We were excited to bring Lyn Ringrose Moe, Cowboy Dressage World Partner, to Lucky Duck Ranch this September and knew that we would be receiving quality instruction. But, I don’t think any of us were ready for the magic that was created in our arena and the positive changes that occurred in every single horse and rider over the 3 magical days.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect nor the setting more peaceful for these horses and riders to fully focus on their education and refinement. Lyn began the clinic with a group session on the ground using multiple exercises that helped to convey to all the riders exactly how important it is to be a conscientious rider and the value of preparation in your cues. The ground exercises before we even got on our horses opened our hearts and minds to conscientious and courteous riding. I know, I personally was thinking of every time I had failed to properly prepare my horse and making a promise and a pledge to do better in the future.
We next moved to evaluating each of the horses as individuals on the ground through looking at their conformation and muscle development. It was easy to see where each of the horses were likely to struggle once under saddle just by looking at where they were lacking strength in their bodies. Then, by moving the horses around we could see how they traveled and what side they may need to have a little more support on from the rider when under saddle. Again, this exercise helped us to be better prepared and informed and more conscientious under saddle to allow our horses become the very best athletes they can become.
Once mounted both the groups were challenged with finding our balance, center of gravity and all our aids to fully communicate with our mounts. The old adage of “ride every stride” took on heightened meaning as we were carefully maintaining balance, cadence and softness through the working walk without relying so heavily just on our rein aids. Lyn asked us to be aware of all our aids equally as we lengthened and shortened our horse’s frames in the walk. Then she tossed us all in the deep end as we moved directly into lateral work. Every horse and rider struggled with the work at first doing to much with our bodies to create the maneuvers. Through careful coaching Lyn helped each of us realize that our horses were there with us, willing and ready to respond to just the subtlest of changes in our body position and weight distribution. The reoccurring theme for all the participants throughout the entire clinic was “do less to get more”.
We continued to build our understanding of the subtle nuances of our lateral work through ground exercises in pairs without the horses. On the second day we again spent some time exploring the phenomenon of dragging or pushing our horses around rather than riding and guiding in harmony. Each pair took turns being the rider and the horse so you gained an understanding (or an approximation at least) of what the horses may be feeling when we are attempting to create these maneuvers. Once mounted we again explored how little it takes in a change in our weight, balance and cues to create the aids necessary for the maneuver. For the turn on the forehand exercise Lyn took away our ability to micromanage and make up for poor riding through our seat and legs by having us ride with one hand behind our backs. The change in our body awareness and positioning was completely evident in the improvement in the quality of the turns created one handed. The balance improved, the accuracy improved and the horse’s engagement certainly improved.
In working with the horses in the jog work we used our new understanding of lateral movements to carry our engagement of the hind end through our upward and downward transitions. Lyn helped us to understand the importance of riding back to front and maintaining a soft connection that allows the horse to feel supported without over-fixing the head and neck. For many of us that over-ride our horses heads we were surprised to find how forgetting the head and riding the body allows the horse to find the most natural place for the head. We didn’t work on poll flexion or lateral flexion through the neck at all, instead often riding our horses much straighter at times to improve the balance but by the third day all the horses had found a better carriage for the head and neck then they had on Friday.
We spent some time on our final day with Lyn after lunch again in pairs without horses exploring the nuances of soft hands by pairing up and having one person with the reins and the other with the bit. It’s amazing how much you can feel in the bit with your hands and the horse’s mouth is so much more sensitive than our hands are. Simple things like holding your breath, opening and closing your fingers, jumping your reins and riding with uneven reins can make a big difference to the horse. While always seeking to ride with the softest touch possible, I was unaware of the little inconveniences that I am asking my horse to ignore daily. We cannot be too careful or too respectful with the hands when riding. Bit choice, rein choice and the different attachments all feel quite different to the horse.
In our final session with Lyn she challenged us to ride through a series of maneuvers requiring accuracy and subtilty through our bodies that none of us would have been able to accomplish on Friday. The stair step exercise included shoulder fore, half pass and leg yield in one exercise with a change every 5 meters. All the horse and rider pairs were successful at both the walk and the jog creating a sense of true accomplishment for everyone. All the horses improved their self-carriage. All the riders improved their feel and timing.
Riding with a masterful rider is always inspiring and educational. Riding with a masterful rider that is also a first rate teacher is like a gift. Opening that gift with your friends in a beautiful peaceful setting creates the magic that we all got to experience this past weekend. Lyn, we can’t wait to ride with you again.