Sunday, 22 May 2016

Clinic Day Two - Reset Button

I woke up day two feeling much less overwhelmed. Perhaps I just needed some time to absorb the information from the previous morning. The clinician, Muriel Chestnut, seemed different too. She seemed to get that Savvy was super sensitive and that she was receptive to a whisper, so adjusted her instruction to take this into consideration.

We started with a simple review of what she taught the day before. It all went so much better with a soft ask and then we moved on to Demi-arret, neck flexion and stretching at the walk from the ground.

I found this exercise quite helpful because I could watch the way the bit was working in her mouth as I applied the reins and see the application to the corner of the lips rather than the tongue as well as the reaction of the mobilisation of the jaw and movement of the tongue. When we stopped and relaxed the reins, Savvy let out a huge sigh and licked and chewed. Goal #1: Relaxation achieved.

I then got on and repeated these exercises at a walk. It was much easier today to keep Savvy's poll open and to get her to reach into the bit. After having an entire day of learning in my head, I also found it easier to anticipate what I needed to do with my hands as necessary and I felt a lot less awkward.

My number one issue with Savvy going into this clinic was possibly her lack of consistancy on the bit. I definitely felt like I had a few more tools to address this after day two.

I was encouraged to think of my hands as holding a child's hand in a crowd. The connection cannot be so soft as to possibly lose the child, nor too hard as to hurt them. The horse can find comfort in this type of consistant hold and feel confident to take the bit without fear of pain.


As for my leg aids at this point, I was to simply ask for the gait and then leave her alone. The goal was to ride with less power, more harmony. If she slowed, I was to use the crop instead of nagging with more leg. Not only does this help her to be more obedient to the leg, but it quiets the conversation and encourages softer communication. This was a good reminder to me; I often get sucked into nagging Savvy at the trot when she is being lazy, even though I know its going to just make her dull to my leg.

All in all, day two was fantastic! I was starting to see how I could possibly incorporate some ideas into what I was already doing and was looking forward to day three!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Clinic Day One - Introduction to "Legerete"

I would like to pretend I did good on day one of clinic. Remember how I worried about asking the right questions, making a good impression. I wanted to just come in, be polite and professional, get good at stuff and go.

If I were normal I am sure that would have been the case. Alas, I a gifted little comquat and you think falling down is a good impression? Well how about making your horse fall down, and then you falling down, all while just standing on the ground, holding reins?

No worries, Savvy and I bounced right back up and got back to learning, pretending very hard that did not happen.

Fine. Here's video. Get your laughs out and move on to serious absorbtion of some really cool information.

I especially love my friend's reaction. :P
The School of Legerete was founded by Philippe Karl and more information about his philosophy can be found hereégèreté_»/English/»_Philosophy.html.
Legerete means lightness, and as you saw above, dear Savvy is a very light horse who is probaby wishing to trade me in for a rider with lighter hands.
Day one for me was a very basic introduction to terminology and the methods of Legerete.
This included:
1. Mise en Main - Education of the Hand, Jaw Yielding
The very first step here was in hand work from the ground. Standing in front of my horse, I was to lightly lift on the bit so the pressure was acting on the corners of the mouth, not the tongue or roof of the mouth. The purpose is to mobilize the mouth (horse opens their mouth, moves the tongue and therefore activates the jaw), raise the head, open the poll and shift the balance of the horse (horse steps into a more square, balanced position). This was called a Demi-Arret.

Muriel Chestnut demonstrating Demi-Arret

2. Flexions - Lateral Neck Flexions and Neck Extension

Following the demi-arret, the second phase was to continue this action until the horse moved into the bit, and I was to follow that movement forward and down. This is the horse 'taking your hand'. Then we started working with the reins from the side and worked more on the taking of the bit and opening the poll. 

Activating the jaw and opening the poll. The outside rein is up over Savvy's poll so Muriel is applying
equal pressure on the bit.

Then taking the bit and stretching down into it. (Head should be straight, though Savvy had a lot to say about it all!)
Next were lateral flexions. We were looking for a clear, straight flexion without bending at the poll. Once this was achieved, we could give the rein and encourage the horse to stretch their neck. Teaching the horse to extend when asked will help stretch the topline of the horse and will be necessary in developing balanced gaits.
Every exercise is first taught on the ground, then mounted at the halt, then walk, trot and canter.
Savvy when we first started walk: behind the verticle.
Once I had run through all of these excercises on the ground, it was time to mount up and try them at the halt and walk. Savvy immediately wanted to curl behand the bit because it was such a cold/rainy/windy day and she was very 'up' and nervous.
This was addressed with a demi-arret, where just like on the ground I would lift the bit on the corners of her mouth, activate the jaw and lift the head.

This not only got her head in better position, but ended up helping her relax from licking and chewing and then finally breathing a bit and listening to me.
Using demi-arret to lift the head and open the poll, Savvy
then maitained a more true connection further into the ride.
That was it for day one! It was a great introduction for me. Even though it doesn't sound like a lot of new information, I really was quite overwhelmed at this point. I had not thought about rein pressure in this way before--corners of the lips versus pulling back and applying tongue pressure. I suddenly felt guilty for 40 years of a riding style that may have been unnecessarily painful for my horses. A door opened in my head and I suddenly realized I could go through it and ride differently. I wasn't expecting any doors. I was a bit uncomfortable with it.
But it wasn't over there. Day two yet to come.


Monday, 16 May 2016

Muriel Chestnut Clinic

My clinic weekend flew by and all the emotions were felt. I am exhausted, overwhelmed, yet so excited about new possibilities. It is a bit terrifying to discover how much more information is out there that I still do not know. I had a peek through the looking glass and now I am left wondering if I should step through.

I have so much video to look at and notes to complete before it starts to slip away. Once I have a chance to sort through it all, I will tell you all about it!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Clinic Prep

One thing I have discovered after transitioning my focus to dressage is the lack of simple, affordable shows to take part in. Coming from hunters, where schooling shows (or at least shows that included jumping) were abundant, I am already missing that a bit.

On the bright side, I am too green to need dressage shows yet, so I will have to get my thrills through clinics and/or spectating at the 'too-expensive-for-me-right-now' dressage shows.

As for clinics, my first one is coming up this weekend!!!!!!

Savvy and I have been very slowly, but steadily progressing in our lessons. Nothing anyone would notice besides me and my coach, really. I am surprisingly developing new 'good' habits like correcting Savvy's bend in corners effectively and quietly. The list of things we are still NOT doing is massive, but I am choosing to be positive!

I am really excited about this upcoming clinic. The clinician, Muriel Chestnut, is my elusive unicorn: Classical dressage mixed with natural horsemanship. I have never met her, but upon reading about her on her website, I am feeling very lucky for this opportunity!

My biggest worry at the moment is clarifying my goals enough to answer the dreaded (shouldn't it be simple?!!) question of what I would like to work on. So far, my only answer is "all of it."

Like this - can I do this please? (Pic of Karen Rohlf and her lovely horse Natilla)

Seriously though, I have a one-hour spot on each day of a three-day clinic. We do have the difficulty with right bend, but I feel my coach has already given me a great plan for that. Canter is still not fully installed, but that feels more of a practise issue, as in needs more practise. I don't want to limit the experience with a bad choice of direction - does that make any sense?

I have two more days to think about it. Perhaps I should just state how new we both are to dressage and leave it open to whatever the clinician thinks best. Wish us luck!