Filipa and Francisco - July 2010

Crisp and Artista were back with Filipa in July when she came to Waterstock Equestrian Centre in Oxfordshire. This clashed with Francisco's clinic in Hampshire so I dropped of Trinco for Joy, had a couple of lessons, then went on to Hampshire, then collected Trinco on my return journey.

Waterstock is a lovely yard with a really nice "feel" to it. Artista wasn't at all tired by the journey so charged around the arena like "road runner". I made sure I lunged him before my next lesson and this made life much easier. He then flopped into bed for a snooze like an overexcited child who suddenly bottoms out! Crisp was remarkably mature and generally very settled at both venues even though the arenas were quite spooky. Filipa helped both horses from the ground and I found this especially useful. I use this sort of work to help my own pupils but of course, there is not often anyone to help me!

Francisco worked on Crisp's responsiveness to the aids straight away and yet again I was reminded about "give an aid, get a response, stop giving an aid" (quote Erik). As in Portugal, "Be exigent" was a frequent command. He made us work quite hard and it was extremely hot but luckily he gave us lots of breaks. "When the horse is using muscles that he is not used to, we must respect that and give him plenty of breaks" (The same applied to the rider!). Instant corrections, instant rewards. He emphasised responsiveness to each and every aid; it was not just about achieving an exercise but training the responsiveness to the aids so that we can use them for the higher level work without force. Like Erik, he trains the basics like putting all the wiring behind the walls of a house so that later one can just flick a switch and the light comes on in the right place.

Artista was a total star! I did some lunging with Francisco and he suggested ways of improving the paces with some changes of speed both on the lunge and ridden. We also achieved a surprisingly good shoulder fore which also helped the stride and engagement. He wasn't at all concerned about Artista's head all over the place at times - "When the balance improves, his head will be fine". He also suggested temporarily putting only the inside side rein on for lunging as he felt that both side reins were too much for him at the moment and merely the weight of the inside side rein (i.e. pretty long) would prevent him from looking out and leaning in. This has worked really well and now Artista is reaching into both reins much better.

Here are some observations:

  • Leg no hand; hand no leg
  • The stride must have amplitude
  • Every aid must have a clear response
  • Be 100% disciplined about school figures
  • If you lose the paces, you must regain them immediately - forward straight - and start the exercise again.
  • If you lose the calm, nothing works
  • To collect we need to be sure we can "go"
  • Head up!
  • The horse cannot be free to move with grace and ease if the rider is holding on to his mouth
  • We train to increase the capacity to hold the balance
  • When the neck is broken, we lose the control of the impulsion
  • We oblige the horse to listen; we oblige ourselves to ride
  • You need contact. Even Oliveira, who rode on a very light rein, always had the horse forward into the reins
  • Preserve the horse in front of the legs at all times.