BILL— Everyone from time to time needs a visit from the Geometry Police. We see circles which are flat sided, ones which go into corners, and ones which begin and end at the wrong place. We draw our students elaborate diagrams of “tangent points” replete with eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. We distribute the Cones of Shame in the arena. Sometimes none of it does any good because they have convinced themselves that their circles are already round enough.
BILL— It can be good or it can be bad pending on a lot of factors, namely what the riders are like and the temperament and level of training of the horse in question. The first thing to resolve is your motivation. Is this to benefit you, the other rider, or the horse?
One of the most memorable rides in my life was in December 1974 when one evening at the Poulins’ I was invited to have a short ride on a Hanoverian mare who had been the reserve horse on the Canadian team at the Munich Olympics. It was all carefully supervised of course, but it did great things for my self esteem as well as giving me a new, very meaningful reference point.
It’s a great gift to be able to bestow on someone if you have a special horse that they can learn from. That said, the most important quality that a rider must possess to be allowed to ride your horse(s) is judgment – knowing what she is capable of and what she should leave alone.
If it’s a question of allowing a person more knowledgeable than yourself to get on your horse, their judgment and your trust in them are still the operant qualities. From my personal viewpoint I feel that anyone who rides with me should-– if I deem it useful– be willing to let me on their horse. I think I know enough at this point in my career not to bite off a lump I can’t chew!
I can think of several examples, however, where a rider did not want a particular clinician climbing on their horse to show off in a way that could be detrimental to his ultimate training. That is a difficult circumstance! On the other hand, If the owner knows the horse has some dangerous behavior that hides under the surface and does not want anyone else getting on, that is understandable.
Ruling out such instances, by and large it is not only valuable to get on other people‘s horses but also to see a more advanced rider working yours. Sometimes a new slant on an old problem works wonders.
At a show recently, I was watching my friend warm up for her first level test 3 class. Her horse, an OTTB, was being very tense and anxious with all the other horses. Her trainer took her to an outside, very quiet arena and told her to ‘just trot big’. She let the horse go very long and low in a pretty big trot doing circles and figure 8s. As the ride time got closer, they gathered and did a couple of trot to canter transitions. They really did not school any test movements. She actually scored high enough for a wild card invite to Nationals.
Should I consider warming up my horse like this?
I ride my guy 6 days a week. Mostly work though maybe a day of long/low walking easy stuff. I make myself wear jeans on the ‘7th’ day to discourage myself from riding that day. I love riding him though he can be a challenge. Would 7 days be too much?
BILL— That’s what the classical people say, but in real life sometimes it’s just not possible. Horses come to their riders in all orders of disarray and confusion. Some of them have been behaving that way for so long that the habit is deeply ingrained and not easily susceptible to re-training.
If you are having trouble with canter pirouettes, the solution is usually not to do more of them. The question, however, is what to do instead. My answer is to list all the elements of the relationship with your horse which you need to perform a pirouette correctly. Then remembering the Vending Machine analogy from DRESSAGE Unscrambled, devise specific exercises which test that each of the reactions you need are present in him.
BILL— Here’s the scoop on pirouettes. Most of the time if you’re having problems with them, it has to do with the quality of the canter. Is it collected enough? Is it balanced enough? Can your horse keep enough jump behind, maintaining the tempo while not being held back by the reins as you make his strides shorter? These are things that you must practice over and over, building his strength and confidence before you try to put him too much on the spot or do too many strides in a row.