Friday, April 24, 2009

Red Deer Mane Event Part 1

So Matt and I attended the Red Deer Mane Event and plan to do so again Saturday and Sunday. Here's what we experienced today, Friday April 24!

Stopped in at DK Saddlery, Danny Kroetch, to check out some amazing saddles! His western saddles look fabulous and are adjustable to various horses, though he custom fits it primarily to your main horse. The english saddles are custom fit and can be adjusted per horse, but not per ride (ie. I can't adjust it myself, I have to take it in to him). They're made completely different from most I've seen - wider gullets but with good wither clearance and air panels! Anyways, they look absolutely fabulous and run at $5000 apiece; I might just have to work out a near-ish future (a future that includes loans and debt haha) deal with him for a jumping saddle and a western pleasure too ;P

Next we hit up Jonathan Field's clinic on Leading Up to Flying Lead Changes. He was absolutely stunning - this guy is brilliant! Sidenote: I attended a Level 1 and then a Level 2 Parelli clinic with him, taking my young Warmblood cross Koolaid, a few years past and learned so much.

He focused primarily on 1) Path 2) Speed and 3) Bow bend to achieve the flying change. You have to have each component to achieve a successful flying lead change, in that specific order. He set up a pattern and explained that you had to ensure that your horse did the pattern -went through specific cones, etc. If you allowed him to take over the pattern - if you did not show enough leadership to take him through the pattern correctly, then your horse is going to take leadership in other areas as well, which will manifest itself as herdboundness, flight, etc. So if a horse missed a cone, he'd tell the rider to go back and get that cone. If a horse turned to the left rather than the right, the rider was going to make a full circle to the right immediately after halting the horse from going any further to the left. Path. Speed indicates tension and so if a horse is tearing around with his head in the air, it's going to be difficult to achieve a lead change - he has to be soft and supple, which equals a slow and rythmic canter. Speed also affects path and also bow bend. The bow bend (a full body arc) is necessary to allow the horse to pick up the correct lead.

He had a few exercises leading up to the actual change which allowed the rider and horse to sufficiently prepare for a correct flying lead change. It was fabulous - when the horses first entered the arena it was clear many were tense, uptight, and not at the level to achieve a flying lead change - yet Jonathan had every single horse performing flying lead changes by the end of his hour 15min clinic (as well as improving some general horsemanship with some riders). I had not thought it possible, yet all the exercises he used just enabled it to happen so easily!!

He also spoke some on how when a horse spooks and goes to bolt, he bow bends away from the object in question, so the key is to be able to bow bend the horse towards the object he's fearful of so as to maintain control. Otherwise the horse bow bends away, digs his heels in, and has complete power to take off. Another good point that Jonathan made was that whatever you have at home is amplified at the show. Whatever you have at the walk is amplified at the trot. So many times you hear people say - "well my horse is good at home!" or "his walk is fine!" yet some small piece of foundation was missing, something they'd inadvertedly missed, and it was amplified when the stress level and general level or work increased. The other key point Jonathan made was to start and finish with relaxation. My goal is always to have my horses more relaxed when we finish than when we begin, which we do 99.9 percent of the time. However Jonathan was going further with that, working a specific pattern until relaxation is achieved. For example, if a horse was tense during the canter after a flying change, Jonathan would have the rider circle at the canter (or even the trot) until it was relaxed, then it was permitted to relax (halting for a rest at a set of barrels). The reason for this is that what happens last starts to happen first, so if a horse ends tense, soon he starts to start out tense too. This way the action itself (in the above example, the canter then the flying lead change) brings about relaxation. The way Jonathan just pieced together the flying lead change made so much sense and worked so well - I can't wait to use it on my own horses!

Next clinician we saw was Jay Hayes, Jumping (Group Session). He started off with speaking on rider position - full seat (including a flat back, not rounded not arched - as I was taught), two-point, and three-point positions. A few points he made were:
- impulsion before collection
- 90 percent weight should be in the rider's heel = a low center of gravity for jumping
- DO NOT SEE-SAW ON YOUR HORSE'S MOUTH!!! I see so many riders doing this and even one of the girls at the clinic was see-sawing away before Jay corrected her.
- close the hip angle at the trot (go from two-point to three-point and back and forth)
- 4 and 4 - everything is done in four's. 4 seconds of collection, for for relaxation. 4 strides before the jump you are putting the horse on the hind with a half-halt.
- the horse needs the most care before the jump, not after: after a jump allow the horse to gallop out, collecting them only 4 strides before the jump (which is also where you change jumping position)
- your first jump is your most conservative jump of the day
- a mistake made going deep to a jump can be a good mistake, a mistake made going long to a jump is a bad mistake
- shorten stride before the jump results in bigger scope
- the quality of the gallop is directly related to the quality of jump
- let the horse jump up to you - close your hip angle then you can open a bit at the jump to feel the belly lift up to you
His primary 7 points were:
1. Forward - obtain impulsion, allow the horse to gallop between jumps
2. Jump line - stay on your jump line and be watching it from a ways back
3. Stride control - have control of your horse's stride so you can shorten the strides 4 strides out from the jump, setting the horse on its hind for bigger scope (because the horse is on his hind and can power up vertically over the jump)
4. Exercise/train/compete - you need all three
5. Seat - your seat should match the jump (size and proximity)
6. Hip angles - related to seat, closed or open depending on the jump size
7. Release - there should be no release, the horse then comes against your hands and powers up vertically; he mentions this is why your horse should be in a soft bit, nothing more than a simple snaffle...this is where my opinion differs from his - I strongly feel that your hand should follow the horse during a release. But we'll see, perhaps my opinion will follow his if I see it's still in the horse's best interests.
He led his students through a variety of exercises too that really helped put together a correct jump.

Lastly we got a chance to watch Mette Rosencrantz's Dressage clinic. She started out with two Training Level riders. She set up pairs of cones for a 20m circle and had them work up to half-halts at the trot and bending on the 20m at the walk and trot. Here's how Mette described the advanced half-halt:
It's composed of a very briefly closed, then opened, hand (say one second in length). It's supposed to allow the hind end to continue its forward momentum and energy as the front end slows, as opposed to halting the hind completely (she paralleled it to tossing a stick into a rear bike wheel as opposed to allowing it to continue to spin). Therefore the half-halt is actually quick little steps as the horse's hind momentum continues and the horse coils its body, before the stride is lengthened again. The overall speed of the trot is slowed yet the speed of the horse's steps are basically maintained. It's the beginning of the piaffe - eventually slowing the half-halt until you get that trot-on-spot. The half-halt is essentially pressuring the desire of the horse to move forward, "damming up the river".
Something I did not know that was also mentioned was that the FEI Prix St.George upwards is where the double bridle is mandatory; below that level it's voluntary but the judges will take a harder stance when judging you.

Next Mette took in three riders working on their Level 1 dressage. She was looking for the horses to bend enough for the rider to see the horse's inside eye and nostril in the bend as she asked them to trot the 20m circle with periodic walks and then half-halts. Lastly, she had them work on walking then trotting the 10m circle with bend. Mette also pointed out how the rider who is forward in her seat with her horse's nose to its chest (avoiding the rider) has no speed control. I felt this ties in (indirectly) to the three points Jonathan listed: Path, Speed, Bow Bend.

Actually a lot tied in together between all three clinics! I loved all three clinics and learned so incredibly much, but the Jonathan Field clinic was so amazing, as everything he said crossed over to so many other areas. The dressage and jumping clinics were fabulous as well, it was great to pick up new patterns and ideas to work on to get me started on and it was great to learn that a lot of what I tend to do naturally is correct - I'm on the right track! Still so incredibly much to learn though, it's never ending!! Can't wait to get back into lessons, some dressage this year then maybe some jumping next spring. I was originally thinking eventing with Link, but had always had jumping (ie. Spruce Meadows) at the back of my I'm leaning more that way than the eventing. We'll see!! Much more tomorrow to enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Does Matt have great knowledge of horses as you? I attended the Red Deer Mane Event as well and unfortunately I couldn't get Ryan out with me.. he does not have a passion for horses as I do!

Equus said...

Matt's family had horses when he was a kid, but that's it so he is essentially just getting into them now. He definitely does not have my passion for the horses (lol) but he does seem to really enjoy them! Hope you enjoyed the Mane Event, I was wishing I could split myself into 3 to attend all the ongoing events!!

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