Seventh Day in Florida


Starting the morning off right with a little bit of fitness at the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic, we worked towards warming up our bodies and focused on some of the key areas that a rider uses such as: the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the calves, the abdominal muscles, and the back. Today’s main focus was legs. Whether that was working stretches in lunges, crab walking, or doing toe touches — each one stretching a specific muscle.

Having a little bit of fun decked out in hot pink, today’s lesson started with a little bit of theory: you have two thoughts of the rubber band theory, as Robert Dover calls it, one is shortening and lengthening the stride and the other is shortening and lengthening the frame. In theory one should be able to shorten the stride and lengthen the frame so that the horse can collect without sucking back, and vice versa you should be able to lengthen the stride and shorten the frame without the horse grabbing the bit and getting long. This is striving for the longitudinal suppleness of the horse without jamming them together but rather asking them to carry themselves by stepping the hind legs underneath and raising the back and shoulders up. “The collection, as Lendon says, should be easy for them and they should want to collect without slowing down or getting tense.” Working Robert’s idea of the rubber band theory Lendon asked me to lengthen his stride and then shorten the stride using only my seat and leg to see how responsive he was. Asking this of the horse allow the horse’s frame and neck to not change while asking instead the body to compress and lengthen. This engages the horse and asks them to use their back as they bring up their abdominal muscles and lower their croup. This engagement creates elasticity throughout the horse’s body that makes them connect from the hind end up and through to both reins. The rubber band exercise also asks the rider to engage their abs as they press the weight of their seat into the saddle and keep the horse cantering or trotting with the calf. The hands and arms should follow the horse’s natural movement without inhibiting and the abs and thighs control the tempo and length of the stride.

After getting him to a place that we liked, Lendon pulled me over and asked me to try something with my changes. She asked me to do something that is labeled a double aid — meaning that when asking for the changes or even the canter from the all you bring the outside leg back and off of the horse without asking them for anything but to accept that your leg is there and then you ask for the change either the stride after that or whenever the horse accepts your leg and softens. This is great because many riders, even though they have the correct timing of the aid, cue a split second late because of the time it takes the brain to process the fact that you want to move your leg. Instead, the double aid already places your leg back so that the only thing you have to do is cue. For the changes you have to be able to nail the change by asking the horse for the change the stride before the suspension in the canter so they change when they are suspended. The same is said for the walk, you ask for the canter of the last beat of the walk so that the first beat of the canter is the outside hind leg. The double aid gives you the chance to tell the horse what it is you are asking for without surprising him and also allows you to ask with the correct timing of the aids.

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