Clinic in Chetwynd. Part I.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Friday, March 6, 2009 06:40 PM
Chetwynd is a small industrial town in British Columbia. It is nested between hills and even right now in winter you cannot but admire the beauty and serenity of the nature around it. Click here to check it out. Me and my husband decided to drive there. We like driving and seeing places and we have never been North of Athabasca. Roads were quite decent and there are a few very beautiful places around Lesser Slave Lake. Our way back was through Grande Prairie and almost all of the way is divided highway which made driving a breeze.
The clinic started with 2-hour fitness class Friday night. The class went very smoothly and I even got all the exercises on time. The theory part was received well and my "model of internal organs" (hot water bottle half-filled) created lots of giggles when I demonstrated with it a sitting trot on 17 HH warmblood going at a medium pace :) Participants found breathing exercises helpful in understanding the diaphragm's role and exploring hip joint imbalances gave some of them insight on their riding problems.
Clinic gave me an opportunity to work with a group of completely new riders. It was fun and challenging to access each rider quickly, explain what positive qualities the rider has (everyone has strong points) and find weak spots that can be improved. When I teach I always worry that I'm not clear enough with my explanations or I do not stress the importance of the change needed. Everyone has a different base of knowledge about riding and I rely on hands-on experience to make sure riders understand what I mean. This time I had a group with different levels of experience and even a couple of Western riders signed up to make my life interesting. Everyone was very enthusiastic and open minded about learning new ideas.
Here are common problems almost every rider had to work on:
  • Saddle is too far forward This is common practice with many types of English saddles. Riders put them too much forward on the shoulders. It makes saddle unbalanced and riders are pushed backwards. If they try to fix this by raising back of the saddle with extra padding they just create a new problem on top of the old one. The saddle must be BEHIND horse's shoulder blades completely for the dressage saddle and only very forward parts of the saddle flaps should be on the shoulder blades for jumping and all purpose saddles.
  • Lower legs are gripping horse's sides and thighs are off the saddle either completely or do not stay well connected and quiet. One of the Western riders had a horse that was running every time the mare was asked to go forward. When the rider started to work on keeping her thighs on the saddle and calfs soft the mare calmed down so much she had to be asked to go forward. Another young and hot warmblood cross calmed down when calfs released their iron grip on his sides. Lower legs grip because rider's body is trying to find a security in the saddle. When thighs are not working calfs take over. Some riders found such change quite dramatic and thigh muscles become tired very quickly.
  • Lower legs are too forward, especially during rising trot Riders perceive rising trot as up and down rather than forward and back. They try to push off the stirrups and then lose their balance and fall back in the saddle. It is hard for them to keep even tempo, the movement is fast and somewhat irregular. With better balance riders were able to ask their horses to go more forward without feeling left behind and horses started to show better quality of movement and started stretching into the bit.
  • Forward versus Fast This one is most common mistake I see everywhere. Usually riders do not ask enough from their horses. Trot is somewhat lazy and short, horses look like they are jogging. When asked to go more forward horses usually speed up their tempo and riders try to follow and sometimes in eagerness accelerate their bodies even more than the horses creating a vicious cycle of very fast and flat trot. To brake the cycle the rider must learn better balance in rising trot, otherwise, there is no chance to fix the fast tempo. As long as riders are not in control of their balance they are at the mercy of their horses. When riders learn to be responsible for their own balance they need to evaluate their horses gait and fix it if it is too slow or too fast. It takes time and practice to constantly monitor the quality of your horse's movement and constantly fix little problems before they grow into big ones. Or even better, sense the problem coming and reconfirm the correct way without allowing your horse to fall apart.
In the second part I will continue with the descriptions of common problems encountered during my teaching.
Happy riding...
Comment by Shannon on Tuesday, March 10, 2009 05:06 PM
Thanks so much for coming to teach us. We look forward to your next blog and putting the things you taught us into practice!
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