Remember how I told you I was excited to get learn-ed? Well, here is my take from this great clinic.
The Charlotte Dujardin educational tour. A through the levels masterclass. Presented by S H Productions. Five riders from Training/First Level through to Grand Prix.
To say I was excited is an understatement. As a rider who has a strong desire to improve skills and who does not get to take many lessons despite my best intentions (still something I want to change and I have been reinvigorated since this clinic), I jump at as many opportunities to learn as possible. Needless to say, when I first learned of this clinic, I purchased my auditor ticket directly.
I will try to keep this short and direct. To the point. Ha. Well. I will try at least!
I was most interested in young horse to training/first level, so that is what I took the bulk of my notes on. Reasons being, I do not have a desire to rise up the levels, just to improve my horsemanship and riding, and because the basics are EVERYTHING. If your foundation is good, everything else will come. Everything is built on the basics.
Given that fact about basics, you will not be surprised to hear Charlotte said that exact same thing multiple times to each rider, no matter the level achieved (Some of my favorite horsemen say this all the time). Along with a few other things, but it all stems back to basics. Everyone had to work in transitions and really moving forward and through. Going for a ‘yehaw’ as she said. Picture a British person saying yehaw for a good chuckle.
It turns out my favorite pairs and rides were also the lower levels.
I had a general admission ticket which granted me a seat on the outside. I was able to get a seat in the middle of the long side to be able to view and be as close to as much of the action as possible and I was not even the first one there.
However, while I was indeed not there the minute they opened the doors, I was there early. After I secured my seat, I had ample time to have a look around the grounds. I had yet to visit this equestrian center and was eager to see the place. They host many open and schooling shows throughout the year.
After my own personal tour, given by yours truly, I went to see if I could manufacture ways to spend my hard earned money. The vendor village left a little something to be desired and I really did not need anything anyway. Which really was a shame if you ask me, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Apparently an autograph signing was scheduled before the clinic began. I missed that little tidbit, but I am not really into autographs anyway…one of the few given the long line of autograph seekers. My seat was however, right next to where Charlotte would be signing. Naturally, I did a creeper stalker shot instead. Way better than an autograph.
I got tired of hanging out, so I went to see if I could find the first rider warming up. I love to watch riders warm up. I found them, but unfortunately for me he was basically finished.
On my way back to my seat, I grabbed a glass of bubbley, because why not, and got comfortable with my note pad.
Now is time for the nitty. My notes on Charlotte’s teachings by lesson/level (both to that rider and general comments to the public) as I wrote them…repetitions and all. There are a lot of notes, so…sorry to my non equestrian readers! If the details are not interesting to you, go watch the 500 Mile video on the AHAmoments Facebook page. You will not regret it. It is what true horsemanship is about. How horses make us better humans. Then skip to the bottom of this post for the take aways and how it all relates.
For the young horse.
-Look for…3 good gaits/paces. Especially the walk and canter because you can not really change these. Not too big of a walk (which can be hard to collect) and good jump and rhythm in the canter. Get a marching walk through hacking out and doing hill work. You can improve the trot. Not necessarily the flashy and well bred…the do not always make winners, especially if they do not have a good walk and canter. Look for the easy, flowing movers. That have good mechanics, good stretch, and swing. Good use of the shoulder. A good hind end so you have a good engine.
-You need to focus on developing yourself and being even. It is not just the horse. Your strengths and weaknesses show on your horse. Work on your position make sure you are in the middle.
-The basics are more important than the tricks. The tricks come through the basics. Be consistent in seeking the right.
-Can you give the the rein away and have him stay? Self carry. Not speed up or slow down.
-Do not ride in a frame all the time. You have to let them stretch and decompress. Take the pressure off. Take them out in the field. Stop looking perfect or trying to look perfect all the time.
-Wait to sit the trot till they have developed the strength. Till they do not stiffen through transitions.
-Make ALL transitions straight and forward. Focus on them. Are they good enough. Are you in control of the tempo. Do not let them anticipate. Do not settle for less than correct.
-Riding young horse is fun. You have to get out if your comfort zone.
-You probably are not doing enough transitions if your horse stiffens through the body when you slow. You have to do thousands of transitions. Both within gait and out of gait.
-Develop, develop, develop the weaker side. It is your weaker side as well.
-Do not chase them with your body. Stop kicking every stride. If they do not react when you ask with your leg, go for a yehaw and get them going. Get them reacting to your leg aid.
-The leg yield is a pole flexion, not a neck flexion.
-This is like weight training for the horse to build strength. Make sure you give them enough time to get their air.
-Get them out of the school/arena. Go out for a hack/out on trails. Climb hills. It can not all be pressure.
-Go for a yehaw! Go for a gallop in the field. You can not always ride collected. You need to get a reaction when you need it. Think forward.
-Pat and reward when they do something right.
-Think forward into downward transitions. It is still a forward movement. You can not chunk away the energy.
-Do not be greedy and ask or take more than the horse is ready to give.
-Make sure your upward transitions are the same as your down.
-Let (allow) them to reach for the contact from your hand.
-Sit and push.
-Do not slow when doing a movement.
-The shoulder in is a flexion in the pole not a bend and FORWARD on the line.
-Does the horse want to work? Does he look happy? A good character is the upmost important thing in any horse, regardless of level.
-Do not override with your leg or kick every stride. They need to react to your leg. Think forward. Be between your aids.
-Keep kicking and they will not respond.
–Always ride forward. Even in collected work. Collected does not mean slow. Or short. Or quick.
-Bigger steps. Ground covering steps. Not quicker. Not necessarily faster.
-When they are lazy, do not cover it up with kicking.
-They need to keep going they same way as if you give them the rein when you have a quiet leg/are not kicking. Need to go when you say go and stay there till you ask for a transition.
-Doesn’t matter. Do not focus on the mistake. Keep riding. Just do it again.
-Preparation into the movement. Set them up. Set them up for success.
-Do not settle for a bad transition.
-Every transition has to be ‘perfect.’ If it is not, so it again.
-Do not neglect the basics.
-Do not forget how important the corners and short sides of the arena are. They set you up for what is next.
-Do it till you are happy with it.
-Inside leg to outside rein.
-Keep going even when you make a mistake.
-Do not rush.
-Take your time.
-Do not punish your horse or yourself. It doesn’t matter. Just do it again.
-It is not about age and numbers. The horse is ready when the horse is ready. Learn from the horse. Stay patient. They will get there. Do not expect more than they are ready to give. Do not be greedy. Horses and riders are all individuals, do not compare one to the other.
-Learn everyday from the horse. Work hard every day. You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good horse. The secret is in your training system. Have a good direction and follow the feel.
-It is all about about the horse. The connection. The partnership. The relationship.
-Get eyes on the ground whenever you can. Get mirrors. Set up a video camera.
-Finish how you start. Relax and stretch in all three gaits.
Prix St. George.
-It is about the exercises not the tests and movements. It keeps them fresh and on the side. Keeps them from anticipating. The exercises make the movements better.
-Do not leave the basics behind.
So. There you have it. My notes and learnings from one of the top riders in the world.
The take aways?
Each rider had the same things to work on…
No matter what level you are: More forward. Say yehaw and go for a good gallop. Focus on transitions. Work on your bad side to be balanced. It does not matter if you make a mistake, just keep your leg on, keep riding, and do it again.
Sounds a whole lot like life, doesn’t it??? I thought so too. Go figure.
Walk in love, dear readers!