May 5th 2021.
Around 20 or so Fs and Is arrived at Furze House for the day. Some brought horses for coaching sessions, some volunteered to coach a session, and all of us had a chance to observe, discuss and enjoy the socialising with friends which has been in short supply recently. All socially distanced and ‘zapped’ by Ann’s thermometer gun at the start of play.
And what a treat it was! There were many gems of wisdom to take home and think about, and much to practice on our horses and in our coaching.
We observed eight lessons and three coaching practice sessions, all went ahead outside with enthusiasm even when it rained and snowed.
The quality of horses and riders was exceptional. Judy encouraged us all to not be frightened to ask questions, “Any question is at the right level” said Judy which settled our nerves somewhat.
The first Rider was Jenny Ward with her lovely big bay Rio, who is working at Grand Prix. Jenny is keen to get him out at GP very soon, as the Covid lock down spoiled her competition plans.
Jenny explained that Rio is not a natural athlete – he gets nervous but can also be lazy, so after they had warmed up Judy developed ½ steps to trot transitions to encourage him to be a little hotter. Riding many transitions to create controlled power, was encouraged, “thousands of mini transitions”, and using the corners to create activity, all useful gems.
In the canter zig-zags “collect into each change” Judy suggested. This improved the quality and balance but also gained some extra space for the final change on the centre.
Jenny was encouraged to energise the Piaffe by allowing him to move more forward rather than on the spot.
David Sheerin was next with another tall horse, Tolano. The horse was kitted out with’ matchy-matchy’ turquoise accessories which looked very dramatic on a dark horse. He is rising 6 and was destined to event but as he is so big and moves well David feels he may have a career in dressage.
The horse was a little spooky and nervous, Judy wanted the horse between leg and hand for control. Once they had warmed up Judy helped with development of strength and connection, she encouraged riding leg yield from inside leg to the outside rein.
She explained that tension causes blocking. “The horse must listen enough to the leg to help with the rhythm without making it difficult to keep the balance”.
Another gem to take home was “have arms like elastic side reins” and another, ”find the sweet spot in the canter, don’t ask for something he can’t do, but guide in the right direction” and also “first things first, control the quarters in right bend tomorrow”
Liza Allen rode next on her hot chestnut Frankie, who came straight from the regionals at PSG on Monday.
Judy helped with his way of going after a long warm up mainly in canter to settle him. In the medium trot on the diagonal Frankie lost balance cantered at X. Judy suggested waiting to start the medium trot at X, this worked well, she said “don’t help him as much, let him make mistakes”
A great exercise to stop him taking over in the canter pirouettes was to come in from K do three strides of the pirouette right, then keep good bend to the right and turn left out of the pirouette. This really helped him understand the balance, and gave Liza more control of the strides. The improvement was obvious once he had completed this on both reins
Sam York brought two horses, the first was a super black gelding, also in ‘Matchy-Matchy’ but a tasteful mint green this time. He is home bred aged 10.
They have qualified for the regionals at elementary and works at medium level. She described him as “sharp but lazy”.
Judy wanted Sam to “nail” the transitions to medium trot and back so that he goes and comes back when asked. “Go for less with a better quality”- “to compress them is vital” – “he must pull forward in the transitions back from medium trot”
In the half pass vary the canter to bigger then smaller strides to help the hind leg more under. The head needs to be up to free up the shoulders.
Clare Chamberlayne rode next on a lovely dappled grey gelding, Advanced eventer. Clare said she wanted help with test technique and needs practice at dressage test riding.
Much was done during the session to develop the cadence and engagement in the trot and canter. Canter very short, almost on the spot then actively forwards to teach engagement, trying to develop more suspension and space in the canter for better canter walk transitions and flying changes. Judy used travers at the canter on the long sides to teach him to sit a bit more.
In the changes to get him to change cleanly, Judy had Clare riding counter canter round the short side and onto the inside track on the long side, then leg yield to the track with him straight then change.
Much was covered in the session and some things to take home and work on. Judy said “practice”. She wanted the rider to set him up for a change with the leg yield exercise. she said ”he wants to change, he is just not there yet” “get more collection and control in the canter, and they will come”
There was a chance for Judy to have a break and watch for a while as three brave souls had a chance to coach three riders.
This was a fantastic opportunity for the coaches as the riders and horses were top quality, and all are competing at the moment.
The first rider is about to ride at her first CDI next week as a Young Rider at Wellington.
The second rider competes this horse at Inter1 and has qualified for the regionals at PSG.
The third rider was getting to grips with a green and nervous horse with the intention of gaining experience of competing for her and her new ride.
So with a row of observers, all soaked through by now, each coach set about getting to know their pupils.
The coaches got really involved in their sessions and identified things which could be worked on without jeopardising forthcoming competitions. The riders and coaches worked together well with many short breaks to reflect and discuss. Improvement and enjoyment was obvious in each combination, even in the rain, with encouraging feedback from Judy and some in the audience for each coach at the end of each session.
There were three more lessons to complete the day. The rain had stopped and the sun came out to dry us all off.
David Sheerin rode again, as this horse is an eventer he explained that he kept to more subdued colours for the bandages, fashionable grey.
This horse is an Advanced eventer and is destined for Blenheim this year.
Judy wanted the canter to have a clearer three beats, she encouraged him to get more activity behind for improved simple changes, keeping the rein contact in the walk after the canter.
David had struggled with the medium trot, Judy suggested using the long side to develop the medium trot, a few strides at a time, keeping him straight and even to the contact. Then on the diagonal in rising trot a few strides of medium then back. Judy said “ride for a consistent 6 now, 7 later”. She said “ride for what you can do. Develop it more over time”
Liza Allen brought in another lovely horse next, a bay mare she bought unbacked as a 4 yr old, now 6.
She has been to the Regionals at Novice, but is spooky and nervous.
Judy felt when she learns to relax she will have better use of her body – be patient and edge her through the difficult bit – was advised. Judy said ”the horse must have a relaxed brain for a loose body”
Liza was encouraged to work until she can half halt so that she can then control the speed.
We could see the potential in the is horse as she got better and better through the session, definitely one to watch out for in the future.
The final lesson was with Sam York again, this time on a brown 10yr old gelding. He has qualified at Elementary and works at Medium level though is an eventer and is used for some lessons at Sam’s yard.
Judy helped Sam with shoulder-in, encouraging her to engage the hind legs more to get lift through the shoulder.
She got Sam to ride forwards to medium and back twice on each long side to activate the hocks and develop engagement, then to ride in rising trot travers on the first half of the diagonal, then straighten and ride forwards into both reins evenly.
These activities were to be taken home and ridden often, Judy said “mix and match, don’t get bogged down with one thing”
The horse improved and showed some classy work in the canter half pass to the centre, with the mirrors useful for the rider to check straightness on the centre.
The time flew by during the day, it was soon time to set off home with lots of ideas buzzing in my head, and a warm feeling once I got the car heater on, by the time I got home I had dried out.
A fantastic day, many little gems to dwell on. Thank you Judy for sharing your expertise, and Ann for organising it. I can’t wait till next year.