Alixa Sutton's Clinic
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, April 14, 2012 07:28 PM
Before you continue I need you to read the blog on - flexibility for horses. I want you to be familiar with the concept and exercises I described earlier. If you haven't read the "Flexibility workshop. Part II. Horses" I strongly recommend reading it before you continue.
I participated in Alixa Sutton clinic with Goodwyn. Unfortunately, I could only do 2 days, one stretching for riders and another for horses. Even then I came back with so much insight and ideas on how to work with Goodwyn.He has spent this winter in the pasture and came back to me a different horse. He has grown and matured, his movement changed and got bigger and more powerful, to the point that he himself is having a hard time dealing with it. Being a late maturing horse he still looks like a youngster even at 7 years of age. I think he has another year before he stops changing.
Alixa rode Goodwyn for 40 minutes. She thought him to be a difficult and very interesting case. One of those you want to go to the end to see the results. Below are her comments and exercises she did with him. It was so much to remember. I am not sure I got it all here. I will list each gait and it's issues followed by exercises and suggestions from Alixa.
Walk: Problems - right hip high - leg weak - steps out; compensates by leaning into left shoulder; shoulders stiff, left especially; wants to be heavy with his neck and shoulders; right side of the back is dropped
  • Lift the head up with light upward strokes on the reins. He should lift his head and keep walking both directions
  • Start with serpentine - no bend - lots of releases - should keep his own balance
  • Lateral flexions, head is turned 90% to the side. If he wants to be slow let him be slow
  • Shoulder turns, wide at the beginning, especially to the left, spiral in gradually
  • Shoulder-in on a circle, lots of changes of bend and direction do not get stuck looking for perfect execution, rider's right leg light, whip if needed
Trot: Problems - does not keep himself centered - disconnected between front and back - gets stuck behind in turns
  • 10m figure eight - change flexion in between and he should not fall into new direction right away
  • Lateral flexions, to the left is stiffer, haunches want to swing out; to the right feels awkward and "broken", wants to fall in
  • Shoulder-in on a circle
  • Releasing and letting him trot out on a loose rein, looking for straightness and connection in the back
Canter: Problems - very disorganized, switches leads occasionally
    Left lead
  • Short flexions left and right, couple strides each flexion
  • Spiral in encourage canter, look for engagement and connection in the back, no bend
  • Big circle flexion inside
  • Release and canter out on a long rein
    Right lead
  • Be careful, less demand, falls into left shoulder,
  • Feels more organized on small circle - ride small half-circle then release and canter out on a long rein, repeat
  • Be careful catching him on a right rein he will switch the lead
  • Release is his reward, he should learn to enjoy it and look for it not to be afraid of it and lose his balance
After Alixa I got on Goodwyn just to feel him. We didn't have much time left so I didn't ride for long. But it was amazing how level and connected his back felt. How supple and free his left shoulder felt, how easy it was for him to turn his shoulders, change direction, do a shoulder-in on a circle. His walk felt more powerful and forward. After the clinic he had two days off and I didn't expect the changes in him to last but they did. He felt better than usual right from the start. Since then our work together got more meaning, less frustration, steady progress and tons of fun! I do not do all the exercises described above every time I work Goodwyn and I continue working on my own program for him. However, the insight Alixa gave me changed my perspective on how I should approach exercises with him and what to look for. He does not switch the leads any more, canters happily out on a long rein, started to find his hind end during turns and changes of direction, much more willing to stay light and stretch at the same time. I always liked working with him. Now it is more fun than ever! Thank you, Alixa, from the bottom of my heart!
In the next blog I will tell you about my stretching session with Alixa.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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