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Dressage Today - - Clinic -

The piaffe is a highly col­lected, ca­denced, el­e­vated di­ag­o­nal move­ment, giv­ing the im­pres­sion of be­ing on the spot. The horse’s back is sup­ple and elas­tic. The quar­ters are slightly low­ered, the haunches with ac­tive hocks are well en­gaged, giv­ing great free­dom, light­ness and mo­bil­ity to the shoul­ders and fore­hand. Each di­ag­o­nal pair of feet is raised and re­turned to the ground al­ter­nately with an even ca­dence. in which the click meant “Yes!” How­ever, you can use any sig­nal. For me, with Robin Hood (one of the com­pet­i­tive Grand Prix horses I trained, who is owned by Louise and Doug Leatherdale), I cleared my throat as a re­ward, which is some­thing you can do in the ring. It’s a vo­cal cue that means “Good!” which is rec­og­nized more quickly than pat­ting, walk­ing or re­leas­ing the aids.

Find­ing the mo­ment to re­ward gets your horse think­ing and work­ing for you. That mo­ment might be a stride, a feel­ing in the hand, an im­prove­ment in the rhythm be­cause the horse en­gaged his tummy and lifted his back or maybe he truly ac­cepted the shoul­der-in bal­ance for a mo­ment. How­ever you re­ward your horse, he will know you ap­pre­ci­ate his ef­fort.

uhe aon­cen­trated Rider

Con­cen­tra­tion isn’t just about shoul­derin—it’s about ev­ery­thing. In­stead of feel­ing un­fo­cused, you need to stay in the zone. When you lose con­cen­tra­tion, you can’t be con­sis­tent. He won’t un­der­stand if it’s some­times im­por­tant to do a qual­ity shoul­der-in and some­times not. You’re wast­ing his time if you’re not to­tally con­cen­trat­ing. Con­cen­trate on find­ing pos­i­tive prob­lem-solv­ing so­lu­tions to frus­tra­tion and other neg­a­tive emo­tions.

Frus­trated? Maybe he doesn’t un­der­stand. Be en­ter­pris­ing to find a way to ap­proach your ex­er­cise so you get a dif­fer­ent re­sult. Re-ex­plain a let­ter to him. Or is the prob­lem pain? Lack of strength? Is it the bull­dozer work­ing next door? Maybe horses get headaches like we do— we cer­tainly know that horses are of­ten bet­ter one day than an­other. It’s best to re­mem­ber that to­mor­row’s an­other day.

Feel­ing neg­a­tive? Your horse can’t see his way through neg­a­tiv­ity. He must ex­pe­ri­ence a joy­ous in­flu­ence when he is with you.

Olympian Kyra Kyrk­lund says that those who truly ex­cel sim­ply don’t give up. I would add that they con­sciously uti­lize tools that will help the horse un­der­stand and en­joy the work. They are aware of and at­ten­tive to the horse’s phys­i­cal and men­tal needs. They are the­o­ret­i­cally knowl­edgable, ex­pe­ri­enced and able to con­cen­trate on the pos­i­tive job at hand. They’re kind and fair. The for­tu­nate horses in that po­si­tion feel proud to work for the rider and are phys­i­cally able to do the best job pos­si­ble.

Sue Blinks started her dres­sage ed­u­ca­tion while grow­ing up in Rochester, Min­nesota, with trainer Mar­i­anne Lud­wig. She then spent two years work­ing with Wal­ter Chris­tensen in Ger­many. She was a mem­ber of the U.S. dres­sage team in the 1998 Rome World Eques­trian Games (WEG). She was also a mem­ber of the bronzemedal U.S. team at the 2000 Syd­ney Olympic Games and the sil­ver-medal team at the 2002 Jerez WEG, rid­ing Flim Flam, owned by Fritz Kun­drun. Dur­ing that time, she trained with Dr. Uwe Schul­ten-Baumer and Is­abell Werth. She also rode with U.S. coach Klaus Balken­hol lead­ing up to the Games in Jerez. In 2004, Blinks be­gan rid­ing Louise and Doug Leatherdale’s horses and cur­rently rides Ha­banero (His High­ness), owned by Louise Leatherdale. Blinks lives in Welling­ton, Florida, and Columbia, Con­necti­cut.

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