Last weekend I had the privileged of heading to the city and auditing the Janine Little Dressage Clinic for a few hours. I had desperately wanted to ride in this clinic, but between the financial strain encompassing my life plus having just got back from a nearly 3 week Vacation, I didn't feel it was right or fair to go and expect it of Sierra.. Plus, I didn't want to waste Janine's time or embarrass myself in front of others.
I hung around and watched 2.5 lessons and took a few notes, some of which have already come into play in my riding this past week. My first impression of Janine was she's tiny! She can't be more than 5'5, but she has a very even-tempered and relaxing voice and way of teaching. I noticed a common trend in all the lesson I watched; seeking holes in the training.
Of the 2.5 lessons I watched, all the horses and riders were quite different. I arrived half way through one lesson of a middle aged intermediate woman aboard her relatively plain but otherwise kind and sweet tempered WB type (not sure?) mare. They were working on gaining access to her back/hind end in the canter. Some of the notes I took were:
- The problem is occurring behind the saddle, so why bother fussing with her face? Let her head go where ever it wants right now, you can't connect a horse correctly until you have access to the hind end and a supple back.
- Tension breeds tension.
- Rotate your lower back at all times to remain on the floor of your seat. Don't get stiff in transitions.
- Don't "Sit and Push", that's an old phrase and outdated. Always thing "Swing and Follow".
Following that lesson, a beautiful woman and a lovely plain chestnut mare entered the ring. They looked wonderful together, and Janine quickly got to work at finding holes in the training through difficult exercises such as Cantering 1/4 lines in a shoulder in & travere feeling at the same time (essentially curved around the inside leg while still travelling straight), and the beginning of half-steps as the mare tends to get 'out behind' and slow in the hind leg. My abs were sore just watching. Some notes I took were:
- In Downwards transitions, lengthen your leg to open your hip angle
- It's better to give often and quickly, than to give poorly.
- Lazy Horses need to start half-steps sooner to develop proper engagement, balance and response behind.
- Get her hips down and her neck out. Always.
- Don't get mad when it gets messy; things have to get messy to get better.
- Be aware enough to know when your horse is cheating, or when they need help and support.
- After doing something hard, always go to something easy and establish relaxation. Relaxation is key in all aspects; it will be lost sometimes but we must always regain it.
- When teaching a horse to stretch, think of riding with your hands wide like side reins on the lunge, and push forward. Once you establish a weighted connection, lift your hands and follow.
- Every horse has a tendency and they will always revert back to it when things get tough; determine what your horse's tendency (or tendencies) are.
And finally, the last lesson I watched was a combination who recently had some time off. The horse seemed boarder-line feral when she walked into the arena but it was *really* lovely when Janine got to work on them. The lesson was quite basic but I did jot down a few comments that resonated.
- Always train the opposite of what we have in regards to natural movement. If your horse has a long stride, work to shorten it and 'load' the hind end. If your horse has a short stride, aim to lengthen it. If your horse moves with tension, aim to cover more ground and build relaxation.
- Always strive for straight, long and bigger in ever single movement.
- Don't drive; engage.