In the clinic we were working on a bunch of different things we were having difficulty with; walk to canter transitions, haunches in and other issues. He was showing first and schooling second level at the time. I went through her clinic with me and wrote out a lot of really great suggestions she gave me at the time that helped not only with Teleos but to develop in my training.
First, I had to laugh at myself. I was so skinny and bony my little arms look so much like chicken wings; especially because I used to have a problem with tucking my elbows in. We started with shoulder in work in the trot. She told me to get off the rail to make sure he wasn’t just using the rail but that I was riding on the aids. She told me it was good that “when you change direction you are not taking the neck beyond the shoulder line. Keeping his neck between his shoulders makes him take the bending aids, because if you take the neck to far over, almost inviting him for the evasion to throw his shoulders out.”
When we switched to canter work she said to start on the side he does better to help him gain confidence. She said working on transitions was about quality not quantity. Had to make sure we had bend, he was supple and relaxed but alert in the walking mode. We talked the whole time as she said about “bend, bend, bend…because it really gives you access to his body. It really makes him elastic, supple and relaxed.” We have to‘gymnasticize’ our horses she said. She asked what ingredients you need to make a good walk-canter transition. She went on to list several things. He has to bend around your inside leg in order to set up to start on the correct lead. He has to be over his back so the neck has to be somewhat low and relaxes and he has to walk on his hind legs so that he can really push off the right way so he is not forehand oriented in that moment. He has to use his hind legs to start proper walk-canter transition.
In the canter his neck kept popping up. She said I needed steady aids in the turns of the canter circle because he was hopping. “So every step of turn in the circle is the same, yes you need to use your outside rein but not too much that it takes the bend away.” As we repeatedly did walk transitions she was adamant that I have the walk correct first. She said when “you get the feeling he wants to drop his neck and be round that is when you ask for the canter. That is not the drop of the neck where you drop into the forehand but he releases and carries himself. It still stays balanced. Do not let him drop the neck and then go on the forehand. Drop the neck but then pick him up into a bending aid so that he stays uphill in the shoulders-so it’s not as easy as just giving the rein because then start stretching down and he comes down in the shoulders. But when it is just right, at that feeling move away from inside leg, then outside leg back.” “Push him away from your inside leg before asking for canter. It is not a leg yield, but to see if he is responding in the ribcage. You are just looking for his response.”
Then once he is cantering ”be alert of the feeling when he wants to come back so that you are ahead of him in your driving aids.” The timing of the driving aids she repeated often. “Be ahead of him.” When he gets“stabby or quick in the stride you want a soft round jumping stride so supple him then.” Contact is not constant but has elasticity. Take and give.
She later said that ‘when he relaxes with energy is great. That is what is challenging in dressage. You want energy and power but with relaxation and not because they are tense or fearful.”
Then we worked on haunches in! First we did them at the walk and then trot. She talked a lot about why it was so confusing to him. We ask him to not just bend but to bend and go sideways. “ In a leg yield we don’t have the bend. In the shoulder in same bend but leg aids move away from inside leg. But on haunches in the inside leg with every stride (here my left) said to bend from pressure on rib cage and outside leg says to go over. It is confusing because you have two legs with pressure saying move over but both in opposite directions. He is traveling to left but ribcage is bending to right! Try to have equally bend and equally sideways. Each step inside leg asks for bend, and release and at the same time feed sideways driving aids into the bending aids from your outside leg. Main aid is your outside leg. Try to keep him supple from left rein. “Each long side we did haunches in each short side ten meter circles. She said this was to remind him to move away from the inside leg in the middle of the body, in order to get a nice curve.” Use the short side to regain the main ingredient. She said he had to understand that you don’t want either, you don’t want bend without sideways and you don’t want sideways without bend. Then “when he gets comfortable with the idea, then the suppler he gets the more angle we can get because it’s the rib cage suppleness that makes the angle greater.” She also noted that the inside leg is also responsible for keeping the trot moving and keeping him through the neck so he stays round.
He was a bit confused about this new stuff so she was adamant that he was evading because he was confused so not to discipline him but to keep riding all the aids so he had no option but to do the movement I asked for until he figured out how to make his body do these conflicting things.
By the end of the hour I had taken several layers I was working up such a sweat. That was the first of several great sessions with Sabine.