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Hilights of my Pilates for Dressage clinic with Sarah Martin and Janice Dulak

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  • Hilights of my Pilates for Dressage clinic with Sarah Martin and Janice Dulak

    Highlights of my Pilates for Dressage clinic with Sarah Martin and Janice Dulak in El Paso, Tx.

    Our GMO – Paso del Norte Dressage Association hosted a 2 day “Pilates for Dressage” clinic with Sarah Martin and Janice Dulak here in El Paso, Tx, this past weekend.

    Fri p.m. a 2 hour lecture/potluck dinner to introduce the instructors and explain how the weekend would run.

    Sat and Sun a.m. 2 hours of mat work with Janice explaining:

    Pilates exercises
    How the exercise applies to specific riding demands
    How the exercise parallels what the horse does and what he is feeling
    The order in which to do the exercises.

    Sat p.m. ½ hr with Janice to apply the pilates exercises and position in the saddle
    ½ hr with Sarah to put the position to work and apply the principles while riding walk trot canter

    Sun p.m. 45 mins with Janice and Sarah together to apply the principles while riding with Janice making corrections or reminding the rider to maintain the position.

    The Mat exercises began Sat with a Janice showing us the position:
    Standing with knees bent feet about 2 ft apart
    Bring your lower abs up to meet your upper abs, bring your upper abs together, bring your pubic bone up (careful not to tighten the gluts or tuck the tail under too much) its just the pubic bone which move up to meet the abs), bring your armpits down (don’t allow your shoulders to scrunch). In this position have someone stand behind you and gently push you forward. You know the position is correct when you feel the push but do not fall forward, in other words, you maintain the position. THIS IS THE POSITION YOU MUST MAINTAIN IN THE MAT EXERCISES AND IN THE SADDLE. WHILE LAYING FLAT ON YOUR MAT YOU MUST ALWAYS PUSH YOUR BELLY BUTTON TO YOUR SPINE AND ALWAYS HAVE YOUR LOWER BACK MAINTAIN CONTACT WITH THE FLOOR. IN THE SADDLE YOU PUSH YOU BELLY BUTTON TOWARDS YOUR SPINE, LOWER BACK TOWARDS THE BACK OF YOUR T-SHIRT.

    This is a summary of the second day of riding (the first day was very slow progression just showing me the position and helping Genty to learn the new, lighter way of asking for things)
    When I rode my gelding, Genty:
    - they had me take my legs off him at the walk and ask for a walk by pulsating my pubic bone up.
    - They had me tuck my pelvis a little more (exaggerating) to allow me to use my pubic bone effectively. BUT NO TIPPING BACKWARD.
    - They had me stop pulsating and stop everything to ask for the halt. During the halt maintain rein contact and push him up the bit with pulsate and a little leg to ask for a little roundness. “GOOD BOY, GOOD BOY…”
    - Then release the fingers and pulsate to ask him to walk. Tap with the leg 2/3 times to ask for more walk and tap with whip on the shoulder to compliment leg. As always with Genty the whip eventually stops and he listens to the leg then just the pulsating from the seat.
    - Same with the trot, light pulsating along with voice and a little leg taps to ask for the trot or for more trot. Rising trot – really push with the seat (slightly tucked pelvis “for me” in beginning) to ask for more push. But do not allow the body to tip back so maintain the abs.
    - At the canter, which Genty did really well, with same aids to transition to canter then really push with tucked pelvis pulsating the pubic bone up towards the ears of the horse (maintain abs) and just little legs taps if he feels like he wants to break.

    Overall Genty was lighter and more forward. Halfway though the second lesson he got pissy and started tossing his head but I maintained the reins and pulsated my seat into him towards the “front of the BOX” and he stopped the pissiness. The Front BOX = from the seat forward to the hands forward to the mouth.
    To make sure I didn’t use too much leg on Genty which also makes him pissy, Sarah and Janice had me move my leg under me and keep it there, open the leg from the knee and just use light taps with the calf and of course the pulsate from the seat to communicate. Genty eventually learned this and moved forward happily sans all the “noise”.

    In conclusion, it was an extremely positive learning experience for me and I’ll return regularly for tune ups as they come to my area. We had (correction) 10 riders participate (not 8), including on the one spectrum, 1 grand prix rider and on the opposite spectrum, 1 very scary, unconfident rider. We also had 6 auditors. I must add, both instructors were soft, steady, yet firm in their instruction, complementing the good points and correcting the bad points immediately so as to avoid any confusion and maximize the learning experience. Their teaching style is organized, well-planned and excellent.
    Last edited by belgianWBLuver; Dec. 11, 2012, 11:56 AM.

  • #2
    What exercises were recommended?


    • Original Poster

      Really so many exercises that I could only touch on 1 or two. Besides learning the basic position of stability - that was described in my summary above - We learned the other very basic and the most important exercise for myself:These are all very basic for the beginner in Pilates

      On the mat sit with your knees up and feet spread out no wider than your hips. Hold your hands under your legs firstly behind your knees. Roll your head, neck + upper back down to your chest. Don't forget to bring your lower abs up to your upper abs and to push your lower back out to the back of your T-shirt.
      Assuming this position, very slowly roll your back, head neck down towards the mat. Stop when your lower back is touching the mat while maintaining the pressure in your abs. remember your head and neck and the upper shoulders are still rolled in and not flat on the mat. Let your hands slide down your thighs while you are rolling down and try (I mean Try) to keep your feet flat on the ground (really Hard). Then very slowly come back up to the starting position.

      Thats just one of the exercises but IMO one of the most important because it works the principle of the lower back being pushed back and not arched and your abs being able to maintain control as you go down.

      Have fun!!


      • #4
        Hey, belgianWBLuver, so glad to hear that you had a good time.

        I went up to Blanca last year for the Pilates mini forum and had a marvelous time. Janice was dismayed initially that I was having a hard time engaging properly (I was really fit and obviously had all the wrong muscles necessary to do the wrong things, ha ha ha) but she used some exercises to get me thinking: ummm... I think, "that" is what Sarah has been trying to tell me.... And I was right, because Sarah was more than pleased with that little change. She declared it shortened a couple of years of riding for me. Anyway, that three days of Pilates and riding with Sarah made me all the sudden able to ride canter so much better - I wouldn't have been able to ride the one loop canter required at 1st level test 3 this year otherwise. Of course getting my butt whipped by Clayton Martin by way of lunge line didn't hurt either.


        • Original Poster

          Aaah - so glad to hear about your experience. Me too - I've been riding for years but with the more affective position I now have I am better able to follow, maintain, and now work on improving my greenies canter. Thats his natural gait and I'll better be able to improve his trot by honing the canter first..
          I know all about the pain of lunge lessons, I was a working student in Portugal, France and Germany years ago and honestly I thought I would die some days


          • #6
            I did the same clinic here in CO maybe ... three years ago now? and a mini version at my trainer's two years ago, and they are such fantastic instructors, especially as a team! It was a blast and phenomenally helpful -- at the end of the clinic I had other riders and auditors I didn't even know coming up and telling me I looked like a different rider! (Now if only I had maintained any of that progress over the intervening years, hah.) Cannot recommend them enough to anyone contemplating clinicing with them (or just lessoning with either of them individually). Sarah is coming up to teach at my trainer's this weekend and I'm heartbroken that I can't afford to ride with her right now.

            Janice has a book called Pilates for the Dressage Rider that details the pilates exercises that will give you the most riding bang for your buck, but I have to say, I'm glad I got to clinic with her before trying stuff from the book by myself, or I'd probably have been doing things inadvertently wrong.