Posts from the ‘contact’ Category

WorldClass Warm-ups include Long&Low, EVERYDAY

Free Translation Widget

In recent months of sizzling summer-extreme heat and drought, here near the Confluence- I’ve watched innumerable videos of 2011 Aachen, The European Dressage Championships, and several other European Dressage shows, and have been inspired by such good riders, more as a matter of  ‘who knows, rather than who’s news.’

While the US Young and Developing Dressage Horse Championships and US National Grand Prix and Intermediare Championships were in process the last few weeks, at Wayne and Gladstone, I resorted frequently to usefnetwork.com live stream and a variety of news sources to glean new insight into progress by US competitors toward the ideals of Dressage.  For the tests themselves, internet videos provide excellent vantage points, typically better than being there.  And when I see one test performance clipped, I seek, and often find,  more videos of the same performance, recorded from other vantage points.

What I miss by not actually being there, is that I don’t see the warm-ups preceding the tests, as one can, if situated  cleverly at contest venues.

So over time I have surfed avidly for film clips of warm-ups by riders I admire, and who moments thereafter received high marks from FEI Judges. I have found few, alas, very few.  My current favorites of warm up clips, is Steffen Peters (US) and Ravel at 2009 Aachen, where they won the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special, and Grand Prix FreeStyle. warming-up  for the Grand Prix Special which is, you may know is THE TEST of shortest duration, requiring the highest degree of collection for sustained  for the longest duration of any of the FEI TESTS.

(A new GPS test, written by the FEI, at the behest of the IOC, and much to the chagrin of the International Dressage Riders Club, for the purpose of entertaining network television viewers of London 2012, will be used from October 1, 2011 through December 31, 2012. I just read the new test. Containing all the same movements as the ‘normal’ GPS test, it is even shorter- more compact, and requires more muscular stamina. I think it an unnecessarily difficult means of testing against the ideal. Causing me to wonder, for our horses’ sakes, how to get television production under control. )

A view of Steffen Peters preparing Ravel for their 2009 Aachen Grand Prix Special triumph: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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And here’s what I see…from zero to 1:26 Steffen is loosening and promoting Ravel’s engagement  by posting vigorously, emphatically rising as vertically as possible, canting forward only by the inclination of his head and the visor or his cap. When he touches the saddle, he barely pats it. But he does pat it, to which the horse reacts by opening his thoracic spines upward.  Steffen opens the inside of Ravel by counter flexing and eliciting one stride of counter shoulder fore before riding each corner as a quarter volte. In this posture, for this horse’s degree of development, a quarter volte is three or four strides, rather than two, as in collection. Again counter flexing a stride before beginning a circle, he then ‘drives on,’ forward and down, asking for increased engagement into even contact, including, for the purpose of this exercise, the contact of the rider’s passively tense calf with horse’s latissimus dorsi, through saddle.

Contact with the rider’s hands, held wide apart as the rider’s hips, well below the horse’s withers, and therefore sensed by the horse from the rider’s hips, rather than from the rider’s elbows as when the riders hands but a hand’s width apart and just above the horse’s withers, is through the snaffle rein to the corner of the horse’s mouth and through the curb rein only by the weight of the curb rein and bit felt by the horse at its poll. The “drive on” is effected by the rider’s posting momentum including the projection of his center forward and the flexion of the rider’s calf each time rider rises with the horse’s inside leg. The rider’s hand senses to coming of throughness from behind and gives to permit forward energy flow, effecting repeated ‘half-forwards’  The horse’s posture is horizontal, weight distributed evenly fore and aft. Tail swinging indicates lack of spinal tension. Neck long, open and low, to poll below withers, flopping ears! Facial profile inside the vertical and moving toward the vertical as the exercise proceeds. Corner of horses mouth between point of horse’s shoulder and horse’s elbow.

Steffen executes the exercise as I find it is written in classical literature. This is how it is done. The first 86 seconds of this tape is the answer not only to “what is long and low?” but the current probe “How long and low is TOO long and low?” This tape exemplifies the limits.

In the very next seconds, and onward, Steffen administers exercises he has programmed to ready for the soon to be performed test. And there is vastly more to be learned, not the least of which is the relationship between half-pass and passage, by and for  those who have moved closer to this level of  development. About the rest of the tape I may write later, if only for the crystallization of my own thoughts. I chose to not edit, to not curtail, the tape because I did not want to remove any available context.

But back to long and low, everyday long and low:

What we don’t see in this clip is what preceded the administration of the exercise. Reasonable surmise is that he enjoyed a 10 minute walk ‘trail ride,’ mounted, from stable to the group warm up ring, where among other contestants, he continued to loosen with longitudinal and lateral exercises at trot and canter, awaiting his ten minutes of exclusive use of the private warm-up court penultimate to entrance to the test arena. And may have entered the private court at collected canter, just before the video starts. Such sequential build-up to performance is rarely, if ever afforded at lesser than International Championships venues.  Nonetheless, the first 1:26 of this clip is relevant to the work of all of our horses, at every stage of their progressions. Large circles, with the best possible contact,  long and low, emphasizing maintenance of rhythm and tempo and promoting engagement, is, early on, the lesson itself, for a horse in field school. It is valuable therapy for a horse coming out of rehabilitation. And it is essential preparation for a day’s lesson, or for test performance.

For advancing medium level horses, and further developing advanced horses, this exercise is included not only in warm-up, but also warm-down. As such horses tend to become too strong, it is best to leave the day on a soft, light note, making it easier to resume the next ride with softness and lightness.

Oh, almost forgot! I couldn’t find a clip of Ravel’s 2009 Aachen GPS, but here’s one of his triumph in the Freestyle, preceded, I imagine by a similar, if not identical warm-up.

2012 Winter Digest: Progressing bitless…..

While many sunchasers danced with their horses in milder climes, it was the Finns who managed a breakthrough experiment in testing bitless, by staging a juried exhibition before a large audience for The Tunne Hevonen Dressage Challenge at the Helsinki Horse Fair.

Whether the LG-bridle was required for the test, or favored by the riders is unclear. And whether exercise bandages were required, or only permitted, I also do not know. But all the stills and videos I’ve seen are LG-bridles and bandaged. For this exhibition performance, just like everyday exercises, why not?

What I like most about this mode is that the rider’s dynamic positions more nearly approach the ideal than they might if performing the same movements in snaffle or full bridles, especially that transitions are influenced by the riders’ backs.

This ride, by Julia Alfthan-Kilpeläinen and her 17-year old Swedish warmblood gelding Chirocco (by Chirlon x Castello), was the jury’s favorite:

The judges also liked, as do I, the ride of Maria-Kristina Virta and her 20-year old Finnish warmblood gelding Conquistador S (by Matador) in which at 2:10 is evident lavish saliva. Bitless.

2012 Winter Digest: To be one in motion with a horse……

Among the presenters at the 2011 Global Dressage Forum was Alizee Froment, CDI Grand Prix competitor and Chef of the French Pony Dressage Team, who discussed and demonstrated bitless riding.

Having gone on record that I recommend testing all the way through Grand Prix in a snaffle bit at US national meets, as is done in Great Britain,  I’ve also wondered about a separate…might it be called “Masters?” …division in which horses are tested, only at Prix St George and above, in a bitless headcollar. I actually do not object to bits, or bits and bridoons. I simply think that riders seats and tact would improve, and the intrinsic qualities of our horses’ motion would be enhanced, if the bridoon were not added, ever. And that riders would be able to achieve a quality of contact surpassing contact through a bit by riding with bitless head-collars. Because riders would get, from bitless riding, feedback from the motion of their horses that would improve their seats and tact. (I do not consider mechanical hackamores or bosals or hinged cavessons to be bitless headcollars.)

So I was frustrated that I did not find a transcript of  the discussion of bitless riding or a film of Alizee Froment’s demonstration at the GDF.

Only to be delighted to receive this video in New Year’s greetings from a German DressageUnderground participant.

Which caused me to surf a bit and find a video of the same horse doing the same exercises bitless but under saddle.

And a video of the same horse and rider combination being tested under rules three years prior.

I have very much enjoyed comparing the three videos and although I am administering gymnastic exercises with saddles and snaffles this winter, I think my own seat and tact may have notched up from watching these films.
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The Training Scale: Cultivating Contact

As a discerning reader may perceive, my blogging is as much an effort to crystallize my own thoughts on various aspects of Dressage, as to facilitate the learning of others who share this fascination, or, are even curious about it. More often than not, my concern is the Training Scale. So I was jogged to again attend CONTACT when I received this morning, from a thoughtful student, this missive:

111114124 sent you a video: “Uta Gräf // Graf & Le Noir – bitless riding May 2011”

Thank you for the news, I read it today.

Do you like bitless riding? Watch this video.

Uta Gräf // Graf & Le Noir – bitless riding May 2011

Le Noir born 2000 black Holstein stallion by Leandro x Caletto I and his rider Uta Gräf at home training some Grand Prix movements with bitless bridle.

To which I responded:

The video you sent provides an excellent example of how a rider may sit on a trained horse.

Thank you.

I have been thinking a lot about CONTACT recently, and about bitless riding. And reading Dr. Hilary Clayton’s research on both bitless bridles and ‘simple’ snaffles. You may read some of her findings in the link to Conference Proceedings from the article 2011 Autumn Digest: International Society for Equitation Science in the pages of DressageUnderground.

Bitless bridles facilitate the lesson of making horse and rider more conscious of the rider’s seat than hands. So they are valuable as a teaching aid. Although I do not, personally, wish to see bitless bridles in competition, I do wish that our National Federation would permit snaffles (bridoons without bits) in competition through Grand Prix Level, as is permitted in Britain, because I believe it would facilitate development of competitive riders seats as riders work up through the national levels.

Christopher Hyams, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA Http://DressageUnderground.wordpress.com

Thinking further about this, I am reminded of how my own horsemanship was elevated by riding bitless, for months on end, some 35 years ago, when, came into my life an otherwise beautifully conformed, but ‘parrot mouthed,’ four year old gelding. He was the first foal of both sire and dam, whom his breeder could not bear to cull. Not knowing where the gene came from, she gelded the sire, and vowed never to breed the mare again. She raised the foal healthfully, and had backed him. My first impression of Teddy  was that his potential as an athlete, and his personality, were undeniable. He wanted to play with me. The breeder offered to give him to me, with a bill of sale and no registration papers. I had looked the gift horse in the mouth, and could not turn him away.

I then spent nine months schooling him.  When, early on, I would ordinarily have hung a bit in the lunge cavesson, I didn’t.  I just continued on by transferring from voice commands  to leg and hand influences through the cavesson.  Soon I assembled, from odd bridle parts, a bitless bridle. Having then learned the exactly correct dimensions for Teddy, I had a hippy leather worker make a bridle to my specifications, and continued to school Teddy in his custom-made headstall.

About a year after my first meeting Teddy, it was time for a riding student to be introduced to foxhunting on her own, previously seasoned, field hunter. Having not fitted up a hunting horse for myself, but thinking Teddy ready, I vanned him to the fixture with the client’s horse. At the meet, the Hunt Secretary graciously welcomed my rider entry, but voiced her annoyance at Teddy’s head-gear. It was early in cubbing season, and we were all properly attired, but you would have thought I had shown up at The Blessing unbraided, in dungarees.  “That’s NOT a bridle” said my long-time, friend, who let me hunt back with my client, nonetheless.

Coincidentally, the Hunt Secretary did, herself , that day, have guests – a couple visiting from another Midwestern hunt.  The wife of the couple, ogled Teddy from the moment of hearing her hostess’s annoyed voice, looked over her shoulder every chance she got from near front of the small field, and liked what she saw. And bought him for her son, who hunted him with their pack, and hunt raced him, for a few seasons before going off to school, at which point Teddy became both a Whipper-in AND Guest horse, ever going in his bitless bridle.

But back to Dressage craft, and CONTACT. Here’s another video of Uta Graf testing to qualify for a Medien Cup Final in Holland, the same horse. Studying this video, I see only the most minor of outside rein contact problems in corners. And wonder whether the horse’s preparatory time might have been better spent in a loose ring snaffle than bitless bridle.

https://www.youtube.com/v/pUAMwuyAus0?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0

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WorldClass Warm-ups include Long&Low, EVERYDAY

Free Translation Widget

 

In recent months of sizzling summer-extreme heat and drought, here near the Confluence- I’ve watched innumerable videos of 2011 Aachen, The European Dressage Championships, and several other European Dressage shows, and have been inspired by such good riders, more as a matter of  ‘who knows, rather than who’s news.’

While the US Young and Developing Dressage Horse Championships and US National Grand Prix and Intermediare Championships were in process the last few weeks, at Wayne and Gladstone, I resorted frequently to usefnetwork.com live stream and a variety of news sources to glean new insight into progress by US competitors toward the ideals of Dressage.  For the tests themselves, internet videos provide excellent vantage points, typically better than being there.  And when I see one test performance clipped, I seek, and often find,  more videos of the same performance, recorded from other vantage points.

What I miss by not actually being there, is that I don’t see the warm-ups preceding the tests, as one can, if situated  cleverly at contest venues.

So over time I have surfed avidly for film clips of warm-ups by riders I admire, and who moments thereafter received high marks from FEI Judges. I have found few, alas, very few.  My current favorites of warm up clips, is Steffen Peters (US) and Ravel at 2009 Aachen, where they won the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special, and Grand Prix FreeStyle. warming-up  for the Grand Prix Special which is, you may know is THE TEST of shortest duration, requiring the highest degree of collection for sustained  for the longest duration of any of the FEI TESTS.

(A new GPS test, written by the FEI, at the behest of the IOC, and much to the chagrin of the International Dressage Riders Club, for the purpose of entertaining network television viewers of London 2012, will be used from October 1, 2011 through December 31, 2012. I just read the new test. Containing all the same movements as the ‘normal’ GPS test, it is even shorter- more compact, and requires more muscular stamina. I think it an unnecessarily difficult means of testing against the ideal. Causing me to wonder, for our horses’ sakes, how to get television production under control. )

A view of Steffen Peters preparing Ravel for their 2009 Aachen Grand Prix Special triumph: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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And here’s what I see…from zero to 1:26 Steffen is loosening and promoting Ravel’s engagement  by posting vigorously, emphatically rising as vertically as possible, canting forward only by the inclination of his head and the visor or his cap. When he touches the saddle, he barely pats it. But he does pat it, to which the horse reacts by opening his thoracic spines upward.  Steffen opens the inside of Ravel by counter flexing and eliciting one stride of counter shoulder fore before riding each corner as a quarter volte. In this posture, for this horse’s degree of development, a quarter volte is three or four strides, rather than two, as in collection. Again counter flexing a stride before beginning a circle, he then ‘drives on,’ forward and down, asking for increased engagement into even contact, including, for the purpose of this exercise, the contact of the rider’s passively tense calf with horse’s latissimus dorsi, through saddle.

Contact with the rider’s hands, held wide apart as the rider’s hips, well below the horse’s withers, and therefore sensed by the horse from the rider’s hips, rather than from the rider’s elbows as when the riders hands but a hand’s width apart and just above the horse’s withers, is through the snaffle rein to the corner of the horse’s mouth and through the curb rein only by the weight of the curb rein and bit felt by the horse at its poll. The “drive on” is effected by the rider’s posting momentum including the projection of his center forward and the flexion of the rider’s calf each time rider rises with the horse’s inside leg. The rider’s hand senses to coming of throughness from behind and gives to permit forward energy flow, effecting repeated ‘half-forwards’  The horse’s posture is horizontal, weight distributed evenly fore and aft. Tail swinging indicates lack of spinal tension. Neck long, open and low, to poll below withers, flopping ears! Facial profile inside the vertical and moving toward the vertical as the exercise proceeds. Corner of horses mouth between point of horse’s shoulder and horse’s elbow.

Steffen executes the exercise as I find it is written in classical literature. This is how it is done. The first 86 seconds of this tape is the answer not only to “what is long and low?” but the current probe “How long and low is TOO long and low?” This tape exemplifies the limits.

In the very next seconds, and onward, Steffen administers exercises he has programmed to ready for the soon to be performed test. And there is vastly more to be learned, not the least of which is the relationship between half-pass and passage, by and for  those who have moved closer to this level of  development. About the rest of the tape I may write later, if only for the crystallization of my own thoughts. I chose to not edit, to not curtail, the tape because I did not want to remove any available context.

But back to long and low, everyday long and low:

What we don’t see in this clip is what preceded the administration of the exercise. Reasonable surmise is that he enjoyed a 10 minute walk ‘trail ride,’ mounted, from stable to the group warm up ring, where among other contestants, he continued to loosen with longitudinal and lateral exercises at trot and canter, awaiting his ten minutes of exclusive use of the private warm-up court penultimate to entrance to the test arena. And may have entered the private court at collected canter, just before the video starts. Such sequential build-up to performance is rarely, if ever afforded at lesser than International Championships venues.  Nonetheless, the first 1:26 of this clip is relevant to the work of all of our horses, at every stage of their progressions. Large circles, with the best possible contact,  long and low, emphasizing maintenance of rhythm and tempo and promoting engagement, is, early on, the lesson itself, for a horse in field school. It is valuable therapy for a horse coming out of rehabilitation. And it is essential preparation for a day’s lesson, or for test performance.

For advancing medium level horses, and further developing advanced horses, this exercise is included not only in warm-up, but also warm-down. As such horses tend to become too strong, it is best to leave the day on a soft, light note, making it easier to resume the next ride with softness and lightness.

Oh, almost forgot! I couldn’t find a clip of Ravel’s 2009 Aachen GPS, but here’s one of his triumph in the Freestyle, preceded, I imagine by a similar, if not identical warm-up.

Too much, too soon?

Free Translation Widget
I was interested to read this morning Eurodressage Astrid’s Appel’s lead sentence that the Danes decided to add a Youngster Cup to “spice up” their Danish Warmblood Elite Mare Show at Vilmesborg last weekend, and that it was won by Torveslettens Stamina and Andreas Helgstrand. Astrid goes on:  ” Stamina, who has twice placed in the Final of the World Championships in Verden, performed her best test ever, and scored 10 for trot and capacity. She ended her test with a total score of 9.62.”

‘Capacity’ I mused, ‘trot and capacity.’  Now that’s a term I’ve not previously encountered. Apparently it refers to a conceptual quality , an ideal quality. Impulsion? But not in FEI parlance. Of course, The Danish Warmblood Elite Mare Show is conducted under Danish National, rather than FEI rules, et ma langue Danois n’est pas; I’ll have to clarify “capacity” for myself when I have time to find the test in Danish and navigate the translation software.

So I watched Adreas Helgstrand (rider of world watched Blue Hors Matine of 2006 Aachen fame and 2007 Las Vegas misfortune) press the 6 year old mare “Torveslettens Stamina” through a test requiring  movements of the current USEF Third Level Tests, without rein-back, or canter half-pass, but with collected trot full circles preceding trot half pass,  collected walk and 1/2 pirouettes as in USEF Fourth Level, versus collected trot half circles preceding trot half pass and medium walk and half-turn on the haunches of USEF Third Level.

Yikes! That is a LOT to ask of a 6 year old. And although her youthful exhuberance carries her through the test from halt to halt, with highly animated gaits, Helgstrand is, to my eye, muscling her around. Helgstrand is, I am sure, a very strong man, strong of limbs and core, so his is not light contact. Influences are visible: the young mare is pressed, funnelled, squeezed through the entire test.

But  the first time I watched the clip, before knowing the test, I could see it coming. The first halt told me what to expect.  The mare comes nearly straight down the center line, and halts base narrow in front, then shifts her weight over, onto her right hind and sticks her left hind out to the side, seeking relief, if only for those 6 seconds, from the stress to her fore and hind quarters of the warm-up preceding the test. Hind end stress is again evident in the walk 1/2 pirouettes. 3!  The final halt confirms prognostication.  In the final halt Stamina plants her front feet so close together she may have even stepped on herself- I can’t be sure- and widens her hind legs as far as possible without overstretching a groin muscle. Or did she?

Such a young horse should not be required to perform exactly so…so soon.

Stamina…I hope for you that you can live up to your name.

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She got them all with that one !

Free Translation Widget
August 25, 2011. Last Saturday in Rotterdam, Adelinde Cornellisen (NED) and Jercich Parcival won the European Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle Championship with an 88+ score, a talling 4% closer to the ideal 100% than nearest contestants Carl Hester(GB) and Uthopia and Patric Kittel (SWE) and Watermill Scandic. Seven Judges, presided by Fourhage (NED), scrutinized each footfall  of 15 performers, awarding scores above eighty to eight of them, and scores above 70 to all of them!

How did Cornelissen and Parcival prevail?

Parvcival’s Freestyle test which was delightfully choreographed to accentuate  Parcival’s transitions between movements, as well as the movements themselves.  Having no errors to the last line, compared to her nearest competitors, but only somewhat inferior qualities of motion, Adelinde passaged the CenterLine to D where she piaffe pirouetted 360 degrees right, then reversed to piaffe 180 degrees left, and passaged the centerline to X, halted and saluted! Audio-visual recordings of the performance sound respectfully hushed gasps, gushes, sighs, and squeals from the gallery, 90 degrees into the left sweep. I, too, was thrilled, and so not surprised by the score.

Apparently Cornelissen and Parcival have been doing this freestyle for a while; they’ve got it down pat. I read that she is planning a new Kur for London 2012. I wonder what her choreographic collaborators could invent that will get higher scores for use of the arena, degree of difficulty of the movements, music and interpretation. But, of course, it is the exercise of imagination that makes freestyle so much fun.

But, good as Cornelissen/Parcival got, other tests deserve close scrutiny…

Carl Hester rode relatively young —ten-year-old —-stallion, Uthopia, to brand new bespoke music, and exhibited three excellent gaits, in the required GP variations. ALL of the best qualities of motion are intrinsic to, and, thus far, retained in this horse. Although the judges are not supposed  to consider the rider’s position and seat, correctness and effect of the aids, as in other FEI tests, Uthopia could not have danced this test so gracefully without a rider; Hester’s contact is exemplary!

But there were the three little glitches:  irregular step in the first passage/piaffe transition, one too large canter pirouette, and an over reaction from the horse to half-halt influences causing momentary loss of forward motion, each of which cost technical points. And the degree of difficulty of the movements was modest, as it should be for such a young horse. I am looking forward to seeing this horse get a little stronger, and this combination become a little more confident in each other. Uthopia is a star still rising!!!!!!

The judges were right about the bronze, too, from what I can see. Although I have not been following Patric Kittel and Watermill Scandic—I was put off by the blue tongue episode–I do like the way this man sits a horse, and I am pleased by the cadence of this horses motion. This is a more mature horse, 14 I think, and so stronger and more confident. The horse seems to be genuinely enjoying himself. The quality of the horses motion is, however, less than ideal, by the fact the horse’s back is down, by which I mean concave to the rider’s seat, rather than up, as would permit the more desirable flow of energy from the horse’s haunches, across his back, through to the poll. Still, the performance is foot perfect, no irregularities. So ‘Scandi Man,’ I heard Patric call him, deserved every point and the bronze medal he garnered.

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Surfing around the videos embedded above and watching other combinations’ tests at the European Champs can help all of us train our eyes. There is much to learn.

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