Day One: I was challenged to correct some old problems.
The Problem: Henk wanted to see my horse, Biasini, up in the shoulder and light in my hand with the contact. Biasini does not offer this without protest. It is up to me to be ready to act quickly and keep him up and light. On the first day of the clinic this was a real struggle. Going straight was acceptable but as soon as we tried any lateral (sideways movements) Biasini would take over and pull like a freight train.
The Solution: Henk told me that if I was in canter or trot and Biasini took over to bring him back, promptly, to walk and continue in the exercise at the walk. Here is a short video clip of my bringing him to the walk,settling him and then continuing with the sideways movement which he then performs very well.
After riding several of these “remedial” exercises things improved and finally I was able to do movements in the canter and Biasini remained with me, up and light in the hand. At the end of the lesson, a good hour’s work, we finished with some flying changes. I did some single changes going around the arena, then some four tempis (change of lead every fourth stride). Henk reminding me all the while to keep him up and light. Then I decided to go down the quarter line of the arena and do two tempis (change of lead every second stride). I know that Biasini stays up and light during these and I think it is because they come up so fast he does not have time to think of pulling downward. Here is a short clip of some of the work on the flying changes.
What did I learn? This is not a new problem with Biasini and me. Henk reminded me that it is something I must be aware every single time I ride. Take it back to basics, get it right, then carry on.
Day Two: The proof is in the pudding!
Having been rather discouraged with myself after Day One I got up on Day Two and resolved to do better; my warm up would be sharp and to the point and from the get go I would not allow Biasini to pull and drag me around. And that made all the difference. I start my warm up in a stretching lower frame and then bring him up for the working part of the ride. I usually do not do any stretching during the main part of the ride I just take walk breaks because I feel I will not be able to get him back up after a stretch in trot or canter. Not on this day. Henk had suggested a stretching break as a relief from the intensity of the work . Things were going well so I decided to give it a try. It worked! Here is a video clip.
What did I learn? A world of difference can be made by starting out with full concentration and listening to what my horse is telling me. Is he going forward well? Is he stiff on one side or the other? Is he taking advantage of any moments to pull down and disrupt my balance? Any of those moments must be addressed immediately! No hesitation!
That same awareness must continue for the rest of the ride. There is no lolly gagging about in dressage (or any other equestrian discipline if you want to be a serious competitor). My lower leg must be ON, my wrists must be relaxed, my knees must be over my toes, my upper leg relaxed, …..well, you get the picture, all of that and ride the horse!
It is a privilege to ride with someone of Henk van Bergen’s expertise and experience. Henk was the dressage team coach for the Netherlands and is now one of the members of the Federation Equestre Internationale’s Judges Supervisory Panel which sits on the major championships (Olympics, World Equestrian Games, World Cup.)
Two days of rigorous riding. Two days of information for me to absorb and work on. And the proof of the pudding? My horse responded like the Champion that he is. Fabulous!
Thank you Henk for two wonderful days. Thank you also to my regular coaches, Belinda Trussell and Luis Reteguiz Denizard without your tireless support and enthusiasm and energy I would not be able to ride Biasini well enough to take advantage of working with a clinician like Henk van Bergen.
Photos ©Queca Franco