Janet Rowe has graciously submitted her notes from the past weekend’s clinic with Charlotte Dujardin at the Caledon Equestrian Park. It sounds like this wasn’t a clinic to miss and there was tons of information to take away (so much in fact, that we had to do a separate post for day 2’s notes!) If you would like to submit clinic experiences, horse show results or local stories, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charlotte Dujardin Clinic Day 2 Notes
This day saw horses further along in their training – Prix St Georges, Int 1-2 and Grand Prix. Notes address issues found as well as basic work. The day began with some reiteration of themes from the first day, namely education of the young horse. Take them out to see the world! So many people are afraid to EDUCATE the horse. Take them out to places, shows, events to get them comfortable there. You don’t have to show;p just let them SEE. When you do show, whether or not you have a bad or a good test, take them back to the warm up and stretch them out. Let them relax and end on as positive a note as possible. Learn from it. It doesn’t matter about mistakes; learning is what matters.
In the leg yield in the canter, play with the aspects of it. How much flexion, bend, steepness, etc. Again, not one way only of doing things. Play with it and make it malleable. Keep your reins short and your hands in front. RIDE FORWARD. Collect the horse, then FORWARD, always emphasizing the ability to go FORWARD at any given moment. It does not matter if they make a mistake or if you do. Try again and praise the try. Play with the movement. Collect – forward – collect – forward… The poll is always the highest point and hands are pushing towards the mouth. Push the neck away and do not scrunch him up to his chest; out and away.
When going around your corners, keep the poll UP. It is easier to go steep in leg yield than in half pass. You MUST be straight for the changes. Work in travers for a test to see how flexible you are. There is always a stronger and weaker side and the weaker side ALWAYS gets worked more. You are always going for straightness and evenness on both reins.
For the working pirouette, the hip is pushed in on the circle. DO NOT SLOW DOWN! Keep the rhythm quick and forward as slowing down means you will get the bouncy up and down rocking horse. Keep them round and forward, massage the bit in their mouth and don’t let yourself get holding. Keep your weight in your seat bone in the direction of travel. COLLECTION DOES NOT MEAN SLOW DOWN. Ride shoulder fore to travers to shoulder fore and go back and forth. The quality of the canter will improve. The half pass is collected and of course, able to go FORWARD. In the working pirouettes, the shoulders are in front and they must move quicker. Always look around your turns. Keep freshening the forward. At any moment you want to be able to GO! Do not let them drop down on you (on a horse that had a tendency to curl and not take the weight onto the hind). If your canter gets slow, freshen it again by going FORWARD with alacrity within the gait. Half pass to X then shoulder fore to corner with the shoulders FIRST then the hip comes in for half pass to X. You must have control over every step and every part of their body, equilaterally.
The canter to walk posed some problems on day 2 as well. Most riders had the canter stall into the walk rather than a step forward INTO the walk from canter. Part of this was likely due to our innate human lazy factor when we go to walk, it’s a break and the horse flops along with us 😉 For the school master, it is important to keep him thinking and working so he does NOT anticipate as these fellows KNOW their job and try to take over. Throughout training, keep playing with the collection and forward in all movements. This keeps them from getting stale and keeps them interested in their work.
When giving the rein to test for self-carriage, the rhythm should not change. They stay in the same outline and do not fall forward. Ensure you are not carrying the horse yourself by having him lean on you. They must do the work and you must always think uphill. Push between your changes (for 6s and 4s). Again, do not worry about making a mistake, just find the answer. There is NOTHING WRONG WITH MAKING MISTAKES. Everyone goes through the same issues with their horses. Horses are NOT being naughty when they anticipate. They think they are helping. Do not tell them off for this. Thank them and ask again for the correct answer. Use the corners and short sides as preparation for your movements.
Transitions into corners, they learn to wait for you. Walk into corners, then trot out, forward and then to a walk. DO NOT PULL. You ease them back smoothly and then push them forward. Do not allow the back to drop. The downward transitions usually ended up with the “Slap the rider, pat the horse” comment as the riders did not hold the horse and push them forward into a walk. Common issue with them all.
Extensions and changes across the diagonal is PUSH, PUSH, PUSH the whole way. Don’t peter out after X. Keep the same rhythm the whole time; do not get slower. *IT MUST BE SAID THAT CHARLOTTES COMMENTS ARE WONDERUL. SHE IS POSITIVE, ENCOURAGING BUT DOES NOT PULL PUNCHES WITH ANYONE, INCLUDING OUR OWN OLYMPIC RIDERS. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes (again a theme). We cannot let them get too strong. Keep the bit moving in their mouth so they do not get static and pull, and so WE don’t get static and pull.
A lazy horse must do many transitions within the gait as well as between gaits. They must be kept CRISP off the leg. In shoulder fore in canter on the circle, the hind leg must come strongly under the tummy. You can correct the horse after about 2 mistakes (school master) – they know their job.
In the half pass, the shoulders lead. Steady and hold with your seat and legs NOT our hands (an established half halt is obviously required *my addition) Give with the hands regularly to test for self-carriage. One always wants the muscles behind the saddle to keep moving. In stallions, their tension tends to come through an open mouth/gaping.
When the horse has done something well, let them have a breather, stretch them or give them a walk break. Very important in the youngsters/greenies. Keep them happy!! We as riders MUST be disciplined to ride EVERY step. You are ALWAYS riding, even at a breather walk. WE MUST BE DISCIPLINED!!! We cannot expect every ride to go well. Bad rides can and do affect our lives off the horses. Try to take a positive out of every ride by trying to learn WHY it was bad. Learning from the issues we have is the POSITIVE in a bad day. Remember this. IF I DON’T WIN, I DIDN’T LOSE, I LEARNED. We cannot take everything so seriously… Remember why you do this, because we LOVE IT. (questionable sometimes haha! *my addition*)
Work forward and back within exercises. Travers, renvers etc. Pirouettes again, don’t just finish the pirouette and ride out of it, make it smaller, bigger etc. Keep them round and SOFT. Weight in the direction of travel and don’t pull back! Keep them round and soft working over the back to keep the tension out. Tension equals getting to UP and the rocking horse. There should be 7-8 steps in a pirouette – Edward Gal gets them in 6, so I am still catching him up (CD). Control the quality and keep it from getting too slow and against the hand. Keep the contact and push the neck down, ride it big, then small, then big, then small. Think ROUND in the pirouettes. RIDE THE QUALITY. THINK ABOUT YOUR TRANSITIONS!! Short bursts in passage; keep it quick in the hind – quick and round. The neck must be in the correct position to PUSH. Keep them soft in the hand and soft in the rein. Each leg yield must be equal to the other side in depth, steepness etc.
Zig zag – They are not just sideways; think shoulders over first. Same amount of bend both ways down the centre line. Be brave and take risks!! EXPRESSION!! “He is going to the loo… he’s a man, can’t do two things at once” (horse pooping in the ones lol) When the horse wants to take over, shoulder in, round and loose in front of the saddle but using shoulder in, they must step further underneath themselves more. Turn from the outside – 2 reins and push them round. Keep wiggling the fingers to keep them from holding against you. RIDE WITH YOUR HAND BRAKE OFF! There must be bend in the pirouette towards the movement but it must not be too climby. Over collection results in the climbing and up/down rocking horse. Make it easier and break it down for them. Keep them on/in contact on 2 reins equally. Travers on a diagonal line is essentially a half pass. Push the neck away. Keep on making transitions within the elements/movements. Shorter vs more forward, larger passage etc. Ride the speed control in the passage; it MUST be small to transition to piaffe.
100s of transitions in any ride, speed, forward, quicker, longer etc.
Piaffe – when learning let them travel a bit and keep it easier for them. Always praise, don’t tell them off… keep them happy in their work. Better to make a mistake while being forward! Keep them straight; head and neck in front of their chest (this seems straightforward but is deceptively hard! *my addition). When you ride, have a PLAN. Don’t just go ride test movements, GP movements etc. all the time, the horses won’t last. Think about the future and school them with the thought of years ahead. MAKE THEM LAST BY KEEPING THEM HAPPY.
Straightness – use the wall to help them be straight, then on the diagonal they should stay straighter. When riding a test, make a good first impression. Forward into a square halt makes the judge start you off with good marks and keep wanting to give them to you. Core is where your control is. Stay in control of the shoulders. If you back off something and worry about your mistakes, you will never fix them. Changes are a personal thing. Charlotte can’t get them on Carl Hester’s horses and Carl can’t get them on Charlottes. Nothing inherently bad about this, it just IS. YOU CAN RISE TO THE TROT ANY TIME YOU LIKE. It gets you off the back, the horse more forward and rising to the trot in half pass is FINE. Dressage is not about the “tricks”, it is about the suppleness, submission, straightness, bend and collection. If you can do that, the tricks are easy.
Rising trot – relaxes them, bend them and move them around. Keep them happy and relaxed (this was in regards to E Strasser’s horse who was getting very tense and tight). Open the rein to keep them bent around your inside leg. Keep pushing the neck out to take your hand. Vary the stretch: pick them up, stretch them down, pick them up, stretch them down. Up to bit, think forward, then stretch down to hand. If they get tense and tight, go rising trot. Play with them and take all the pressure off. It may not be expressive, but it will be more correct and the horse will relax. Emphasize going back to the basics to reassess and to deal with any tension in the horse. Go back and make sure it is correct and not just flashy.
Photo source: http://www.eurodressage.com/equestrian/2012/08/10/glory-and-gold-charlotte-dujardin-kur-music-finals-2012-olympic-games