Last Sunday, a trainer I used to ride with; Robin, came down to give a clinic at my moms place. I had contacted Robin about advertising for Dressage Canada as I am on their communications board. I boarded with Robin around 4 years ago when I lived in Ottawa. She was the first person to be able to really help me with Archie. I remember when I first started riding with her I couldn't even do a downward transition from canter to trot with Archie. When we finally did get one, the rest of our ride was a total write off. Robin fixed that for me. Archie and I made great progress on the flat with her and he was finally rideable. I asked her if she would be interested in making the drive down to teach a few lessons and work with Archie, William, and I.
After I left Ottawa, the struggle returned and it wasn't until 2 years later when I met Daphne that I was able to ride with someone who understood how to train me and Archie together. How to not only achieve relaxation, but to train him to relax. Robin was really the first person to touch on this issue with me. She agreed to come down for a clinic and I was excited to ride with her again.
An old video of me and Archie with Robin;
We had a gorgeous day sneak in between the snow storms and the rain showers of the weeks surrounding. A few of my friends came over to ride in the clinic and try a lesson out. My mom went first with Ace and they both were on top of their game, despite my mom suffering from a nasty cold. Ace is looking in fine form to start her debut at Second Level.
I rode second on Archie. What I loved about this day was that Robin already knew Archie and all his baggage. She helped me through some of my hardest moments with him a few years ago. She immediately told me that I need to let go of him. He is tense, and nothing will ever stop the tension until he learns that I will not hold onto his face. She said that I grab onto his face, which makes him tense, which makes me grab onto his face even more. I think we all do this, it's just that Archie is that much more reactive than other horses. I need to learn to give, soften, ALWAYS. I can take contact, but it has to be very very light. I need to encourage him to relax. He will never relax when I have a hold of his mouth. It is just who he is. We worked on this, she continued to remind me to let go and soften, and he went amazingly.
I had a second ride on William. It became apparent immediately to Robin that William is extremely behind the leg. She had me go forward forward forward. Even when it feels like we are going forward, it is clear in the video we are not. William has an incredibly tight neck, and I am working hard on stretching it, but the key to getting him to really elongate it is to have him stretch out and down into the contact. We can only achieve this by having him go FORWARD into the contact.
We only had 4 or 5 strides here and there where he was actually taking a good contact and I could feel it in both hands. We will continue to work towards this and build more and more with each ride now that I know just how forward I have to push him at this stage in his training to get him to accept the contact. We even had a beautiful canter transition and no issues at the canter once he was forward and ahead of my leg.
I am hoping to have Robin down once a month to continue our work. Here is a short video of my lesson on William;
Lots of good homework to keep us going. Long road ahead that's for sure!