of the water, swirling around with the water current.

We soaked up the view for a few minutes and then headed back up the trail. You'd think that two horsewomen that ride four to six horses a day at home would be in pretty good physical shape. NOPE. We had to stop about four times as we were making our assent up the hill.

Luckily we spent most of the time laughing our heads off—promising to incorporate an aerobic plan into our schedules once we got home. When we made it to the top and to my truck our legs felt like jelly. But it was a fantastic afternoon, and I’m thankful I was able to see one of Canada's natural wonders.