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