The Equistro team had a brilliant time at the William Fox-Pitt clinic on the 24th and 25th February.
Saturday saw a series of flatwork lessons, each with 4 or 5 riders. The lessons took place in the indoor arena, complete with viewing gallery at one end for us spectators to huddle up with warm drinks, probably slightly relieved we weren’t the ones riding in front of William, as the younger horses gawped and span away from us. Within minutes of the start of the lesson the first tip we picked up was:
“Don’t let your horse run away from its fears!”
In other words, if your horse is spooking do not let them rush past the spooky object. They must learn to wait for and listen to you.
As the riders started their trot work William went on to say, “we make dressage very complicated but it doesn’t have to be.” He pointed out that humans are very manual and we have evolved using our hands to create and handle tools. When riding we need to break that mould and think far more about our seat and legs; hands are merely the icing on the cake. William went on to explain how there are 3 stages to a warm up. The first is to get going; literally just get the horse moving forwards and loosening up, especially important on these cold days when they have been stood on a lorry. The second is to get connected; start more frequent transitions, leg yielding etc. The final stage before going into a test situation is to do whatever the horse needs. For some that may be a walk round on a loose rein, for others it may be some canter work. Always go into the school with a plan and carry it out, after all, “you are the rider, not the passenger!” One of William’s useful analogies was to think of dressage like English writing; you need full stops and punctuation, for example when riding the medium trot, you need a definite, visible start and a definite, visible end to the movement.
The riders went on to do a sequence of basic dressage test movements including a centre line, a 10m loop, a walk trot walk over X, and a trot to halt at C. William was quick to point out faults many of us are guilty of and that will throw away easy marks in a test. The walk and halt can pick up so many marks but are often ignored in training. Remember not to look at your hands – as William pointed out, they get rather boring and it is much more interesting to look at the horses around you! As you ride down the centre line you should think “ears to the judge” and bear in mind that the judge should not see any of the top of the horse’s neck. When riding from M to K or across the other diagonals, the horse should be straight to ensure maximum marks for accuracy. Another really helpful tip was to make sure you are not touching the edge of the arena for more than a fleeting moment when riding a circle; so many people ride squares with rounded corners! Above all the emphasis was on giving a correct and accurate presentation rather than riding a flashy but careless test.
Check out the video:
Written by Anna, horse owner Marketing Executive for Equistro… who went home and practiced her centre lines!!!
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