Rodrigo Matoz, (Portuguese school of Equestrian Art)

Having seen how beautifully Rodrigo rides, I was looking forward to hearing him teach. There were a couple of other riders on the clinic that I had seen before (with Bettina Drummond), so this added to my interest. The first lesson followed a pattern of exercises which were to be repeated again and again. They had a good logical progression but with very few comments from a largely inaudible Rodrigo it was hard to see where he was going with it all. It appeared that he was assessing the horses and riders as he watched them carefully from front and back on the centre line. He taught as if he was riding the horse but it looked like "directing traffic" with lots of leg yield/shoulder ins in various directions and if that went well a progression to travers and half pass. I guess this works well if the riders ride as well as he does and with the same knowledge and understanding, but I am not sure how much one learns just from following a monologue of directions.

All the riders had 2 lessons a day so I was looking forward to seeing him get down to some real work in the afternoon. Sadly, the lesson we watched seemed to follow exactly the same pattern as the morning but it was much shorter. At approx £75 a lesson I think I would have felt somewhat short changed. The riders who had been pushed to their limits by Bettina clearly enjoyed Rodrigo's mild mannered approach but personally, I think they got more from Bettina even if they didn't enjoy the experience! Rodrigo said the right things but if the rider didn't or couldn't do it, he did not seem to pursue the matter. For example for shoulder in he would say bend the horse around your inside leg, outside leg behind the girth and yet the riders inside leg was back and the outside leg was forward and completely off the horse, consequently the croup was escaping. This was either not noticed or ignored. Personally I would rather a teacher who told me the truth even if I don't like it.

Sadly I was unable to stay for more than one day so do not know how the lessons progressed over the next few days. The feedback from the riders was more positive and clearly they felt that it was money well spent.

The exercises:

  • Straight down the centre line, 10m circles to the right and to the left (a much neglected exercise)
  • Leg yield from centre line to outside track (eg from the left leg) followed by 1/4s in on the track (leg yield from the right leg)
  • On the track, shoulder in out of a 10m circle; then counter shoulder in out of a 10m circle at the half marker. (These were more leg yields than shoulder ins)
  • Switching from leg yield to half pass in the same direction.

The use of voltes and 10m circles and work on the centre line reminded me how seldom these useful exercises are used.

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