Saturday, February 9, 2019

Forward and SHOULDER IN

Today I had a chance to audit a dressage clinic at Trainer A's barn, given by Hokan Thorn. She's who I've taken a couple dressage lessons from last year and plan to return to once it's not ice in my trailer loading area. Auditing was free and I was all over it!

I arrived in the middle of Trainer A's first ride on her Grand Prix horse, Marco. The second rider was also at a Grand Prix level.

 I don't have a whole lot of media as my preference was to be watching to see if I could identify what was changing in the the horse's carriage as the rider corrected herself from the instruction from Hokan. I was also writing notes down.

I was hoping to see some riders with issues that were nearer to the ones that I face. I obviously wasn't going to relate as closely to advice given to people riding at GP. I will share it here, regardless.

  • Collection is more power and more activity, but never slower
  • Use shoulder in/shoulder fore to shorten the length of the neck and learn to carry more weight on the inside hind leg
  • However you don't want them getting too high in the neck. Still want them to reach into contact
  • Marco and Tango both had huge tantrums when they were asked to increase the activity in their hind end during passage and piaffe without also raising the front

I feel like Gwyn and I could do the exercise on the left. That's not out of our skill set currently and would be a good practice for eventual lead changes in the canter.
He had Tango's rider do the above exercise to warm up and school changes. He really wanted the emphasis on the feel of shoulder in as they were in the corner, right before the cue to canter and was really pleased when the horse was offering a spirited canter depart. He did NOT like the horses to be working in a flat gait at any point except when they were done. 

Practicing 1s on Marco

Tango's rider apparently had trouble with her 2s and 1s so she was schooling them a lot. Either her cues were muddled or the horse was anticipating the changes. She nailed 2s fairly easily but struggled on the 1st going all the way across the diagonal. The rhythm wasn't there. He wanted her to break it down and only do a set of 3. And then when they brought it back to a longer set, he had her think in terms of 2-3-2 going across the diagonal. I could see how mentally reframing it that way might help in the saddle. I'm not sure Gwyn and I will EVER be schooling something like that, however. Lofty goal ;)

Overall, I heard a LOT of FORWARD in a german/swedish accent being hollered across the arena. He did take some time to assist with half steps for piaffe to increase the action in the hind for both horses. Neither appreciated it. Both threw tantrums.

After that Alison brought out her up and coming gelding. In comparison to the hulky beefcake GP guys that had just been in the arena, this youngster was SO NARROW and gangly. He was a 4 year old who'd had a few health issues that he was still recuperating from and so his training was behind. He was definitely baby-minded and kind of adorable in his antics.

She started lunging him and getting him to accept contact in the side reins. He had a bunch of baby moments on the lunge line, including a lot of cross firing in his canter, which really made me sit forward and pay attention because that's similar to Gwyn and I was really hoping that this would be fruitful. And I do consider Gwyn very much equivalent to a baby dressage horse in that she's still learning to seek contact in the bridle.

  • use a leading inside rein around corners with steady outside
  • want to encourage forward, but not curling behind the bit (this gelding's favorite evasion)
    • solution: lift hands to bap him to get him to push his nose out, steady, then push him forward
  • don't want your leading rein to be restricting though
  • always a forward connection when riding babies
  • when turning with baby horses stick to basics (not the shoulder in/fore, it will only encourage more curling behind evasion)
    • turn from the outside shoulder, they should feel the outside rein on their neck
    • keep baby horses bodies straight
    • think 2x4 from tail to the ears

Next up was a self admitted newer rider on a half andalusion. Very chunky mare. She was being ridden in a double bridle despite only schooling 4th because the mare had a habit of running away with the rider if she was just in a snaffle.
Hokan's advice: Ride 4 times in a row in the double, on the fifth day only do the snaffle and see what happens. Alternatively, use a straight driving bit loose ring with no bumpies for spanish breeds.

Rider also described not being able to really get the mare straight or even do the whole shoulder in/shoulder fore to get her working more in contact. 

The mare was very dull and flat to the aids and the rider was struggling to increase the engagement demanded by Hokan.
My notes for her:

  • Lots of inside leg to outside rein plus FORWARD
  • never let the inside leg fall to the inside
  • active hind legs ALL the time (i.e. the feel the of forward even if working in collection)
  • want the horse pushing and going by herself
  • when you say "puff!" she better PUFF
  • more transitions so the horse comes back without losing engagement.
I left before this rider was finished as it was nearly dinner and I'd promised I'd go grocery shopping.

There are things that I want to work on with Gwyn. I know that when I remember how to actually do the whole inside leg to outside rein I have a horse in a much nicer frame. I'm hoping that tomorrow, with temperatures in the high 20s, my arena won't be a sheet of ice and I can actually sit on my horse safely.

There's a dressage schooling show at the end of this month about an hour away. I really REALLY want to go and ride Intro A/B for the miles in the dressage ring. But I need to actually ride between now and then.

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