Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kamila DuPont Clinic

Frisco and I participated in a clinic with accomplished Grand Prix Dressage rider Kamila DuPont March 10th and 11th. Kamila trained Frisco's maternal grandsire, the Holsteiner stallion Conquistador, to Grand Prix. I was very excited for her to see a grandson of Conquistador's. Kamila gave a great clinic. Her approach is very considerate of the horse. My favorite quote of hers was "The horse will tell you when you can add a conflicting aid". She repeated it into the camera for me so I would not forget!! When riding a young horse, there is a fine line. Frisco is quite mature in his ability to understand subtle aids. And yet, he is still young. Kamila wanted me to be a little more clear about my aids. She felt that at his age, she, from the ground should be able to tell exactly what I am asking for, or the aid is not clear enough for him. She was not asking me to make him dull to subtle aids, she just wanted me to be more specific with the positioning of my legs/seatbones/weight aids, and more specific also with the rein pressure. Frisco, when tense, has a tendency to try to hop into canter and get stuck behind the aids. He does it in such a way that it is hard to correct, because when he does it, it is clear that he is just trying to anticipate what I want and offer it up. As Irene Hill used to tell me...when the horse does the wrong thing out of anticipation, it is because they are trying to offer what they know to you. How can you ever be unhappy with your horse for that? But the clarity Kamila brought to the situation was this: if I am 100% crystal clear with exactly what I want, Frisco will eventually learn that it is about the aids, not the movements. Frisco will stop anticipating, and start waiting for the aids, when he realizes that I am going to present them in a very specific way, and the same way every time. I was not prepared for how quickly this new-found confidence in the aids would affect Frisco. The difference in our rides in the subsequent weeks since that clinic is night and day. Frisco has a lot of self-condfidence, and, he is a good little trooper about always trying to do what I want. But, the confidence he now has in what the aids mean is amazing. Our recent rides have achieved a new level of communication and dialogue.
To further explain our clinic lessons, Kamila wanted me to have a crystal clear picture in my mind of the canter that I wanted, and then keep that picture during the entire time we cantered. She wanted me to be much more quick to correct him when he anticipated and offered the wrong thing, not in a "you were a bad pony" sort of way, but rather a "here, let me make this more clear for you" sort of way. The way to do that was to always use the same aids every time. So, if I have more pressure on the outside rein, that means we are trotting, whether we were just in canter and I now want trot, or we are in trot and I want him to keep trotting. I must keep my seat, legs, weight, and reins in the trot position if I am to expect him to keep trotting. Any fuzziness on my part would simply be an invitation to him to offer something else. Therefore, if I am cantering, and I want to straighten him or balance him or adjust his alignment and I need to be able to use the outside rein to do this, I must first make certain that all of my aids very clearly are still saying "we are definitely, without question, cantering". Only then can I apply just enough outside rein to accomplish the job, and only so much as his stage of work at that moment can tolerate for him to understand that this conflicting aid does not actually mean trot, but rather means that I want him to make the circle smaller or straighten up his alignment. It is up to me to make my horse confident in the task, confident in the meaning of the aids, and to be crystal clear at all times.  "The horse will tell you when you can add a conflicting aid."  Thanks for that gem, Kamila!! We had a great time and I look forward to future opportunities to ride with her. Thank you Dow for helping me haul down to Las Vegas, and for taking pictures of us, and to Brenda for videoing on Saturday.