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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bettina Drummond Clinic 8/21/10

I had the opportunity last weekend to participate in a clinic at our farm with Bettina Drummond, a classical dressage rider and trainer who follows the French method of training, the primary goal of which is to obtain ultimate lightness, balance and harmony between horse and rider. She studied under Nuno Oliveira for 17 years, and is considered internationally as an expert on in-hand work. Through some miracle of workings, she is based very close to our farm, and is there quite often during the week, bringing horses to us on and off for work in the indoor during the winter (and the occasional sale horse she wants my boss to jump during the summer!). Since the entire time I've been at the farm, Gogo has not been able to participate in a lesson with her (which I so desperately wanted to do), but she had been at the farm quite a lot recently working with Coco, one of my boss' horses who came to us with serious mystery tightness and lameness. The work in hand she has done with him in just a few weeks has had a totally transforming effect on him, so when Gogo got the go-ahead from Dr. C to gently proceed into full work again, I jumped at the chance to do an in-hand session too.

I'll be honest - when I first met Bettina, she scared me to death. Around here, Bettina's word is law. Those of you in the area will all agree with me when I say she has more knowledge and understanding of the horse in her pinky finger than probably all of us reading this right now combined, and that knowledge is palpable when she walks into a room. She commands respect, and she reads people like she reads horses. I felt like a child when I first met her and I was starting my big new scary job - she could see right through me! And she wasn't about to take anybody's crap either. She has a way with stallions like I've never seen, and let me tell you her studs don't even put an ear towards a squatting, peeing mare when she is working with them. Over time, I seem to have somehow earned her respect and friendship, even though I still don't understand quite how it happened. I guess with all her intuition she can see that I'm still just a kid learning the ropes of life, genuine in my efforts to do the very best job that I can, and I think that's a respectable thing.

The work we've been doing with Coco over the past few weeks started with a bopper. That's right, a crop with a round plastic-covered foam ball on the end of it, about the size of a ping-poing ball. A bopper! We bopped him all over his body, tapping all his major groups of muscles with the rhythm of a metronome, searching for weaknesses. The point of this, Bettina explained to me, was that horses with serious physical or mental damage (and people, for that matter) stop linking their right and left brains when severely traumatized. Even just by tapping the forehead on either side back and forth, the neurons will start to correctly fire back and forth, cross-linking back to their original function. Apparently dissections have also been done with horses who have had serious hind-end or back trauma, and you can inject joints, rest them, or do whatever else you want, but those horses will go lame again if they go back to work because their muscles atrophy and fail - they're not getting the proper signals from the brain. This method is similar to Endo-tapping I believe, but I don't think they're quite the same thing. When bopping Coco, we discovered how seriously fidgety he was on certain spots of his body, and that when he'd relax, one ear would start swinging in time to the bopping, the ear on the same side of the body. Over time, he stopped being so reactive to those spots as he started to reconnect and heal, and both ears would start swinging together - both sides were firing together again. Bop your mare, Bettina told me. See what you find.

Bop, bop, bop. Gogo's immediate reaction in her stall without a halter was to look at me curiously, then literally swing her butt at me when I bopped her in front of her withers, which was simultaneously not surprising but also not acceptable and not something she's ever really done before (save for one outstanding time). On went the halter, on went the bopping. She showed definite sensitivity where her neck connects to her withers on both sides, which is exactly where she holds all her tension. The second time I bopped her, she was much better about that area, but she showed more sensitivity over her back. Interesting! I plan on continuing to bop her in more of the Endo-tapping way, to encourage relaxation. You never know what it might continue to show, and it might be a first warning method for something brewing.

For the clinic, no bopping was done. Instead, we outfitted Gogo in her bridle, polos and bells, and did a series of small bits of lateral work. Bettina was quick to point out the fact that her right shoulder (specifically how she moves her elbow) is a point of weakness, and she would rather back away from whip tapping than move the elbow sideways. Using the whip and one hand on the reins right below the bit, I moved Gogo down the rail laterally in both directions, trying to achieve an even crossover and a quiet lateral response to the whip.

We also played around a little bit with holding both reins, one in each hand, and doing shoulder-in and haunches-in down the rail, switching back around to bend the horse left and right while going forward. It was impossibly hard to understand and extremely difficult to handle two reins and a whip and a slightly confused mare while walking backwards, but every time we were both confused, Bettina had me stretch her and walk her forward to diffuse the potential brewing bomb.

It was hard! I know I will need lots of practice at it. But the entire point of it is to achieve balance on both sides of her body while simultaneously strengthening her hind end while ALSO simultaneously working her kinks out for future under saddle work, so it's worth it to learn and understand. Amazingly, after our session, Bettina offered it to me for nothing, thanking me for all I had done for her. I couldn't believe it! The clients all spent the day remarking on how beautiful the facility looked, all our guests raved about what a nice establishment I had running, my boss thanked me for all my hard work, and Bettina's gracious offer on top of all of that was the icing on the cake. It was such a good day!

And of course, since it was high time for it, even though it was a cloudy day we took the opportunity to get our Seasonal Conformation Shots since she was so clean. She looks GREAT!

I like how she is standing like a total goof in the last shot. Compare to June. Even her expression is better. She doesn't look as amazingly sexy as she did last October, when she was still racing fit, but you know. She'll get there, someday!


Hurricanes12 said...

that was so interesting :)
and the bopping sounds like an awesome idea to watch out for future muscle pain etc.
thanks for posting this!

Kelly said...

Ah endo tapping. It's a cool tool that I've used for a couple of years now. Excellent tool.

Breathe said...

I need to look into that endo tapping. I remember reading about it on some blog way back, but I haven't seen it since.

Sounds like a great clinic and you have so many good things to work on. I almost said I'd like to meet Bettina, but I'm a little scared. LOL

Val said...

A real horse women recognizes your dedication to your horse, the ultimate compliment. Congratulations on a great day!

Nicole Redman said...

Look at that NECK!!!!

Andrea said...

I KNOW can you believe she has one??

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

What..this is sooo interesting! I am going to have to re-read and then bop my boy to see what I find. WOW!!! And GoGo is oozing sexiness..look at her muscley neck and length!
Sounds like you passed Bettina's personal horse mom test with flying colors :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the info about the Bettina session - it's fascinating to read.

I'm sure I would be incredibly intimidated by Bettina, too, so good on ya for earning her regard and taking advantage of the good fortune that put you so close to her!

Amy B said...

Bettina really is an amazing lady. I've been working for her since last august, and I'll tell you - her stallions have better manners than most of the horses I've met. She's also just a fascinating person to talk to. I'm excited to get my girl somewhere to work with her one of these days.
Just out of curiosity, and I don't know that you'll even see this since I'm posting my comment WAY late, but did you get a sale horse from her this summer named Artie, by any chance? I know he went off somewhere to do some jumping while she was away.

Andrea said...

Yup, we did - that's where Artie was over the summer! He was a funny thing, but he sort of grew on me by the end, when I wasn't ear and neck twitching him for Eric!!

Amy B said...

Yeah, he's not very good for the farrier, is he? I've only had the misfortune of being there once while he was shod.. he's just sort of a big lovable doof. Haha, apparently when he was being loaded up to go home, even one of the grooms told bettina he wasn't very smart. I do like him, though, he's very sweet.