Giv­ing Back to The Sport

An FEI-trainer gives a free dres­sage clinic to Pony Club rid­ers look­ing to im­prove their skills.

Dressage Today - - Content - Story and pho­tos by Kim F. Miller

FEI-trainer Sarah Lock­man gives a free dres­sage clinic to Cal­i­for­nia Pony Club rid­ers.

Ninety-five-de­gree tem­per­a­tures were no match for the 16 young rid­ers who rode in Cal­i­for­nia FEI rider and trainer Sarah Lock­man’s free dres­sage clinic this past June. Demon­strat­ing the dis­ci­pline’s broad ap­pli­ca­bil­ity, Lock­man shared fun­da­men­tals with pairs rang­ing from a 12-yearold Beginner Novice even­ter and her 16-year-old Quar­ter Horse/Mor­gan cross to an 18-year-old rider on a hot 8-year-old off-the-track Thor­ough­bred.

A “B” Pony Club grad­u­ate her­self, Lock­man staged the clinic to give back to the sport. “I was a to­tal Pony Club nerd,” she re­calls. “I was a mem­ber of the Reno High Sierra Pony Club and the Sil­ver State Pony Club for years, and I re­mem­ber study­ing for hours ev­ery night. I took it all to heart and I think that the things I learned are one of the rea­sons I’ve be­come suc­cess­ful.”

Since mov­ing to a new fa­cil­ity in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Orange County in 2015, Lock­man has built her busi­ness to a nearly 60-horse pro­gram. Along with de­vel­op­ing and cam­paign­ing sev­eral horses to var­i­ous lev­els, the USDF bronze, sil­ver

and gold medal­ist coached 15 horse-and-rider com­bi­na­tions to spots in the Cal­i­for­nia Dres­sage So­ci­ety/USDF Re­gion 7 Cham­pi­onships in 2016.

Tran­si­tions be­tween and within gaits, de­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing a sup­ple and en­gaged frame and work­ing to­ward con­stant con­nec­tion and quick and sus­tained re­ac­tions to the aids were com­mon themes for most of the pairs in her clinic, no mat­ter their ex­pe­ri­ence, abil­i­ties and goals. Pa­tience and ded­i­ca­tion for the daily work of dres­sage was an un­der­ly­ing theme of the day.

The rid­ers were also treated to lunch and goodie bags, a pre­sen­ta­tion on equine nu­tri­tion and a freestyle demon­stra­tion by Lock­man’s long­time stu­dent Jenny Wet­terau.

Train­ing High­lights

Get­ting her 17.2-hand horse, Ban­ner, into a bet­ter frame in the can­ter was one of Dana Baroldi’s goals for her ses­sion. Ban­ner’s nat­u­rally up­hill build “is great for dres­sage,” Lock­man noted, but he needed to bring his head and neck down to cre­ate a rounder frame. That step is ex­tra im­por­tant for big horses to keep them bal­anced and en­gaged and of­ten it’s more dif­fi­cult to at­tain, she ex­plained. “On a daily ba­sis, you need to work on get­ting him round and through.”

Lock­man said Baroldi would achieve her can­ter goals by start­ing with the trot, a less pow­er­ful gait that makes it eas­ier for the rider to com­mu­ni­cate what she wants—but not a “mid­dle of nowhere trot” or a trot of Ban­ner’s choos­ing, Lock­man clar­i­fied. Us­ing in­side rein to es­tab­lish an in­side bend and a hold­ing out­side rein to bring Ban­ner’s head down, Baroldi worked to reg­u­late the nat­u­rally for­ward horse to a rhythm and de­gree of en­gage­ment that she dic­tated. “If you let him change the rhythm, he’s chang­ing you,” Lock­man ad­vised in a theme that re­curred through the day. The rider sets the rhythm, pace, track, etc., and the horse should main­tain it un­til a cue to do oth­er­wise is given, she stressed. That obe­di­ence is tested with fre­quent gives of the rein to make sure, in Ban­ner’s case, that the in­side bend or low­ered head po­si­tion is main­tained with­out the rein pres­sure. If so, give a quick pat—ide­ally on the withers or neck on the in­side. If not, re­set the aids.

“It’s im­por­tant to be picky,” Lock­man ex­plained. “It might feel mean to be so picky, but horses are herd an­i­mals. When we tell them ex­actly what we want, it brings them com­fort.” Ex­ag­ger­a­tion is some­times an ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing tool. Lock­man told Baroldi to cre­ate more bend and a lower head set “than what might feel right” as a step to­ward de­vel­op­ing the ideal bal­anced frame in the next phases of train­ing.

With such a big, strong horse, Baroldi needed a strong core and her fingers closed firmly on the reins to de­liver and main­tain firm aids. “Your horse has lots of for­ward and you just need to con­trol it,” said Lock­man. When Ban­ner’s trot frame was ready for can­ter, Lock­man of­fered a lit­tle trick to help min­i­mize the “woo-hoo” fac­tor that most rid­ers—and hence, their horses—ex­pe­ri­ence when an­tic­i­pat­ing the can­ter. Baroldi and Ban­ner had done sev­eral trot–halt tran­si­tions, “which is the same prepa­ra­tion as for can­ter” (en­cour­ag­ing the hindquar­ters to gather un­der­neath by sink­ing down into the sad­dle and lean­ing slightly back, cou­pled with a hold­ing rein). While trot­ting on a 20-meter cir­cle, “you’re go­ing to say ‘halt’ with your body, but, in­stead, when you feel like you’ll get a good can­ter, ask for it.” To counter his ten­dency “to get race-horsey”

six­teen rid­ers and many fans en­joyed the Pony Club dres­sage clinic held with dcg rider and trainer sarah Lock­man at Pea­cock fill cques­trian Cen­ter in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s orange County.

Jenna Ed­wards rode her own Belles & Whis­tles in the clinic with Lock­man.

ABOVE: One of Dana Baroldi’s goals dur­ing the clinic was to get her 17.2-hand horse, Ban­ner, more bal­anced and en­gaged in the can­ter.

LEFT: Twelve-year-old Lauren Hay­a­tian re­cently earned her C-1 Pony Club rat­ing and is a Beginner Novice even­ter with the 16-year-old Quar­ter Horse/Mor­gan cross Lit­tle Dude.

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