Wellington, Fla.—Jan. 3
Maybe it was the muggy South Florida weather and maybe it was the after-the-holidays blahs, but the horses at the first day of the 2019 Robert Dover Horsemastership Week were encouraged to add a bit of pep to their step. And then maintain it.
“Make sure going forward goes before the halt,” Dover told Kerrigan Gluch as he started her on his famous rubber band exercise, and the lengthening and shortening exercise seemed to spread like juicy gossip as each of the trainers snapped their own version of the rubber band as the young riders took their turns.
In Dover’s rubber band exercise, the horse and rider rode a 20-meter circle at the trot and then half-halted while maintaining the horse’s energy. So, the horse transitioned from collected trot to extended trot and back to collection.
“The horse should lower his croup; the shoulders should rise, and the trot should take on the quality of the passage,” Dover said and then explained what he wanted with the half-halt. “Take a breath, push forward and then close your fingers for the half-halt. Don’t close your fingers first.”
As the lesson progressed, Gluch also had to maintain the energy and rhythm in the canter pirouette while helping her horse Vaquero HGF make good choices. “Keep the jump exactly the same rhythm as the canter,” Dover said. “Use outside leg. So, use it and then take it away. Guide the rhythm. Let him make the right choice or the wrong choice. Don’t start in the wrong balance or the wrong rhythm. Don’t speed up. You decide.”
Mallih Ataee’s borrowed horse, 12-year-old Caprice, didn’t need any help getting jazzed up after the video camera providing the live-streaming for the event fell into the arena. Bob Stark’s Dutch Warmblood (Johnson—Ra-Shell, Jazz) was leery of the camera, and Ataee had to push him forward past the offending equipment. Once he realized the camera wouldn’t fall on him, Dover directed the horse and rider in the rubber band exercise to lengthen and then collect the stride. Dover had the pair do a modest, collected trot on a 20-meter circle.
“A modest, collected trot means that you feel the ability to extend the trot inside the collected trot,” he said, explaining that collection is the addition of engagement and the gathering up of the energy that desires to extend. “If you don’t have an extended trot, you don’t have a collected trot, so we need the rubber band.”
When the gelding slowed, Dover called it a subtraction and said, “Don’t let the subtraction be a part of that. Say, ‘Hey buddy boy. I didn’t say to get slower.’ Get the speed back up. Put your leg on. Push. Push. Feel that? Good. That’s what you’ve gotta know he knows how to do. See how much more forward he got with that?”
Wake Up With Adrienne Lyle
Adrienne Lyle used her own version of Dover’s exercise, asking Ellanor Boehning to act as though she were asking Viva Las Vegas for a walk transition from the canter. “Your horse doesn’t know if you are asking for a walk or change,” Lyle said. “Now, ride forward and ask for the change. Make sure the canter is short and quick. Get bolder waking up the horse in order to get enough canter to get a good change.”
Lyle also reminded Kasey Denny to step on the gas pedal. “He’s accountable for maintaining his own energy,” she said. “It’s his job to stay in whatever tempo you put him in. He has to have the same energy at any point in the arena. You need his full effort the entire time.”
Trainer Jan Ebeling told Miki Yang on Iluso, a horse borrowed from Kim van Kampen, that she had to work on speeding up and slowing down in order to collect the horse. At the trot, he had her slow down one or two steps, collect, and then go forward toward the corner while encouraging her to make downward transitions pronounced.
“If you can be very prompt in the downward transition, then take two steps and then push him on again,” Ebeling said. “This is so the horse knows he is to sit.”
They continued the exercise, this time with a downward transition before the corner, then after the corner an increase of power into a 10-meter small circle, or volte, to a shoulder-in down the long side.
Get The Lead Out
Debbie McDonald told Callie Jones that when her horse started to drag his legs instead of picking them up it means that he was starting to go downhill. She had the pair do a reinback to get the horse’s shoulder up and suggested riding him forward a few steps, halting and doing it again.
“Sometimes when we have a horse that’s a little bit difficult in the neck, we get too focused on that and stop riding— riding to the end of the ring and riding with your leg and stepping into the hand. Inviting him into the hand,” she said.
As the pair started working on lead changes, McDonald told the rider that the horse needed to be sharper in between the changes and to be straight and forward for the change. “If you get one [change] that actually goes down, and you don’t like it, don’t keep going. Fix the quality of your canter. He was a little strung-out there. Quality of the canter, not quantity of the changes.”
McDonald worked on pushing the horse and rider forward while maintaining control. “It’s a really good feeling when you can make him hot and then let him go,” McDonald said. “That just shows that you’re doing it right. When you can keep him hot underneath you and not strong in the hand, you’ve done it.”
Forward-Spinning Energy: Let it Go, Let it Go
Alessandra Ferrucci rode Al Guden’s Sagacious HF, a 20-year-old been-there-done-that Dutch Warmblood gelding, who had to be reminded to keep-there-do-that. Olivia LaGoy-Weltz coached the rider to push her horse forward into reacting like a slinky when asking for collection, so that he reaches through his back.
“Keep it forward, but then [make sure] he doesn’t take his energy away when you go to come back,” LaGoy-Weltz said. “Part of that, I think, is that you are saying to him, ‘Have a rhythm,’ so that even when you say come back, he doesn’t retract his rhythm from going to the hands. Collection is not the absence of forward-spinning energy.”
She asked Ferrucci to use her seat more to draw back the energy for collection and then to bring Sagacious’ neck down a bit.
“It’s like he needs to not get flat, but he has to keep having energy that goes to you,” she said. “He has to hold his own balance. Be able to let go, let go, let go. Even sometimes if he doesn’t respond quite as how you want, you have to ask and let go so that he doesn’t get shorter and shorter in the neck. You want the hind legs engaged; you want that back engaged, but so that he doesn’t draw his neck more and more up, but he stays a little bit more reaching down into the hand.”
The Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic continues through Jan. 6 at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival showgrounds. You can watch the action live-streamed on the USEF Network.