"Oh! Is that a Varian Arabian?" Jenni noticed the "V" on Arizona's left hip.
"Yes, he is." I replied, smiling wide, head down, keeping my focus on the horse as we walked past the spectators in their chairs just outside the arena.
"How old is he?"
"He's three." I looked up at her, still with a big smile on my face.
"Very nice! Thank you for bringing that sweet little guy to the clinic!"
Jenni Grimmett, a large animal veterinarian and Cowboy Dressage Clinician is a delightful woman. I'd signed up for her two-day introduction to Cowboy Dressage in Walla Walla with a friend. I figured it would be good exposure for Arizona. Plus, I was hoping to learn some new things.
She started us out the first morning on the ground, doing leading exercises "You're riding them from the ground," she kept saying. Arizona walked on out there like a little prince, and other than the distraction of the flatbed truck with some scary camp chairs and a banner on the fence and a loudspeaker, he was pretty cool with everything. After lunch she broke us into two groups and told us to saddle up.
Jenni turned out to be a fabulous educator. She's positive, insightful, and fun. This Cowboy Dressage stuff looks pretty simple from the outside, but it's true essence is precision, something to strive for that always leaves room for improvement. When she coached me how to place Arizona's body into an arc to do a ten-degree circle, it was different than how I'd been doing it all my life. I thought to myself, well, Arizona's just a baby and he's not going to understand this, but I gave it a try. His body right away softened and bent into the most perfect little ten-degree arc. How about that! It was like magic. We had a harder time figuring out the counter-bend, but that move is a bit more complicated. She gave us little maneuvers to do with our horses to allow them to stretch out their walk, trot, or to round up a little bit. She coached the people on the nervous horses to allow them trot in a nice relaxed cadence, with a loose rein. The lessons that every one of us took away individually from these two days will improve our skills for the rest of our lives.
At the end of the clinic, as I walked out of the arena, a few women came over to me as I was filling up a bucket of water for Arizona.
"Is he really only three?"
I told them he was. They complimented on his his quiet mind, his body, his intelligence. This made me feel like a proud mother, just about to bust my buttons with pride. I patted his withers and told them about his sire, Major Mac V and how Sheila's breeding program included making horses that were easy to train, as well as well built and beautiful.
I walked up to Jenni, putting my hand out to thank her.
"No, this is Cowboy Dressage, this is how we do it!" She opened her arms and gave me a big hug.
"Your little guy did great!"
I nodded my head, petted his neck, "I think so too."
Driving home, I found I still had a big smile on my face.
I heard Sheila in my head…. "Ain't life grand?"