Posts from the ‘horsemanship’ Category

Local Motion: Cavalia is HERE!

High above Chouteau's Pond...For weeks, I’ve been watching the development of Cavalia Village while traversing the Poplar Steet Bridge. Even when only the White Big Top was erect between the Bridge and the carriage horse stable, I was drawn to stop and focus on it’s graceful presence on Chouteau’s Pond, Downtown St. Louis. My anticipation of Cavalia’s St Louis premiere had been building.
Cavalia's White Big Top in St. Louis

So when Cavalia invited Dressage Underground to the photo-op arrival of the horses themselves, I thought “Pourquoi -non?”  Dusted off my rusty photo-journalist self, and organized yesterday to include this picnic on Chouteau’s Pond.

Arriving early,  I was acknowledged with a nod and smile from a happy groundskeeper, and upon donning equipment and opening the trar door, surprised to be greeted by a gracious voice intoning “Are you media?…here to greet the horses’ arrival” “Mais, oui, madame” I replied, and was directed around a muraled security enclosure to the meeting point at the box office.  First to arrive, and greeted once more, I asked to have a respectful look about, and was able to peer through the parted curtains of the performance tent, one of the two exercise tents, the hospitality and staff cafeteria enclosures. Approaching a plexiglass double casement in the curtain wall of the stable tent…”Le Habitat,” I had heard the assembly crew call it…I stopped to read the sign,
.............................

and while peering around it, I heard a friendly, French inflected voice “One P.M.”
“I can wait” I said, catching M. Valcour’s grin, as he opened and passed through the portal, and strode in to himself be greeted by the huge gray head of vaulting horse, with whom he stopped to exchange pleasantries. Junior, it seems, had arrived at 10A, had been showered, but not yet shaven, and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his people.

Media had gathered and were being greeted by M. Pacquette when I returned to the meet point.   Looking up to see two twelve horse transports in tandem approaching The Poplar, and knowing they would exit at 6th, I prepared for
http://youtu.be/DarFKKrKD5M

Soon a ramp was down and the sisal carpet rolled out for ‘the artists.’ As human cast and crew greeted one another, the scene unfurling was delightfully and factually narrated by Fairland Ferguson,  who trick and roman rides in the show.
http://youtu.be/JIKAkOppCJI

………………………………
http://youtu.be/wkOsLYw_A8A

When all of these 25 of the 49 horses were safely “en habitat” we were invited in to have a look around…
http://youtu.be/fXxCrYGlMg0
and observe preparations for their first sand box frolics in St Louis.  Drawn to the cluster of Iberian grays who dance dressage, I found myself engaged by the graceful motions Tatiana Daviaud, tacking her partner, Goloso. Addressing her in my schoolboy French, she agreed to express her obvious passion for dressage.
http://youtu.be/E4Py6F0Z0_s
When I stopped the film, I became aware, once again, of the presence of M. Valcour, who offered to provide this translation to English:

‘’ In respect to movement, we work to promote balance and agility with a focus on flexibility and relaxation for all of the horses. With these different elements in place, we ensure that the horses feel ready, mentally and physically, to take the stage and turn it into their very own playground each night.. ‘’

Soon, we were ushered  onward past the tack room.. a container with double overhead doors that can be loaded on and off an over-the-road flat bed, and placed in the perimeter of the stable tent. As I paused to snap it, Roman rider Chad Dyson asked whether I wanted him “out of the picture.” “Au contraire, bon homme,I want you IN the picture.”

And onto the river sand footing of a warm-up tent, where we were introduced to several of the horses and riders, including Head Trainer Gregory Molina, and his four graceful accomplices of this concentric circle synchronization.
http://youtu.be/ED6omHvwHeM
And got to see Fairland and Chad find their footings on the backs of their Roman pairs.

<
If I hadn’t “heard” the voice of the schoolmaster calling “HAY,” I ‘d have made a nuisance of myself there in Cavalia Village, the rest of the afternoon. But artists deserve creative privacy.

And Dressage Underground is to return.

Winter Digest 2012: Hiroshi Hoketsu, Septuagenarian Olympian

March 2-4, 2012, Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan and 15 year old mare, Whisper 115 was scored 69.064 in the Grand Prix for Special and 72.533 in the Olympic Grand Prix Special at Vidauban, France, by nine judges from so many countries.

With these scores, Hoketsu and Whisper qualified for both the April 2012 Dressage World Cup Finals, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, and London 2012 Summer Olympics.

Hoketsu, competed in the 1964 Olympics in ShowJumping, went to the Los Angeles ’84 Olympics as an Alternate, but did not compete, and to Seoul ’88 Olympics, where he was prevented from competing by quarantine restriction.

If directed by the Japanese Olympic Committee to London, he will ride for his nation as an Individual, but also for the entire  Asia-Oceania FEI Region, of which he is representationally singular.

With Whisper, Hoketsu contested the 2007 Kapsavar World Cup

Aachen CHIO World Cup 2009

*********

And the World Equestrian Games Kentucky 2010

So what’s the fuss? Why are a multitude of sports and general interest media…print, internet, radio and television ALL attending to this Dressage minutiae? Well, Hiroshi Hoketsu was born March 28, 1941. And so, will soon observe momentarily, if at all, his 71st birthday, while preparing for ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Ride on, Hiro!

2011 Autumn Digest: Kyra Kyrklund, Global Dressage Forum

12/3/11 I’ve never met Kyra Kyrklund. I’ve seen her ride only once…real time… in Stockholm Stadium, during her Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special tests at the 1990 World Equestrian Games. And I’ve read, and will read again, her book. I unabashedly admire her, and am forever grateful for having enlightened and stimulated me to pursue this craft. (My gushing reminiscence in post-script, following, will explain.)

So when I read of her presentation at the 2011 Global Dressage, I hung on her every word, as reported by Eurodressage’s Astrid Appel.

http://www.eurodressage.com/equestrian/2011/11/04/kyra-kyrklund-collecting-body-and-step

I’ve read, since, that Kyra spent her sixtieth birthday, not sunning herself on a beach, but questing onward, attending the Morning Training of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

As would I, if I could take the schoolmasters with me.

Gone surfing, I found this video of Kyra and then PSG accomplished Master 850, giving the impression of dancing around sparklers on a birthday beach. Happy Birthday to me!

Now, to reminisce:

I had ridden and studied dressage for already 30 years, seen US National Dressage tests, and World Championship dressage tests of Three Day Events here in the States and in England, and even ridden a confirmed GP horse as part of my ’87 Kentucky job. I was still not convinced of elite Dressage’s contribution to the preservation, much less enhancement, of the essential nature and nobility of The Horse. I was, and am, afterall, a Littauerite, ever aware of Littauer’s admonishment to beware of “charlatans” coming from abroad. But I had also read much of Podhajsky – who was utterly revered by my family and riding mentors – including his analysis of Olympic Dressage judging. And enlightened, spiritually elevated, enthused, by two mid 80’s performances of the Spanish Riding School in the St. Louis Arena.

So there I was in Stockholm for the first ever World Equestrian Games. To absorb all I could learn from the best of the best of all disciplines of the time. For Dressage, I was seated just to the right of, but many meters behind C.  I trained my binoculars on each Dressage contestant’s ride, and made copious notes in the margins of the WEG program between tests.

And learned a lot.

I remember coming away from the GP rides thinking “that black horse and Finnish rider could have captained a winning team.” (had Finland fielded a team)  And during the GP Special rides for individual medals, being impatient for Matador II and Kyra Kyrklund’s entry, elated by their performance, and disappointed that it was ever over. Resorting to coffee, I was satisfied and confident that the Jury’s scoring should have preferred the qualities of Matador’s motion, his exuberant expression, including evident delight in his own accomplishment, over the impressions of automation imposed by other riders’ determined accuracy of their horses’ tests.

Since my own awareness of youtube, I’ve been searching for a video of Matador at the 1990 WEG.  I haven’t found one.

Close as I can get is this record of Kyra Kyrklund and Matador breaking the barrier at the 1991 World Cup Final Kur:

So now

Romp in the Rain

11/20/11  Rode in the rain today. Did not intend to ride in the rain today, but did. It had drizzled much of the early morning, but had stopped by ride time, and the footing looked splendid. And it was not raining while I groomed and tacked, but it was drizzling as we headed out the door, so I pulled on a parka, and strode to the outdoor court, wiped off the saddle and mounted.

His Majesty obviously liked the conditions. He walked out energetically, inspected the margins, found my hand soon, and rhythmically inscribed three walk leg yield (LY) zigzags (ZZ), first forward at about 55 degrees, then steeper at about 40 degrees, and lastly, at about 60 degrees in medium. This horse has a wonderful walk, which has only gotten better by the inclusion of LY in his loosening exercises.

In walk we also played with shoulder-in(SI)>half-pass(HP)>SI>HP>SI. He is less adept at this exercise, so we only HP ZZ when SI>HP>SI>HP>SI is near perfect. Which it was not today.

So not to belabor that exercise in drizzle, we went on to trot the perimeter in an energetic long and low working posture. And then inscribed spiral in, transitioning to uphill collection and spiral out from uphill collected to uphill medium – one full in and out complement of spirals on each leg.  After straightening, still in uphill medium,  we collected and came to halt(H). But the H was not square, so H>T about a dozen collected strides to H. Which was square. Then from a few strides of forward working trot, went large and long and low to transition into canter, with one barely uphill flying change each direction before inscribing canter spirals that progressed from long and low inward to uphill collection, then pirouette canter into a big, but buoyant 3/4 pirouette>straight out of which we transitioned from that degree of collection into uphill medium, flew a change, returned to long and low and repeated the exercise on the other leg.

When I brought him to walk and fed him the reins, he took them all the way to the ground and lengthened his stride across a long diagonal, then to uphill medium before I let him walk free while I inspected the footprints of the prior exercises.

This court is 50m x 50m, which accommodates a 20m spiral in each quadrant. Although the in and out of the trot spirals made it difficult to discern which was which, the overall impression to my eye from astride was a smooth increase of bend followed by smooth decrease of bend both directions. The canter tracks were easier to read, and I was not surprised that the overtrack of inner hind was greater to the left than to the right in medium, but pleased to see that the tracks of pirouette canter volte and the near pirouettes themselves were pretty even on both legs. If it were not by now really raining, or I were willing to let the saddle get that wet before remounting, I would have dismounted and inspected all of the tracks more closely. What I could see remaining astride was a handsome piece of lace we had just tatted.

Which we proceeded to obliterate by resuming trot, and playing the accordion, as Charles de Kunffy dubbed longitudinal and lateral bending exercises. First a shakule of working > collected > medium>collected> near piaffe> collected>near piaffe>medium…executing corners only in collection.

Then we fished-tailed a long straight line of haunches-in(HI)>haunches-out(HO>HI>HO Which ignited an increasedly impulsed uphill medium.  Thrilling how that works, when a horse reaches this stage of development. Although I think I might have made such extravagant medium into passage today, I did not want to introduce anything new, but instead resorted to working trot long and low to soften.  I am thrilled that this horse is strong enough to do so much medium trot exercise. But I have to keep him adjustable if his eventual extensions and passage are to be unconstrained, elastic, and exuberant.

Continuing to accordion laterally and promote rideability of the SI>HP>SI, by way of trot volte (TV) > SI> TV>SI>HP>SI> straight to change legs to repeat in the opposite direction. Then long and low working large circle each direction. Then to free walk the perimeter through north wind propelled RAIN,  fling open the gate and ride to the stable port, where I dismounted.

Once inside, I loosened the girth and released the flash, and walked Carl Hester’s “20 minutes on hard” (See Digest Autumn 2011) all the while untacking, unwinding polos, and changing each of us into dry clothes. When I asked HM whether he enjoyed his romp in the rain while bent to remove his left bell, he responded by gripping the crown of my soaked bucket hat between his lips and tossing it into the grooming stall (as he has seen me toss his bell boots times before.) Giggling and exclaiming “Comic” I was caught in a hug as I crossed under his neck to the right boot. And while there, and massaging those tendons he tousled my hair with his lips.

SO I guess he had enough fun to make all the extra laundry and tack cleaning worthwhile.

Who invented the Training Scale?

So who invented the dadgum Dressage Training Scale, anyway? Where did this pyramid of concepts come from?

Equestrian literary academics note that the Training Scale originated in turn-of-the-20th century Germany, and was first recorded in a 1912 German army training manual, refined in later editions, and adopted and incorporated into the German National Federation’s guidelines for riding and driving. Now the Training Scale is the foundation of every national federation’s educational endeavors.

As Dressage becomes increasingly popular around the globe, wee (sic!) practitioners continue to attempt to demystify it. For decades, Americans have grappled with understanding of German words that have no English equivalents, often blaming our misunderstandings on having read ‘bad translations.’ When verbalizing my own understanding of the Training Scale, I find it easiest to rely on definitions published by horsemen far more learned than myself, whom I will quote ad infinitum when, eventually, I flesh out the outline of my own fascinations.

Subconsciously contemplating that timeline-less project an early morn surfing the net, it dawned on me who really invented the Training Scale. Striding out before my very eyes came THE inventor of the Training Scale, exemplified here in the first 45 seconds of this excerpt from “Welcome to Flyinge,” youtubed by FlyingeStud (SWE):

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Even an untrained eye will recognize the intrinsic beauty of this spectacle. Rhythm, elasticity, unconstraint, balance, self-carriage, an ebullient desire to move forward, engagement, throughness, straightness, and elevation of motion are the expression of celebration of the day by this three week old foal.

This is the ideal to which is compared, 10 or 15 years later, a mature riding horse when it is judged in the sporting rectangle. This is the everyday Olympic ideal to which we compare our progress in the process of conserving each horse’s spirit and developing each horse’s innate locomotive abilities and qualities.

It is our horses who invented the Training Scale, and who teach it to us.

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: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

************************************************************************************

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.

**************************************************************************


************************************************************************************

Listening to the riding horse

Free Translation Widget
Yesterday, I was schooling a novice horse, on near perfect footing, in falling rain, when he snorted at me. We had each other’s attention…I continued to listen and heard his ‘oil can’ precursor of schwung, and soon, the softly emphatic rhythm 1-2-1-2-1-2-… of cadenced working trot. We made much of this ….

Then, cleaning tack, I thought to revisit d’Endrody, and to republish this essay of yore:

“Well, Some of Them DO Talk”

Several years ago, I began handling and then stabilizing a former flat racer for I knew not then what other sports.  I noticed the very first day I put my hands on The Saint that he reacted to many of my motions, and often to my voice, with a snort. These snorts were not the snorts of a horse startled from grazing by a child passing in the lane on a bicycle, or the defiant snorts of a herd leader to the newcomer, or the snort of a fit horse who, upon being turned out on a chipper morning, throws up his head and exclaims before moving off to inspect the far of the field. These were low, soft, kindly snorts.

At the time I thought that the horse was telling me of his curiosity, surprise, bemusement, or disdain. But then horses don’t talk to people, only to each other, right? As his new surroundings, my motions, his tack, and clothing became familiar and then routine, the snorts subsided, and I forgot them.

As he progressed to lungeing on voice commands in the indoor hall, and I realized that, as he would go to the limits of the line to loosen up before I attached long reins, he was snorting again.  These were not look over the shoulder, snort, buck up and snort sort of snorts that celebrated a modicum of freedom, or the kick out and snort sort of snorts of a prankster. This horse would walk calmly away from the chambriere, increase the diameter of his path, bend his neck inward, make eye contact with me, and snort a few or several times while remaining entirely calm at walk and trot.

With the indoor hall otherwise silent, I would hear him snorting while he watched me prepare a grid for free jumping.  Of course I thought he was just blowing dust out his nasal passages, or that he had a minor allergy to winter mold.  Or… was this horse saying “Ah, time to get on with playing our games, eh?”  It did seem so, but then horses only talk to each other, not to people, right?

Soon I noticed that upon my first carrying tack to his stall front racks, but before I opened his stall door, The Saint would leave his hay, turn about his hindquarters toward me, lower his head, and snort.  sometimes he did this before I said anything to him, and sometimes soon after I greeted him with, “Hi, Snort!”

So, I was in my library one evening, ruminating about all this snorting. I was fascinated. Knowing that they would at least not laugh (out loud) at me if this was beyond the cutting edge, I considered faxing Equus to ask whether they knew of research on horses trying to talk to people (without being prompted by a pin prick.)

But I became distracted by the need to complete an assignment. So I looked over drawings on the drafting table, and then reached for A.L. d’Endrody’s Give Your Horse A Chance to verify the formula for the distance between two elements with ditches in a combination on a cross-country course to be ridden at preliminary speed. Opening to the index to find that table, my eyes became riveted upon “Snorting…147”.   SNORTING!  What was  d’ Endrody’s concern with snorting? Could I resist?

Actually beginning on page 146. I read:

“Creating of suppleness in the horses behaviour

The secret or producing suppleness is to obtain the horse’s understanding and willingness to obey, since the state of its body depends mainly upon the quality of its mental apprehensions.  The more successfully the suppleness of the animal’s mentality is attained, the more readily does it offer the suppleness of its body.

There is an interesting and convincing proof offered by the horse itself of the validity of this statement.  Horses often give an audible sign when they are changing from opposition into submission by starting to snort kindly.  The rider can best recognize this phenomenon during loosening exercises or regulating procedures at the moment when the change in the horse’s general behaviour [sic] sets in.  It is evident that this ‘talking’ is the expression of a mental function, thus the relaxation of the body, which the rider can perceive simultaneously with the snorting, must also be a direct result of the animal’s mental function.”

Of course I read further and with heightened respect for this authority who wrote about horses ‘talking’ in 1959.

Next day, I arrived at The Saint’s stall as he was sipping his water bucket.  Without waiting for him to finish his drink, I greeted him with “Hi, Snort!”  Then before my very eyes, he raised his chin from the lip of the goblet, stepped (or maybe only leaned) back, flexed his poll, and snorted. Upon my saying softly to him “Well aren’t you somebody?” he resumed drinking.  He snorted to me a few more times while we prepared to go to the indoor to play our games.

I don’t know whether this horse was really talking to me, d’Endrody wrote that some of them do. But I’m sure going to keep talking to horses… and listening.

“If Dressage is about anything at all……..

Free Translation Widget
“If dressage is about anything at all, it is about equine locomotion.”

I don’t remember having ever before felt separation anxiety from a thing…much less a book. But last week, soon after I delivered Charles Harris’s Workbooks from the Spanish School 1948-1951 back to the local Inter-Library Loan portal, I realized I was afflicted. I’d had use of…was possessed by …. Workbooks for two months. The effects of my reading it, re-reading it, pondering it, sorting it, re-sorting, now writing about it, are simply profound. My riding, the qualities of motion of horses I ride, and the competence of riders I influence is undeniably enhanced by this, my first interlude with Charles Harris. It recalled for me so much that I forget I know to practice.

I have to tell you about this book.

Although JA Allen did earlier publish three Charles Harris manuscripts, including a photo essay with Colonel Charles Hope  and Charles Harris self-published a pamphlet, Riding  Safety and Riding Negligence, Harris penned those works intending them for publication and distribution.

Charles Harris himself never intended his Workbooks for publication, but only for recording his lessons, insights and intellectual ruminations during his three years of study in The Spanish Riding Academy of Vienna, which we now know ( and I personally revere) as the Spanish Riding School, or SRS, for his own use, to facilitate his own learning, and for later review.

But by the sagacity of Charles Harris nephew, attorney Robert Sherman, who, not himself a horseman, got to know his uncle so well by audio taping conversations between them during Harris’ waning years, the publication of Workbooks, prefaced by Sherman, foreworded by Daniel Pevsner, FBHS MSTAT Pupil, The Spanish Riding School of Vienna, complemented by a 90 page biography comprised mostly of transcription of the taped interviews, and including all 681 notebook entries with reproductions of Harris’ own pen and green ink drawings and diagrams, was accomplished.

The foreword by Daniel Pevsner states that Harris’s focus, as his career progressed, became riding safety. I note that few entries in the Workbooks are concerned with safety. But surely Harris was surrounded with, made aware of, and adopted, safe handling and riding practices at The Academy.

If a theme is to be drawn from the Workbooks which, I repeat were never intended for publication, it is that “if dressage is about anything at all, it is about equine locomotion.” Harris, already a Fellow of the BHS when he entered The Spanish Academy, became fascinated with the analysis of horses’ gaits, including how a rider’s way of sitting on a horse affects a horse’s gait, not only in the moment, but trains an affected gait.

Harris finds himself disabused of the precept that a riders shoulders should parallel a horse’s shoulders and and a rider’s hips should parallel a horse’s hips  on arcs and in lateral work, as they do when traveling straight. He realizes that any twisting of a rider’s spine impairs “bracing the rider’s back” and that concussion of the horse’s motion, absorbed by a twisted rider’s spine, damages the rider’s spine. Instead, the rider’s shoulders and hips should parallel the ground and be perpendicular to the radius of the arc of the horse’s spine above the horse’s center of gravity.  Many entries explore technique and timing of bracing of the back, to move with, rather than to “follow,” a horse in Free Forward Movement.

In his analysis of gait, he was especially bemused by gait tempo.  He  attempted to sort through the concepts of tempo in relation to rhythm, pace, and cadence, and evidence in the Workbooks is that he never figured out tempo. Or cadence.  I don’t think less of him for this failure…He was a Brit immersed 24/7 in a school where no other human being, except a single fellow student, spoke English. (period)  And, it occurs to me while listening to From the Top on NPR as I type, that he had no musical training, from which lexicon he could have drawn correlative concepts. The failure to realize that tempo is merely hoofbeats per minute, might not even be a failure. Maybe, at the “uh….duh!” moment, he simply failed to record in the Workbooks this discovery.

I did not find myself enthralled by the good luck, bad luck, good fortunes, misfortunes, and controversies of his life as decanted by his nephew-biographer.

But I loved the anecdote of Harris visiting his protegé Pevsner at the studio of no less than Nuno Oliviera where Pevsner was studying while awaiting his own admission to the Academy:  Harris arrives, thrilled to advance his own knowledge in the hall of renownded master Oliviera, joins the gallery, and is so excited by what he sees that he can’t keep his mouth shut…and voices his complimentary insights to other observers. Oliviera cannot hear what Harris is saying, and if he could, might not have understood the languages in which Harris spoke, but is annoyed by Harris’s engagement of the gallery…His, Oliviera’s gallery. So Oliviera challenges Harris to get on a horse and demonstrate his riding competence. Or to “put your butt where your mouth is,” I have heard other  horsemen say. Well, Harris had traveled without riding attire, and upon divulging this, was offered a pair of boots, into which he horned himself, but no breeches. In travel pants, legs already throbbing from ill-fitting boots, Harris mounts the horse presented, and proceeds to walk it about the school, on loose reins, chatting with the onlookers and occasionally stroking the horse. As the story goes, his introductory cues to the horse were invisible to the gallery, and no one seemed to notice that the loose reins had become long reins, then the lightest of contact, or that the horse was moving magnificently, still at walk. So the gallery becomes impatient, vocally impatient, and friend Pevzner says something like…”ok Charles, it’s getting late, you don’t have to prove anything to me. Let’s go to dinner”…which Harris seems not to hear…as the horse walks from a corner to the center of the school where, to the amazement of all those still looking, the horse joyously piaffes, perfectly balanced, invisibly cued, absolutely correctly, for untold strides, after which the horse walks purposefully onward. Disgruntling Oliviera to call out “I trained that horse!” to the hushed and now mesmerized audience. (QED, I would have whispered, paatting the neck of my partner in proof.)

The 681 entries of the Workbooks fascinated me. Of course they are a jumble; Student Harris records his lessons and insights in the order in which they are presented to him, by his instructors, the horses, and the environment, and/or the lights go on for him. But I knew I was on good footing immediately upon reading entry #1, which I failed to record verbatim, because, since my own first introduction to the concept of clarity of gaits, I have held high among all absolute equestrian truths, that a horse’s diagonal canon bones move parallel to each other in natural (as differentiated from artificially affected) trot, in all modulations of natural trot, at all variations of tempo of natural trot of which an individual horse is capable. Harris’ entry #1 is focused on parallel diagonal canons level with opposite parallel diagonals at extended trot. With a pen and green ink abstract diagram to illustrate! First entry, and the editors and publishers swear in writing that this is the order in which the entries were made in Student Harris’ notebooks. And, that’s where I left the green silk ribbon bookmark when I returned the book.

Earlier this week, I was still feeling separation anxiety, when the results of 2011 Aachen Dressage were disseminated, including youtube videos of both Steffen Peters astride Ravel and M.A. Rath aboard Totillas.  I was not surprised to read (and hear) that the spectators at Aachen, the best educated Dressage spectators in the WORLD, whistled for 75 seconds to sound their disapproval of the judges scoring Ravel second to Totillas in the finale Kur. Did the College of Judges hear them? I don’t know. I trust the College of Judges will get the message…eventually, if not by London 2012, hopefully by Deauville 2014.  I was, nevertheless, feeling compelled to weigh in… to post and critique the videos of Ravel’s and Totilla’s tests against our ideals, but was distracted by the needs of horses I steward.

Coming back to this issue ( oh, how I hate that word, issue, in this context. Doesn’t that mean a progeny of a marriage? a child? or a foal?) I decided to go surfing. And soon before my eyes appeared a stunningly superb example of nearly ideal trot, by the body of…really?.. an Orlov’s Trotter ridden by Russian Young Rider Alexandra Korelova in Grand Prix testing at Aachen 2009.

So, toward better understanding of the ideal, I offer this video of Balagur. Actually the horse’s canter is also quite nearly ideal. But I must say that the collected and extended walks are disappointing, not enough, if any, overstep at extended walk, and not through, although still clear, in collected walk. Walk performance gets double coefficient by current rules, as they should, so that’s good enough reason for this performance to have not scored  80. But the trot, collected and extended, passage and piaffe are exemplary, and the canter is right up there!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

May Journal Excerpts

Free Translation Widget
Following is excerpted from the current  journal chronicling development of one riding horse.

The Reader deserves a Decryption: SI=Shoulder-in, LY=Leg Yield, HI=Haunches-in, HP=Half Pass, RB=Rein-back, PSG=Prix St Georges, F&D=Forward and Down

AND a note about the nomenclature of lateral movements: Lateral movements are described directionally by the direction of the ‘center’ of the bend of the horse executing the movement, NOT for the direction. So, SI,HI, HP right are named right because the horse, while moving right, is bent right. LY right is named right because, although the horse moves left, the horse is bent right.

5/23… I awoke this Monday to read of a tornado that took out half of Joplin MO and as yet uncounted lives, looked toward the dome of the Basilica, and prayed. And a forecast of “chance of rain after 2pm” Yeah right, I thought, the forecasters are to be trusted, Mother Nature is NOT, at least not this Spring. During breakfast, I youtubed Jeremy Steinberg taking clinic with Klaus Balkenhol in California…beautiful background…then another in which he schooled a PSG horse named Hallmark at Gladstone. There, Jeremy was working independently, it appeared, and schooling trot transitions as an expanded shakule (see-saw) of….collected trot to collected walk a few strides emphasis on walk clarity…to collected trot…several times….to trot to halt to rein-back to canter…back to trot to collected to SI to lengthened, to SI to HP to SI to medium. And all so tactful I can barely see JS influence except his lower leg moves appropriately and timely. (JS and Hallmark go on to canter work) I intend to do a similar trot shakule for SS. And to use canter to continue the restoration process of the canter itself and refresh for trot work. Will be judicious about the walk….warm down with walk and forward and down at trot!

Plan made, hamper and tack packed, I scurried of to give instructions enroute my own horse…trying to stay ahead of Mother Nature.

A few hours later, arriving at HM stable, I expected all to be well. Yesterday was his rare ‘day off’ in which I hand walked and lunged him in a large paddock, and relished the elasticity, the rippling quality of his loosened muscles in motion.

And all was well. HM was anxious to get the bridle on his face and we cavorted on nearly perfect footing through tree pollen laden breezes. The warm-up was usual, although the early canter was not as forward and fluid as I would have liked. I dropped stirrups to do the trot work, conscious of tactful influence, and I was able to sit back and UP through several minutes of trot shakule, which lacked for consistent tempo. In canter work with stirrups I asked for single changes and they came begrudgingly and late. And while doing the change exercise, he stuck out his tongue again. ( He started sticking his tongue out a couple of weeks ago, and after an oral inspection showing no problems, I removed the flash, and have been observing but otherwise tolerating this silliness since) I showered him as the wind came up, and squeegied him off, and set fair while the barn lights flickered through a torrential downpour intermittent small hail driven by a fierce straight liner from the West. (at 1pm, I noted). Much affection offered by horse at my departure directly into the blinding rain. To get to the next horses, on the west side of the storm… west from whence it came…on time. There to find horses and riders “Ready.” Upon arriving home at dusk, I noticed that an awkwardly trimmed silver maple had been “shaped up.” Only to find a huge trunk had been removed,  carried east and deposited firmly between the shed and belfry of my neighbor’s carriage house. Oh, Mother.

5/24 Yesterday’s rain left water standing on the outdoor courts, so I hand walked on agreeable footing for a few minutes while awaiting use of the indoor gym. Eventually astride, HM was already somewhat loosened and tuned in and ready to bend and stretch. The lateral exercises at walk are getting better, one day at a time. The trot warm-up was frustrating; he seemed to be dragging his feet. Then I realized he was carrying himself quite well, feeling his way around and through the unevenly deep footing. Although I want more animation and up-tempo, I accepted his ‘horse sense’ and took the time to let him gain confidence in where he would be putting his feet.

Canter warm-up easier and earlier. SS objected to walk canter depart, even to the extent of anticipating and objecting before the depart cue. … I think the tongue wagging and walk-canter depart resistance are related…we will work through this. Trot lateral work still not through, resistance to throughness HP right. Canter changes clean but each required two cues, rather than one. I need to make more clear half halts, if only as seat corrections…and keep him up hill. Although he did wag his tongue, not so much, and LOTS more after I dismounted…I think he does not want to drool now that one salivary gland is open. Need to get the other salivary glands open. The indoor felt like exercising in a doused sauna, we were glad to walk back out into the shaded breezeway.

5/25 My own instructions this morning came from Katherine Haddad, via blog on The Chronicle website…in which she says a lot of useful things about instructor-student relationships, including agreeing with me that clinics are more challenging for clinicians. Of course, she does NOT say they are potentially disruptive to a horses programmed progress unless clinician and rider counsel thoroughly, verbally.

I continue to ponder her discussion of flying changes:

“Let’s say I have Student A, Student B and Student C in a clinic. They are all amateur riders with a good basic seat on well-trained horses capable of third level. All three students are having trouble riding flying changes.

Student A needs to hear:

“Listen to the timing of the canter. Hear the rhythm of one-and –two, and one-and-two, and one-and-two. Your aid comes on the “AND.”

Student B needs to hear:

“Ride counter canter across the half diagonal. At the centerline, stay relaxed and touch his belly with the left spur.”

Student C needs to hear:

“Kick him! You’re not asking for a change at all. Your spur never touched his skin. Don’t be afraid of his reaction. He knows his job. So ASK him!””” From The Chronicle of the Horse website May 24, 2011, Katherine Haddad

Some students have trouble with the “AND”…which AND? I muse.

Thunder storming this morning… more water outdoors, so HM will need to bend and stretch indoors, today on a lunge. Midday the air was heavy and still, making it difficult for any of us to want to do anything. From the barn I went to my office,  left the tackmobile outside. While I did ever multiplying administrative chores, up came a tornado with hail documented to be as large as softballs, grape fruits. And trashed the trar. Thanks, Mom!

5/26 Thursday already! After riding two others, I got to HM by 11a. Only to find him ‘edgy’ beyond fractious, verging on cantankerous. So many changes in air pressure are unsettling to us all, horses and humans alike. So I took the time to give him a massage and found spasms in surprising places, spasms likely caused by reactions to thunder, lightning, and hail on a steel-roofed and -sided stable, maybe even the reactions of his stable mates to those conditions. Fortunately, I had an hour in which to rub out the spasms, close the massage, and watch his reactions to being tacked, which elicited a myofascial release oriented rub of his head before bridling.

Under saddle, just we two indoor gym, he was playful, incited by  cool brisk air flowing through open doors and jalousies, and hyper-alerted by an invisible, but audibly recognizable terrier (his terrier, the one with whom he curls up for naps in the straw—-yup, puppy’s back to horse’s belly, nostril to nostril) complaining and voicing alarm about who knew what outside. SO I took advantage of HM exuberance, and rode forward. He was immediately impulsed in walk warm up, and shying and bolting and scooting from any excuse, so I put his mind and body to work, required lateral work very soon, and it got pretty good. He trotted out with immeasurable impulse, great activity, a wonderfully swinging back. Canter was quite acceptable. So for trot work I did J Steinberg’s trot shakule exercise, and got the most “through” trot HP yet, BOTH directions.

The canter and counter canter were good, the changes not so good. I was curling forward rather than staying up to permit the change to come through from behind, I was not nudging outside into a softening inside rein as I should;  I had failed to correct my own seat after riding defensively through the terrier alarm. The second walk-trot-halt-rein-back shakule was useful. I concentrated on lengthening and shortening without changing tempo. I’ll do more of all of this in coming days…and I will ‘watch myself ride’ tomorrow! As fractious as this horse was, today’s was a most exhilarating and progressive ride!

5/27….Arrived yesterday a borrowed copy of Charles Harris Workbooks from the Spanish Riding School 1948-51 in which I have read only a few pages of his biography, penned admiringly by his nephew, and the first few of 675 (!) entries of the CH’s notebooks accompanied by superbly draughted pen and ink sketches. It’s amazing that focusing on one only most basic element of seat, I found myself today sitting so much better that I and all of my rides were amazed, liberated, animated, enhanced. This book is a treasure! HM was delighted! The highlights of the work were canter plie to half pass to plie to flying change, and all were good both directions. Then some highly impulsed, very uphill collected and medium trot. In my mind my emphases were first on my lower body: open hip, bottom of thighs heaviest part of leg, maintaining passive contact with calf, upper body erect-as if a puppet hung from above to mix metaphors with Sally Swift, pecs up, eyes anticipating inscription of each figure.

Lots of figures…just the basics but lots of them. And square and even body in all executions. Then I spent some more time in trot shakule, trying to clarify the difference between bigger strides and faster strides. We are not doing so well at that, yet.

And still, HM has a busy and unhappy mouth….thinking of lowering the bit one hole next ride. He’s just been ridden four of the last five days, and he was not unhappy to see his saddle today, or his bridle. So I should keep this pace as long as both our skins remain intact…as summer cometh.

I’ll read more Charles Harris in the next few days…nap next.

5/28/11 Breakthrough…actually a whole week of breakthroughs for HM.

I was hesitant to saddle HM today… During his comeback from rehab, he’s been ridden only every other day, getting stronger and becoming more elastic, week after week. Ready to move-up,  I have ridden him on Mon and Tues, lunged him on Wed, and ridden on Th and Fr…and so it is Saturday, and the forecast is that Sun, Mon and all of next week will be 70 to 93…and humid.

The good horse was at peace with himself, standing square, and craning his muscular neck into the aisle way, looking only a little surprised when I carried his saddle to the rack. Was totally easy in the groom stall. This morning was still temperate, so I Rolfed his head, tacked and strode to the indoor, outdoor still too wet. I no sooner closed the door when the groundskeeper’s trailer rumbled into the courtyard, and the neighbor’s kennel announced annoyance to no one but a single, unaffected stable worker. Luckily I got astride before they revved their engines…and began pummeling the outer walls of the gym with mower expulsions and weed whips. They were totally unaware of our being within, and I was not about to dismount and try to get their attention through the din. They wear earplugs and safety glasses, I and my horses do not.

The walk started out extremely collected and cadenced, if not brave, but immediately even contact. After 1 1/2 circuits each direction, I asked for LY, and out of leg yield came big swinging long medium walk on even contact! and so contact and my own position as recently tutored by CH, were the theme…and more canter than trot, as reminded by Lendon Gray and Debbie McDonald via Dressage Radio this dawn, and again good canter plie-HP-plie>changes clean and clear both directions. And many good clean changes at 10 and 12 stride intervals. I will eventually shorten those intervals as HM becomes stronger and more confident and through the changes, but need to plan a way to do that around too many jumps indoors. It will be easier outdoors.

In trot I felt more motion coming from behind and through his back, sooner. I played with alternating sitting and rising… as frequent refreshment of schwung. The medium trot became more uphill, and I was able to keep an uphill frame in medium and collected walk interludes.

I saw the wagging tongue in the first counter canter left lead, but was not conscious of it later. The wonder is that when I dismounted, I saw significant thick foam evenly on BOTH sides of SS mouth. Soooooooo…either the flexions at the poll are coming naturally and producing the salivary foam, OR the other saliva glands have unclogged…In any case this is the best foam I have EVER seen from this horse. Next is to get both my legs into such a consistent passively adhesive position that I produce lather under my calf. I have to keep working on my seat.!!!!!!!!

5/29 Arrived last evening Britta Schoffman’s 2007 Klaus Balkenhol: The Man and his Training Methods translated by Reina Abelshauser for Trafalgar Square. I’ll review and take notes. Scanning, I have already found, on page 44, what is, even out of context, one of my favorite quotes of all time: “Most alleged ‘innovations’ aren’t really new but were actually dismissed as useless centuries ago.”  

HM was under saddle 5 of the last seven days. A good enough increase of intensity. It was already 84F @10:30am  and there was no electrical power the neighborhood of the stable.  (Mother Nature, what have you been up to this morning?) The only available footing was a fairly steep paddock of adequate dimension. So after battery-powered barbering in the breezeway, bandaging and booting to lunge, we used that paddock for walk and trot only. It was interesting to see HM offer four modulations of walk in each circle he made…the drama of the extended walk downhill was breathtaking. I prayed he did not over-stretch anything. It took a little encouragement to elicit a real working trot…wanted to not step hind into fore print. That particular paddock is just steep enough that even working trot was a lot of hind end work, even for this increasingly strong horse. So I did not ask for canter at all. HM was enthusiastic to graze clover without flies…the vinegar and dish wash detergent actually works, so far, this season. Then I hosed his old injury sites, scrubbed his coronary bands and applied antiseptic ointment. I hope I don’t have to use that footing often.

Siesta with Charles and Klaus now…then dead-head the garden.

5/30 Memorial Day…the electricity in the office blinked off for a minute at 6am and curtailed my reading reports and forecasts. (Again this morning, Mother Nature?)  Tack cleaned and stirrups reversed…temperature zooming, though blessedly breezy from the south…I struck out early to instruct before students’ barbecues, then to ride mine. HM looked great, and I was mounting in the already too firm upper court while the Barn Manager was turning horses to the accompaniment of howling curs, an open mare screaming for company in the front field. Simultaneously, the driver of an empty stock trailer  stopped to admire His Magnificence, then bumped noisily out the rutted lane. All combined making for just enough audio madness to cause HM bolt and dive soon after I was astride.

Then to unwind with LY which connected inner leg to outer rein, each direction, followed by walk modulations. HM was not thrilled by the footing, but I believed it would be ok for his degree of conditioning, so when in trot warm- up he ignored my forward aids, I tapped the whip on his rump from the left …he bucked, I asked again for forward…and got it. That lesson was done for the day. Canter warm-up was forward and upward about the perimeter, with some canter forward and down to stretch the topline. Seems to have worked.

The first work was lateral in both trot and canter. In trot: LY, SI, HI, then HP-SI-HP-SI. more nearly even in both directions. In canter, plie-HP-PL-HP-PL….three times before asking for a flying change. Both directions. o my delight the horse was more through his topline in HP trot both directions, and more up and through and buoyant in HP canter both directions. I do not remember asking for CC today.

Next work: without stirrups, sitting trot with SI, lengthening and shortening, refreshed with canter with forward-feeling departs from trot and what felt like good schwung. Then shakule walk with straight backing. And a long walk to warm down.

I saw NO tongue wagging at all. But only a tiny bit of saliva on both sides. Causing me to wonder “had I been so handsie that he was unable to hang from the poll?”

Riding without stirrups, and with left stirrup accidentally  shorter than right, is good therapy for my own left leg.

Tomorrow’s, Tuesday’s footing, if outdoors, will be even harder…so I don’t yet have a plan. Must play it by ear.

5/31…Hot, but still breezy, and footing still firm, not hard. HM was pleased to be saddled, audible sigh as I settled the saddle and attached the girth. When I removed his halter, he began contracting and stretching his face and under-neck muscles through the pecs, beyond the girth. And seemed he would have continued this self-administered exercise indefinitely, had I not reached for his bridle, to which he then turned to grasp.  Although the upper court was relatively calm, he was hesitant of the footing. After inspecting the margins, I made a long sweep of LY right, which got the left rein contact, followed by a long sweep of LY left, which got the right rein contact, then forward several strides of collected walk, which got him chewing, to a long strided free walk which accelerated the loosening. Then some SI, and HI, and HP each direction at walk, into a medium, uphill walk, from which we trotted. The earliest strides of walk were more impulsed than they have been, and today I used the same sequence of lateral and longitudinal contracting and stretching in trot as I had just used in walk, quite effectively.

In today’s canter warm up I included counter canter spirals, with increasing collection in decreasing diameter, and vice versa and the entire exercise better to the right than left. Also forward and down in canter both directions. Although canter F&D served to stretch- “open”- his neck and raise his back a perceptibly, I did not feel it was coming forward from his tail as I would like.

The walk work interlude of shakule included rein back, collected, medium, and extended walk emphasis on uphill attitude. I did not include 1/2 pirouettes today. Canter work included plie-HP-plie…repeated three times to a clean change…did this both directions twice today, and was not quite as good as the day before- the canter itself did not maintain buoyancy.

We indulged a few minutes of free walk during which I reviewed the preceding. Then I dropped my stirrups and did a shakule at trot that included collected, medium, halt, rein-back, and some trot ‘half steps’.

The shakule’s tempo is improving: this horse is increasingly able to lengthen and shorten his frame without changing speed. I’ll continue to consolidate this exercise, and soon start to use it at canter.

As denouement to shakule, I regained my stirrups and encouraged F&D to the ground in a long rising trot….followed by a segment of medium, uphill sitting into a halt. The went for a trail walk to warm down.

I was not aware of this horse’s tongue even once today. But neither did he foam. I am thinking tomorrow’s ride will focus on refinement of half halts. Tomorrow, I’ll change from unflashed “D” to a flashed loose-ring.

%d bloggers like this: