Notes from the Charlotte Dujardin Clinic

Part one: Once in a Lifetime

“If you fall, it’s sand, you’ll bounce” – galloping a horse to create forward desire.

“Slap the rider, pat the horse”

Stages of training:

  • First – Leg Yield
  • Second – Shoulder-In
  • Third – Travers

Straightness:

  • Keep VERY straight.
  • When too bendy on one side – straighten. On side that is less bendy – bend more.
  • “He gets stuck because he’s not straight. The inside hind comes inside” (fix with shoulder-fore).

Forward:

  • Forward/back in canter – allow the forward in the hand. Bring back enough to where the leg is on loose, the hand is on loose, and the rider just sits there without holding. SOFT.
  • When you get the forward, have a loose leg. No clamping. Take leg off.
  • Quality of canter improves just from forward. Create forward and use half-halts to re-balance.  Use forward/back transitions in gait.
  • You want the horse thinking forward.
  • If you have a lazy horse, legs off. A hot horse, legs on.
  • To start work, Charlotte said she starts in canter instead of trot. Then works in trot after that. She said it makes the trot work looser and more supple, and it’s easier to get the engagement.

Stretchy Trot:

  • Aid for stretching is low, wide rein. To pick the horse, hold hands higher and closer together.

Transitions:

  • When too much hand, horse will be abrupt in transitions and fall on forehand.
  • Transitions should look super smooth from canter forward to walk.
  • Hind leg forward!
  • No hands. Hands make horse shut down in transitions. It’s the last step of the transition where the horse was always shutting down (stutter step, or stopped completely).
  • Transitions are so important. Need to be done right.
  • Do LOADS of transitions (correctly).
  • 1,000’s of transitions a ride. Not just a few, not a dozen, thousands a ride.

Leg Yield:

  • Push the rib cage into the other rein.
  • Can also do Leg Yield with counter flexion.
  • When the horse is straight in the leg yield then the horse has to “Push” using his hind to move over. If too bent, the horse falls over and doesn’t get the strength benefit from the exercise.

Leg Yield in Canter:

  • Good to teach horse to move away from leg sideways.
  • The zig zag starter – 6 strides leg yield and 6 strides leg yield back. (broken down its 4 strides over, 1 straight, one change)
    • Easier to do this in leg yield to work out ‘how’ to do it. I believe she meant so rider can learn how to ride the zig zag without complicating it with half-pass.

 

At 7 years old, the horse should be able to do canter/walk/canter transitions in order to develop the muscles that will help with the sitting work. Transitions will help develop him.

Canter/walk/canter on a circle:

  • Bad transitions: Gait too big for downward trans. Have to set the horse up. Canter has to be small and has to be on the hind leg and balanced.
  • Round with soft hands.
  • Keep energy
  • Allow him to step forward into the walk when transitioning from canter to walk (too much hand causes horse to jerk or not step forward into the walk).
  • Circle 10m helps collect the canter.
  • Exercise: For the canter/walk transition, do a 10m circle along the wall, when coming back toward the wall again, ask for the downward transition. The wall acts like a half-halt, makes the horse back off or shift back. Makes it easier to get correct transition to walk without pulling.
  • You need to have a really good canter/walk/canter transition, where horse is stepping forward into a walk, prior to teaching flying changes.

 

Shoulder-In:

  • Active! Round and loose in hand. Want to see shoulders turn off the track.
  • Not bent in neck, but flexion in the poll. Move the shoulders not the head and neck.
  • When going to the right “Right Leg, Left Rein” mantra.
  • Should stay in the angle you put him in.
  • Do a test by counter flexing in Shoulder-in (should have a renvers feeling).
  • Mantra for shoulder-In: Inside Leg to Outside Rein. Repeat.
  • Shoulder-In is from the shoulders, not the rein.

Travers in Canter:

  • A test to determine if your horse is supple. If he really bends. Do this before teaching, trying Half-Pass.
  • Weight on inside
  • Inside leg by girth, outside leg pushes hindquarters in.
  • Do forward and back while IN travers (3 times down long side forward/back in HI).
    • Push hip in, then forward/back.
  • If you can collect in canter Travers then it’s getting ready for canter pirouette.
  • Do on 20 meter circle – round on outside. This is thinking pirouette without the massive strain. Way to build up to it.
  • Then move between travers and Shoulder-Fore on 20m circle. Push quarters in and out to teach how to ride between both legs.

 

Collected Canter:

  • Test it by pushing hands forward. Horse needs to stay in collected canter without rein. Push the hands straight forward, if horse speeds up or quits, then not right.
  • Ask for collection and expect the horse to hold it.
  • Don’t keep nagging/asking with each step.  Ask and expect the horse to hold it until asked for something else.
  • Need to get collection in a soft way.

 

Flying Changes:

  • Need to have a good quality canter/walk/canter BEFORE flying changes.
  • If you don’t have a good canter/walk transitions then you’ll never have a good canter/halt transition.
  • How to teach Flying Change:
    • Doesn’t teach in a wide open area (like diagonal)
    • Uses a figure 8 type exercise at one end.
    • Example of Figure 8
    • This exercise uses the turn off in the corners to keep the horse engaged.
    • Most issues are a straightness issue.

Half-Pass:

  • Keep the rhythm
  • Shoulders move.
  • Round and loose in the hand
  • Rider has to position the horses body from the body and 2 reins, NOT the inside rein.

 

Pirouette:

  • If pirouette whips around then it’s because horse is not off the riders inside leg..
  • Exercise for pirouette:
    • Half-pass from the corner to X, X down center line in shoulder-fore  (to almost C) , then do 1/2 of a 10 m circle and half-pass back to X.
    • piroutte exercise
    • Make the half of a circle at the end smaller to increase difficulty (mimicking pirouette). Can get it to shoulder-fore down center, with large pirouette to end up at quarter line.
    • Always do different sizes so the horse can’t anticipate and rush.
    • Need to be able to come down the center line and not have the horse take over control in anticipation of pirouette.

Tips:

  • The short side and the corner set up the next movement. A bad short side and corner leads to a bad movement.
  • Short side is used to collect, activate, re-balance the horse.
  • A horse at PSG should be able to collect on the spot. Shouldn’t need several strides to achieve it.
  • Working Pirouette:
    • Hip in and do smaller and larger circles in traverse
  • Rider hips to rider hands
  • Keep the energy. Keep the work easy in order to keep the horse keen.
  • ALWAYS outside straighter.
  • Always do hard side first. Otherwise, have to do hard side after horse is already a bit more tired if doing it second.
  • The leg is NOT there to keep him going. That’s the horse’s job.
  • Activate the canter. Have to go forward in order to be able to collect.
  • When the horse is strong, make that correction and then SOFTEN.
  • Charlotte does stretch work and transitions dedicated days.



Other:

  • Charlotte said she thinks all lazy horses should be police horses.
  • Short  reins.
  • Bum down – horse has to be in front of leg.
  • Keep the rider’s upper body soft. The movement flows through the upper body.
  • Let the horse make mistakes and then correct. Pat the horse for effort.
  • Difference in what it takes for a horse to “sit” or to “push” i.e. passage is push. Horse is usually better in one than the other.
  • The horse was jumping into a canter when asked for a more forward trot. Charlotte said “she canters because she’s on the forehand”. The horse couldn’t go forward, so broke into canter which is easier than actually pushing from behind to go forward.

Advertisements

Catch Ride

A friend of mine contacted me a few days ago about riding her horse once or twice a week.  

I love riding other people’s horse. Plus,  there’s always a bit of an adrenaline rush when being asked to sit on someone else’s beloved horse.  😁 
Since I’ve been super depressed about how far away from my goals I’ve gotten,  and how I really miss interacting with other horse people,  I thought this might be a good way to feel helpful and satisfy my social interaction a bit.  

I especially wanted an opportunity to ride a horse  like my friend’s horse.  A 16.3h Oldenburg cross with movement to die for, and a temperment to match. It’s been ages since I’ve been on a horse this nice. 

So we met up yesterday for a test run. 

After climbing a full set of stairs,  I was able to mount the beast.  Unfortunately,  no one owns stirrups for midgets anymore.  If I pointed my toes down I could almost keep the irons from rattling around below me as I rode,  but not much use to me.  

Big trot on this guy.  Lot of upward movement.  Smoother than Ava,  but more powerful.  Unfortunately,  he was lame… 

A lot of nervous,  yet lazy,  energy.  The kind of horse that is normally safe,  but can be frustrating because their feet are sticky while their brains are going a million miles an hour.  

i.e. The typical TB brain,  but stuck in a warmbloods body.  😂 

Anyway,  I think I could do the horse a lot of good.  His issues right now are all issues I’ve dealt with before with Ava and Joy.  Forward off a light aid,  keeping the forward energy without being nagged,  straightness,  etc. The normal,  basic stuff. 

What really got me last night was how incredibly insecure I felt about riding my friend’s horse in front of her.  

I felt like I wasn’t going to measure up.  I was afraid to address any issues,  for fear of being judged as incompetent.  I was afraid that she would realize I suck and never ask me to come back again. 

Talk about insecure!  Gesh! 

Don’t think this was any reflection on my friend.  She’s one of the nicest people I know.  This was entirely my own insecurities giving me a good shake up last night.  

The plan,  as we left it,  is to meet up next week for another try,  I’ll bring my midget stirrup leathers this time,  and hopefully the horse will be sound.  I’ll have to figure out how to bash down my own insecurities so I can do this horse justice and not just be a passenger.  

Also,  I found out this barn the horse is at has several clinics a year.   Now that i know where it’s at,  I’ll have to audit a couple.  

I’ll keep you posted on what happens next.  Fingers crossed I get asked back.  Second fingers crossed that I overcome my horrendous insecurity issues before then.  😀

Still working on the canter

We had some fun adventures yesterday!

I rode Joy. I’m still working on the canter.

Her canter is horrendous. Just God awful to ride. Feels like she’s in four separate pieces and they’re all going different ways. It’s the weirdest canter I’ve ever ridden.

She canters with her hind legs close together, like a bunny hop type canter, when she gets the least bit unbalanced. The front end is always flying off in front of us. The hind end is always waaaay out behind us. It’s terrible. Hard to ride, and pretty much everything I’ve tried has either made her a hot mess, caused too much tension, or overall simply made the issue worse.

So, my latest idea is try more forward! When in doubt, add forward! Ha!

This was our June canter (I have nothing past that), which was rather decent for Joy. She doesn’t look too relaxed about it though. Tense. Tail swinging around. We’re fighting.

 

And this is today:

Nothing super big, but I was happy she was more adjustable and I could steer with my seat. That was cool.

A big THANK YOU to my super generous, and awesome, hubby for video taping the canter last night.

Excerpts from lesson

This is from the lesson last weekend. We almost look decent at points… then it goes straight downhill at the canter. HAhaha

 

The shoulder-in’s were not very good.

Actually, the canter has improved quite a bit. We’re not flying around the arena. I could steer. We got the lead I asked for all but once (my fault, she was bent wrong). I didn’t have to whack her to go into the canter (well, I tapped her once), and she was picking it up from a leg aid/seat cue (no kissing cue).

Progress!

Another two years and we might be ready for Training Level! HA hahaha

While summer speeds by

Seems like everyone I know is showing this weekend and doing fabulous,  and I’m…  well,  I’m not.  

At least I’m finally getting lessons again.  That’s at least a step forward. 

This past Saturday was our second lesson.  I had to do some remedial trailer training with Joy last week to prepare for this.  She seemed to think she had a choice in staying on the trailer or not,  so i made my choice the easier one for her to choose.  

Joy occasionally proves she’s a chestnut mare.  😂 

Anyway, the lesson went well.  Joy was once again a rock star.  She still has about 10 minutes of jitters,  but settled down quickly.  We rode this time.  

The instructor had me slow Joy’s tempo at the trot down quite a bit.  I had a difficult time with this because Joy kept trying to die out on me.  I’d nudge her to keep trotting,  and then we were too fast.   I’d slow her down and her engine would sputter and stall.  It took us several laps to figure it out.  Once we got it though,  Joy felt more balanced.  

I still couldn’t get that neck out though. At least she didn’t curl under… 

The instructor had us do shoulder-in.  My first time showing this to someone knowledgeable and in person.  I was nervous.  

I never have anywhere with straight lines to do these on,  and I found out we “wander” quite a bit.  In hindsight I probably needed a good half-half and more rider preparation each time we started…  I wasn’t understanding the issue at the time.  

I also can’t seem to keep a consistent bend.  We were all over the place.  

Our canter sucked.  As usual.  

Joy doesn’t want to bring the inside hind up under her body.  I had really hoped that having a bigger,  flat area to canter in would magically fix it.  I thought it was balance issues from cantering on a slop in a small area.  And maybe it was to start,  but it’s not going away.  I’m worried about this… 

I have some more tricks up my sleeve though.  And the instructor gave me an exercise to also try.  We’ll see where that gets us in another couple of months.

Fingers crossed! 

To be honest,  I was most proud of Joy for passing the ballons without a second glance.  And then for loading in the trailer like a pro AND standing in there quietly while I went to use the restroom.  

Joy never spooked at anything, never hesitated, gave her all when i asked,  and did it without complaint.  I couldn’t ask for a better pony! Very proud of her! 

Maximum Effort

Ever have a moment in a ride that’s so good that you’re left feeling like “There’s no way we can top that today.”

I cut the ride short, hopped off, untacked and fed her a million treats (probably why she’s fat).

Best right lead canter we’ve ever had. I mean SPOT ON! Picked it up in balance, correct bend, engaged….  all I had to do was tighten my core and she shifted her weight back even further.  She really tried her little heart out!

I had wanted to work on a few more things that day, but… I think it’s really important to reward “try”.  I don’t care if it sucks, or if it’s not perfect, as long as she honestly tried to answer the question then I want her to feel like she’s won. And boy did she work for that right lead canter. Wow. Knocked it out of the ball park on that ride.

I probably won’t be able to duplicate that canter again for two years. Hahaha

…………………………………………………………

Last Sunday I pulled Joy out and tacked her up for a ride. I hadn’t ridden her in a solid 7 days and Hubby was running loud engines and banging things close by.  It wasn’t until the end of the ride that I realized I didn’t even think about lunging her first. That was about the time hubby shut off the auger and started hammering. Joy didn’t even notice all the commotion.

My little pony is growing up!!

I know… place looks like crap. I’m working on it! 🙂

May is Here

The start of the show season, the end of the snow, the beginnings of a new summer of possibilities!20170428_230511

I love May!

I’m taking Joy to her very first show May 6th. This is a local, open show. Not a dressage show.

This will be “the test”. She did well with hauling to the neighbors house. How will she do in a completely new environment? I have no idea.

 

Side note: I haven’t taken a horse to a show since 2014. Three years! Guess how many of my show breeches fit?

That’s right, NONE!!

Tubby rider definitely needs to lose weight.

giphy

 

Then, on May 13th, I have my VERY FIRST LESSON in three (3) years!!

Count them… THREE YEARS!!

WOO HOO!

I’m so excited.

giphy1

 

 

 

Intermittent Riding

Had a fun ride on Ava the other day. It’s always an eye opener to ride your own horse after riding someone else’s.  I think I become more aware of the things I’ve let slide,  the defects,  the little things I’d grown accustomed to that shouldn’t be there. 

I’ve been having issues convincing Ava to go forward in the tiny arena. She has plenty of forward if I take her to the field behind the house. However, I want to work on bending and suppling exercises and everything in the field is straight lines (path is straight). I can work bending and suppling in the arena, but she sucks back and becomes ornery in the arena. She only wants to offer the slowest of jog trots.

So I got after her right off the bat about forward, and after an initial “I don’t wanna”,  we finally got some forward! Yay!

Even had a few moments of decent engagement this ride.

Ava Canter LeftAva Canter RightAva Trot

Now if only the rain would stay away.  Seems like 6 out of the 7 days of every week have been rain.  We are water logged. 

Ironically,  I would rather ride in snow.  Ava HATES rain. Hates it!  If one drop touches her nose,  she pulls her chin to her chest and will refuse to budge. Doesn’t matter if in the field,  being ridden,  or being led.  She is not kidding around about her intense dislike of rain. 

Joy doesn’t care though.  Best pony ever. 

We were supposed to do our first test haul tonight (around the block) with Joy.  It’s postponed until the rain lets up.  The end of the drive is too soggy at the moment.  

However,  I’m feeling more optimistic about how it’ll go.  I can load Joy in the trailer and jump up and down to rock it,  and Joy doesn’t care.  I bang things,  no response.  Today there was a flappy tarp right behind the trailer (and behind Joy),  and after a 5 second “What the heck is that?!?”  scare,  Joy was fine with it.  Stood in the trailer eating hay while the tarp flapped right behind her. 

(not sure if the vid will work) 

So,  if the hauling goes well, then i want to test taking her somewhere and then getting her back in the trailer to go home again.   I think I’m going to ask my neighbor if I can do a trial run at her house. 

If all goes well,  lessons are in my immediate future! Yay!! 

New Experiences

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to ride a really nice Irish Sport Horse cross that a friend of mine owns.  He’s five years old, approximately 16.2-ish hands, and has that dumb-blood personality, but man can he move!  His canter is to die for. Most amazing canter I’ve ever ridden.denali

I “lucked” out on the ride because he dislodged his owner and she’s not quite healed up enough to get back to riding him again. He’s actually a sweetheart. His owner has done a fabulous job with him. She’s exposed him to just about everything a baby horse should be exposed to, and done it in a way that has created a confident and curious horse. His problem is he’s big and athletic, and normally nothing phases him… so a hard spook/bolt can catch the rider off guard and leave them with a loooong fall to the ground.

 

I was really impressed with the training he has on him. You know that feeling when you get on a new horse and the everything is just there.. the buttons, the aids, etc. That’s how he felt. I had an issue with figuring out how much contact he likes (very little).  And, once I convinced him that the short midget legs were really leg cues then everything went swimmingly.

He is so much fun to ride. And frankly, I was really impressed to feel how good the training was. It’s wonderful to see a young horse so well trained by an Adult Ammy. She’s done all the work herself, from the ground up. It was impressive. I wish they were all this nicely handled and trained by 5 years old.  I swear, if I had the money, I’d buy young horses and pay her to train them. She’s that good. And she totally doesn’t realize it.

When I went out to ride the 5 year old for the first time, the owner of the barn offered to let me ride another horse they have. The mare was described as a Dutch Warmblood with dressage training, but is too hot for the lesson kids. I was assured she was safe enough for the average rider (as I don’t wish to die quite yet).

I cannot pass up an opportunity to ride a sane horse, so I said yes.

That’s when they explained she hadn’t been ridden in quite a while.

AAaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

And that she was very, very hot. Hot. Capital H type of Hot.

Aaaaahhhh!! Scary!

Did I mention I’m a chicken?

I let the owner lunge and then ride her first. I was nervous watching the owner ride her. You could tell the mare was almost charging through the contact.

My order of “Most scary horses to ride” goes Rearers, then bolters, and then those darn bronc buckers that leap all 4 feet up in the air with head between their knees.  My worst, and frankly only, serious injuries have been from bolters.  ** knock on wood **

So.. I was a tad nervous about riding the mare who appeared to be charging through a rather strong bit.

I got on after barn owner didn’t die. I was sweating bullets.

She’s a nice horse. Difficult ride. She really wants to lean on the bit and then rush through it. I felt like she could bolt off with you in a wide open setting.

A lot of half-halt/release. More of a soft “no, here” and then let her be while you controlled the rhythm with your posting. Then she was fine.

She has a hard time bending through her body. It was really easy for her to find ways to evade bending through her body. She had several tricks all planned out and ready in waiting. It was actually kind of fun to see if I had more tricks then she had evasions for.

And, nope. Not that day. I couldn’t get her to respond to the left leg correctly without a whip and I didn’t want to carry a whip unless I felt I had more brakes. Catch twenty two. Probably would’ve been fine, but new horse.. new rider. I’ll tackle it next time.

I was assured she becomes more level headed the more consistently she’s worked.  I bet she’s a blast in consistent work. She’s actually a really cute mover. I think she’s flat because she’s stiff. I bet that trot becomes quite stunning when she’s relaxed and supple (pictures don’t do it justices. moves better in person)

 

They had a slow twist snaffle on her. I’m always really nervous with stronger bits. I’m a decent rider, but I do have a tendency to snatch at the bit when I get scared. And since I get nervous on new horses, I really prefer the softer flat snaffles to limit the damage done if I get startled and snatch. I did snatch this mare once. She kicked a rock up into the metal gate  and it startled her. I snatched. She immediately came to a dead halt and did a little mini-rear to voice her displeasure. I felt bad.  Poor mare.

Anyway, I got done riding both horses and on the drive home I was thinking to myself “Why would anyone let me ride their horse? I suck!”

And then I get a text from my friend with the 5 year old asking me if I can ride her young gelding again and saying that the barn owner really liked how I handled her mare. It was so nice to hear!

 

Snubbed

I went to two different clinics this weekend.  

The first clinic was a western dressage clinic. Quite interesting to hear about the differences in tack and attire.  There was a lecture by an r judge (I think little r). The fundamentals stressed were similar to regular dressage.  They had demo rides of the tests while the judge explained what they were looking for and what we were looking at.  There were some astonishingly great movers in that clinic. 

The whole atmosphere was laid back.  People laughed and clapped,  and there was an overall sense of comradery. I was almost a convert by the end.  If only I didn’t hate western saddles so much. 

It was very well run and I had a lot of fun,  even if I did freeze solid. 

Oh,  did you know bitless is allowed in western dressage?  Now my neighbor has no excuse not to try it.  Haha  

The second clinic I went to was a normal dressage clinic.  I had asked the owner a month ago if I could audit. She had sent me “all” the  info,  but neglected to mention that there was a cost to audit.  They approached me two rides in and said it was $20 for all day,  or $5 per ride.  I was already on the hook for $10 by then,  so i paid for the whole day.   I was a little taken aback by the situation. Nothing posted anywhere.  No one by the door. They acted like I snuck in and tried to “steal”  something from them. Why is it so difficult for people to post/share this information up front? 

The ladies sitting next to me were friendly.  The clinician was good.  I was freezing.  Several riders appeared to have never heard of the idea of moving away from leg pressure.  It was interesting to see how the clinician helped the rider and horse without the rider ever needing to actually move the horse off an inside leg aid.  Some really nice moving horses.  Appeared to be mainly students of the barn owner riding in the clinic. 

I got some great ideas for Joy’s training that I think will help her with her tension.  A lot of hot,  nervous horses in the clinic,  which is what I expect joy will be like when I take her somewhere.  So hopefully this gives me a few more tools to use. 

There was a heavy draft horse working toward flying changes,  and it was quite interesting to see how different the horse looked when truly energized and rider controlled the energy.  It went from plow horse to more of a second level looking horse in seconds.  Quite neat.  

During a break,  I walked up to the barn owner and clinician and asked if they were going to have any more clinics this year. The barn is near my house and I thought he’d be a great clinician to take Joy to.  But when I asked if they would be having another clinic this year all they did was shrug.  Literally shrugged. And then they ignored me.  So I walked away.

Screw it. I’ll find someone else to ride with. 

Maybe these clinics are only for her students.  Apparently the details are hush hush,  because no one except the Arab people sitting next to me would talk to me (they didn’t know either). 

I found it ironic the difference in atmosphere between the two clinics though.  I’m normally the first person trying to sell the “dressage people are friendly! ” speil,  but that second clinic sure didn’t feel like it to me.  I felt like an interloper who got caught stealing the tip jar or soemthing.