Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, May 18, 2017 03:39 PM
is a big fair. In Alberta it usually happens at the end of April and lasts three days over a weekend. It has tons of interesting things to attend - clinics of different disciplines, lectures, breed demonstrations, trainer's challenge of starting young horses and a huge shopping where you can buy anything from a hair pin to a trailer. Riders for the clinics are chosen. Riders must apply and then they are selected and invited to come. It is very inexpensive way to get a lesson from a world class instructor (in dressage clinics there are only two riders per ride).
This year dressage instructor was Shannon Dueck
. She is a Canadian Grand Prix rider, who represented Canada on many occasions, contributor to Dressage Today and I have watched Shannon on Youtube as a coach, rider and competitor and I like her very much. She is a breast cancer survivor. I wanted to ride with her and also I wanted an experience to ride in front of the crowd. Mane Event is very popular in Alberta, so the stands are usually full. I was very excited to be selected and the theme of my clinic was "Effective warm-up for the winning ride (Third Level and up)". With the show season approaching it sounded fun and possibly very helpful. Me and Santo are showing Fourth Level.
Entering the riding arena I was surprised how nonchalant Santo was about everything what was going on. Interestingly, his biggest concern was movement of the crowd, not so much clapping or volume of it. When Shannon entered the ring I liked very much how she approached me with an open smile and started asking about my issues and concerns with a warm-up. Shannon thought that the footing was rather deep so she decided to work with each of us separately giving the other horse a chance to rest. The other horse was a beautiful Andalusian stallion showing Second level schooling Third. Shannon introduced the goals and directives of dressage levels and stressed that they are very important to understand. Then she talked about a warm-up strategies. Her approach is always start with at least 10 min of walk on a long rein and use this time to create a plan for the warm-up. When starting trot Shannon said she would see if her horse stretch into longer, rounder frame. If this is impossible
due to tension or excitement she said not to worry about it and start doing transitions within the trot and moving on to lateral work checking on your horse's suppleness and symmetry.
She started working with the stallion who was rather tense, quick and wanted to curl behind the vertical a bit. It was very interesting to see how Shannon helped the rider to achieve much better frame and throughness by encouraging forwardness and straightness, when the stallion wanted to canter instead of lengthening his trot Shannon said it is no big deal and encouraged the rider to use canter to create better connection. After the stallion started to show consistency in his pace and frame they moved to leg-yields and shoulder-ins looking for symmetry and flow both directions. This work allowed the stallion to relax and he was able to stretch after. Shannon made an interesting comment that she does a lot of rising trot, even with high level horses, she learned this from Carl Hester.
While me and Santo were waiting for our turn Santo was puzzled why we are doing nothing but I am still sitting on him. He started giving me hints to dismount LOL. When our turn came we both were not exactly in a gear. Shannon woke us up asking for prompt transitions into big forward trot. When these transitions started to go round, smooth and engaged she asked us for shoulder-in, travers, half-passes. While our shoulder-ins and travers flowed and stayed engaged our half-pass lost energy and push from behind. Shannon stressed that it is important to work on the problem instead of simply repeating the movement. Her suggestion was to start medium trot on a diagonal and then finish it as a half-pass thus creating bigger more powerful steps. Click on the image to see larger version.
Next the stallion worked on walk-canter-walk transitions and Shannon pointed out that even in the tests it is better to be slightly off point but make smooth, balanced transition then try to be precise and scarifies quality. If the walk is unsettled the canter transition will not go smoothly. Work on walk and then ask for canter. To help rider understand collection better Shannon wanted her to spiral in and use the line and also her seat to collect the horse instead of reins. When horse understood and settled into collected canter transition to walk was easy.
When our turn came we worked on flying changes. First Shannon wanted our canter to be more regular and slower in tempo then she said that simple flying changes must go well before sequences introduced in a warm-up. After long diagonal single flying changes Shannon wanted us to do them on short diagonals. Things fell apart, Santo was late behind. Shannon stressed that canter must feel like a big bounce, jumping up to give a horse more time in the air for the flying change. This worked and Santo was clean on both short diagonals. Shannon wanted us to start practicing sequential changes along the long side without counting. She pointed out that a rider must address the canter for changes to go well. The quality of the canter directly affects the changes and in tempis there is no time to work on canter. It must stay correct through the sequence. The challenge of a diagonal is turning on
it with good balance ready to start flying changes and keeping the line and your horse straight on it while being busy counting and asking for them. We made mistakes because I looked down. Shannon stood at the end of our diagonal and made me look straight at her. Three flying changes every three strides - no mistakes!
Next and last segment was working pirouettes. To begin this work Shannon asked me to half pass to centerline, continue on it with a slight bent and then return to wall doing big working pirouette (haunches in on 10 m circle). In Shannon's words I chased my horse into turn. She was right. I was afraid I will loose canter because he started to disengage. Shannon wanted my circle to stay no less than 10 m, with clear haunches in and very slow tempo. She said do not be afraid of losing canter and push your boundaries in asking for as slow canter as possible. It worked much better particularly on the left lead. At the end Shannon gave me an exercise for home work - medium canter to ultra slow canter back to medium again not being afraid to ask for more either way and correcting him rather then doing it for him.
The clinic was very helpful for me. I have a tendency to school too much in my warm ups at shows. Shannon helped me focus on important things (they are called basics!!! LOL) Next day at home I did a practice run of a test with setting up a time limit and warming up using what I have learned. I had a very smooth test ride and Santo stayed focused and organized. I will do my best to take these "tools" to all my shows this season and beyond :)
I would like to extend big Thank You
to Rachel Beattie
who photographed the event and allowed me to use her pictures in the article.