Sunday, April 26, 2009

Red Deer Mane Event Part 2

Jay Hayes was the first clinic we attended, though we were only fortunate enough to catch the tail end of it. It was Session 2 of Group 1 though, so I am hoping that tomorrow picking up Session 2 of Group 2 I can pick up material similar to that of what we missed today (his Session 1 of Group 1 was very similar to Session 1 of Group 2). The primary points I picked up on today though were:
- don't let the horse leave long - if he does don't be afraid to be left behind (let the horse make the mistake and fix it)
- go deep - horses land on their weak side this way, therefore going deep and landing on their weaker canter lead strengthens their weak side...going long allows them to land on their good side
- GIVE to your horse (reins) during the downward transition
- train the horse to backup, to sit back on his haunches as he approaches the jump

Next we took in our favourite clinician, Jonathan Field - Beginning to Specialization. A few points:
- the most impressionable times in a horse's life are: within the first 24hrs of life (imprinting), within the first 2 weeks of life, pre-ride (all the groundwork you do), and under-saddle (the first ride)
- build a strong foundation then move into specialization
- horses feel the slightest shift in weight, so he re-inforced that you always look (they feel the weight of your head turning), then use seat (ie. push with your seat), then leg, then rein
- sitting up in the saddle at the halt should get the horse's attention but it shouldn't automatically walk forward
- doing serpentines through a line of cones (ie. weave pattern), you can either use a direct rein (lead the front), or use an indirect rein and push the hind over (lead by the hind)
- direct rein leads to straightness, impulsion, and engagement, while the indirect rein leads to bend and disengagement
- a narrower stance, all the way to the hinds crossing over (extreme narrow stance) = less power, disengagement
- wider stance = more power, engagement of the hindquarter
- if the horse picks up speed then starts to leave the path, disengage (full or partial); get a soft feel with your hands and wait for the horse to relax and be with you (soft head, staying between your legs on the path), then leave the horse alone
- at the foundation level, turn and face the jump (sweet spot) so the horse learns to relax rather than build impulsion (prevents anticipation) or even go up to the jump and back
- wait for relaxation
- make your horse elastic: bring the life up ie. take off at the gallop from the halt, for example, (once both you and your horse are sufficiently prepared) and then get back down to relaxation quickly
- horses that crossfire, pick pu the wrong lead often, or are stuck toward one side (ie. bent in one particular direction consistently) can indicate chiropractic issues or one-sidedness

We learned so incredibly much - every time we watch Jonathan our minds practically burst with new knowledge (lol)...can't wait to apply it at home!

We attended a saddle fitting demo and I've been convinced into buying a few DK they seem like amazing saddles! They're supported by Mette Rosencrantz too and several of the high level dressage riders today were in them (that's what really clinched it for me today haha). They're built completely different from your average saddle and use air rather than padding...everything I've learned about these saddles just make so much sense to me after all I have heard and all the research I have done thus far (and will continue to do). $5000 a pop however they seem worth it; so my goal is to eventually have a dressage, jumping, and western saddle.

Oh yea, did I mention that throughout all this I have also been convinced to get into dressage and jumping individually, rather than eventing?? Hehe. We'll see, but those are my thoughts as of late, I think that might be where I am better suited ;P

Next we checked out Mette Rosencrantz with Group 2 today - Level 2 to CDI level. A few of her points during the session (which was so amazing and inspiring, btw!):
- more strength behind results in the poll being the highest point as the horse sits back on its hind end; therefore horses at the lower levels will carry their head behind the vertical...and that's okay! It's not until the horse works up to the higher levels and builds up that strength in his hind that he sits uphill and has his poll the highest point.
- collection cannot come from the hand, it must come from the hind (otherwise the horse becomes heavy on the front)! Your hands must be soft and unmoving. The collection must come from forward thinking from the horse. LOTS of transitions without allowing the horse to get flat at the walk from the trot.
- when the hind is lower and driving, the front becomes lighter
- use the leg yield to supple a horse, they should flex but not bend
- rock the horse back by pushing forward with your legs - NOT by holding back with the reins, then half-halt back (a gentle and QUICK squeeze of the hand, NO pulling back with the hands). The half-halt and the pushing forward with your legs are done at SEPERATE times, NOT simultaneously. The half-halt takes that forward momentum and causes the horse to go up, so that the energy is on the hind...this teaches the horse to eventually sit back on his hind consistently and to build up strength to do so.
- the extended trot is done by allowing the horse to go out in the front - elasticity. The steps are the same pace but are longer and more forward.
- the passage is shorter and higher, "damming up the river" but NOT pulling back....the horse is on the hind
- the piaffe is the extreme of the passage, a "standing passage"

Mette gave her students a couple of exercises to do that included leg yields, half-pass, shoulder-in, and haunches-in. She also had her higher-level students (including one who competes against her) perform for us an extended trot, a passage, and a canter-pirouette - they were amazing to watch!!

Jonathan Field next had on a lecture about bits and bitting. He started off by pointing out that bits do NOT train the horse. Horsemanship trains the horse. Next, he listed two basic types of bits: those that help the horse stay straight and those that help the horse stay bent, for lateral work and disengagement. With that in mind, he has a 5 step program of "bits" he uses:
1. rope halter - groundwork. Solve the problem on the outside before going to the inside, therefore you do not dull the inside
2. rope hackamore - stiff (for straightness) or flexible/soft bosal (for disengagement)
3. 1/4" lift (port) - some tongue (the most invasive part of a horse, the tongue) relief yet the pressure is still distributed rather than focused on the bars and lips
4. 3/4" port
5. 1" port
The first bit is double-jointed with a barrel roll in the center to prevent the total collapse of the bit (and therefore nutcracker action) - the bit itself has a lot of movement side-to-side...which results in a lot of "fuzz", a lot of background noise, when communicating with the horse. This is absolutely fine when building a foundation, but as you build up and start to specialize, you want to start fading out that fuzz...which the bits do. Each bit, as the port rose, became more solid. The ultimate "specialization" bit would be the spade bit, where communication between horse and rider is uber intimate.
The ports offer increasing tongue relief and as the port increases so does the training level (so distribution of pressure becomes less of an issue as less pressure is used anyways). This way the horse can still swallow easily. The low port though prevents pallet pressure - pallet pressure does not begin until a port is 2 1/2" or so high, the port of a bit will not interact with a horse's pallet until this point.

Mette Rosencrantz once more (our final clinician of the day)!! I absolutely love this woman, her style is logical and she looks at things from the horse's perspective and really focuses on the rider being soft and supple. This group was Group 1 from yesterday and was at Training Level. Her points for this group, among the exercises she had them do:
- loosen the arm - do not use your arms to balance
- NEVER pull back with your hands - softly open and close your hands and use your bottom three fingers for communication, but do not pull back.
- knee under your hip, toes pointed slightly outward (just like how you would stand), longer leg and stirrups (but it is better to be 1/2 a hole too short than 2 holes too long!)
- use your legs before your reins
- bend at each corner!
- your hands should always be above the level of the bit
Next was Group 2 from yesterday, riding at Level 1. The primary points in this group:
- the horse can never get off your hands if you never get off his face. So get off his face! What I always say: if your horse is leaning on your hands, quit giving him something to lean on!!
- at this level the horses should have a rounder frame than Training Level
- on the circle, the inside hand "sweeps the dust" into the outside hand (which holds the "dustpan"), swoosh and catch, softly, to achieve that bend and to support the horse throughout the bend - the outside rein supports
- canter to trot transitions - contract contract contract the horse THEN trot
- if the horse leans into the circle, do NOT hold the horse up with the outside rein, push him with your inside leg
- on the longe (with a rider or with a young horse with no rider): you can attach a side rein to the outside and have the longe line run through the inside rein and clip onto the ring at the pommel; this causes the horse to be concave a little on the circle but the side rein prevents him from falling in
- your hands should be 50/50 - soften/give and take/harden per hand, you can't take take take in one hand nor can you give give give in the other - they must work together in reflection
- do not move your arms, only move your hand and wrist
- length of the dressage stirrup - there should be some bend in the knee but you should also be able to use your foot without losing your stirrups
- use your calves rather than thighs (wear down your boots in lieu of the insides of your pants)

I have learned so much - I leave each day my head spinning from new information and so mentally exhausted from all the thinking and input! I am learning a lot from everyone we watch - I just wish we could see them all! I wish very much I could watch Al Dunning however I just have not yet had the chance to! I am hoping that tomorrow I can catch a bit of him during his Q&A. I am so ecstatic to take all this home and start applying it - I have some fantastic basics to work on at home in both the natural horsemanship, western, dressage, and jumping areas!

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