When training, my thoughts tend to be rather free-form and musical, but sometimes words creep in. Usually, those words came from the amazing instructors who have shaped my skills. I never seem to ride as well alone as I do when I’m under their careful eye, but I do carry their words with me.
From Maryal Barnett, whose monthly trips to Illinois started my dressage education, to my working student years with Claudia Garner, Gina Krueger and Lorinda Lende, to all of the clinics I’ve taken with Gerhard Politz, Debbie McDonald, Catherine Haddad, and Lendon Gray, and to Jeanne McDonald and Scott Hassler who supervise my education these days, I am shaped as a trainer by their quality guidance. I cannot say thank you enough to these people who shared, and continue to share, their craft with me. Below is a list of just a bit of their wisdom.
“You can view dressage as an art or a craft. If you view it as an art, then you are relying on some elusive thing called talent. If you view it as a craft, then you are relying on technique, and technique can be learned and taught. I choose to view it as technique.” Claudia Garner.
“Wow. That was ugly. Want to do it again?” Maryal Barnett’s cheerfully-spoken words have kept me from overreacting to mistakes since my early dressage days.
“What was the purpose of that?” Scott Hassler, whenever I’m not being organized with my training workout.
“What have you tried, and what did and didn’t work?” Jeanne McDonald, whenever I’ve brought her a horse that I’m struggling with. Her brainstorming questions help me break down my thinking process and get to the bottom of the training issue.
“Roll the wrist, straighten the wrist, roll the wrist, straighten the wrist, and repeat.” Gerhard Politz. His technique has helped unlock many horse who isn’t feeling particularly very obedient to the flexion.
“A circle should be round, like a soccer ball, not flat, like a football.” Gerhard again, whenever I’m teaching accuracy on circles, or struggling with it myself.
“In walk or canter pirouette, the inside hind should always step straight forward to support the bend.” Catherine Haddad. The lesson was about Eclipse’s canter pirouettes, but that one statement changed the way I approach bending all the way down to the youngsters I ride.
“Entertain with your hands, train with your seat and leg.” This simple statement from Scott Hassler cured my bad habit of using my hands to do what my leg and seat should do.
“Every horse as their ‘thing’ and will show up over and over throughout their training.” Again Scott, and this is so true. I applied these words recently to a tough training horse. Instead of thinking, “What, that again?” to “Oh, yea, this again. Guess I’m pushing your comfort zone. We must be making progress.”
“Trot is still trot, even in lateral work. You can’t have a shoulder-in trot, a half-pass trot, a straight side trot. It is all one trot.” Debbie McDonald. Boy, this is hard.
“Left, right, left, right.” Jeanne McDonald’s voice rolls through my mind whenever I’m struggling with timing of the aids.
“A horse must first yield to the unilateral aids before coming onto the diagonal aids.” Maryal Barnett. This concept clarified putting my little Arab on the bit for me years ago, and every young horse and retrain I’ve worked with since.
“The horse’s topline is like a glass hose. Line it up, then turn on the water to keep it full.” Lorinda Lende. I love this mental picture for straightness. I use it often in my teaching.
“Horses go as they are ridden.” Lendon Gray. Keep the standard the same. Every Day.
"It is only trained if it is repeatable" Not sure, probably Maryal Barnett, and completely true.
“The teacher is responsible for the student’s learning.” Claudia Garner’s words lead to many, many lesson plans and conversations about learning style.
“All seat corrections begin in the middle of the rider. The ends won’t stay put until the seat is straight.” Gina Krueger, whose words have shaped my approach to a rider’s seat.
“When shortening or lengthening a horse’s stride, you can only influence one stride at a time.” Lendon Gray. This statement really changed my concept of timing of the aids, and quickness of my half halt.
I identify with the sentiment Dan Fogelberg sings about in "Leader of The Band."
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man,
I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band.
I hope to one day, for a brief, shining moment, ride worthy of all of quality instruction I have received.