Train­ing in Por­tu­gal

Tips from rid­ing with Miguel Ralão Duarte

Dressage Today - - Content - By An­nie Morris

An­nie Morris shares tips from rid­ing with Miguel Ralão Duarte.

On a hot day last Au­gust, I ar­rived in Sin­tra, Por­tu­gal, to train for a week with Miguel Ralão Duarte—a rider who was part of Por­tu­gal’s team for the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics and the 2018 World Eques­trian Games (WEG). I met him be­cause he is a head trainer for the PSL (Pure­bred Lusi­tano) Young Horse Pro­gram that I par­tic­i­pate in.

It was so hot that the sun threat­ened to melt us as we un­loaded at the rid­ing cen­ter in Quinta da Beloura. The cen­ter has a few sta­bles rented to dif­fer­ent train­ers and rid­ing schools. It has in­cred­i­ble fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a huge cov­ered arena, a jump­ing arena, an elec­tric walker and brand-new out­door dres­sage are­nas. I brought an 8-year-old Lusi­tano stal­lion named Felix, owned by my em­ployer, Monte Velho, an equine re­sort in Ar­raio­los, Por­tu­gal. Felix has been trained to do some of the up­per­level move­ments, but he is lack­ing in the ba­sics, so I have been re­train­ing him for the last sev­eral months. I was ex­cited for some in­ten­sive help from a top trainer.

I worked all day at the barn and was able to watch Miguel ride some of his horses, in­clud­ing his 2018 WEG mount, Xeno­fonte D’Atela. As a rider, he is fo­cused. He main­tains his balanced and har­mo­nious po­si­tion all the time. I could see him dis­cover an un­der­ly­ing train­ing is­sue dur­ing his ride, ad­dress that

is­sue with an aid or an ex­er­cise and then quickly re­ward the horse with a pat or a break. His vast ex­pe­ri­ence gives him the abil­ity to do this quicker and more cor­rectly than most. I was es­pe­cially in­spired to see him after a dif­fi­cult ex­er­cise re­ward the horse by light­en­ing his seat and al­low­ing a steady hand-gal­lop to re­lease the pres­sure. His horses seem happy work­ing for him and are there­fore will­ing to give 100 per­cent.

Bal­ance Starts in the deet

I was hon­ored to ride one of Miguel’s horses in train­ing, a gray mare named Fa­mous. She was sen­si­tive and a bit hot and built long and hor­i­zon­tal, not uphill. In my les­sons, Miguel gave me some in­cred­i­ble tools to help her use her bal­ance in the best pos­si­ble way. The first thing he asked me to do was to move my weight back in the sad­dle, closer to her tail. We were stopped and I was try­ing to fig­ure out what he meant, but the an­swer ended up hap­pen­ing nat­u­rally when I scooted my seat slightly back in the sad­dle. The solution was to push a bit into the front of my feet—near my toes—to get the bal­ance back closer to the back of the horse and off the front end. Oth­er­wise, I could end up too close to her withers if she started trav­el­ing down­hill. The ac­tual move­ment is nearly in­vis­i­ble: The feet stay un­der your seat and re­main ba­si­cally hor­i­zon­tal. Just the small weight shift back makes all the dif­fer­ence.

When we were mov­ing, I could put that pres­sure in my feet and main­tain or im­prove the bal­ance in the sad­dle. Fa­mous re­sponded well when I shifted the weight cor­rectly be­cause she could then al­low her withers to lift and the base of her neck to lower in a much rounder frame but with a more uphill bal­ance. The pres­sure in my feet grounded me and had the ef­fect of re­bal­anc­ing or half halt­ing the horse, which is a great tool to use for many oc­ca­sions, es­pe­cially on this mare and on all the horses I have rid­den since.

vse of the Reins

Whether I was rid­ing in the snaf­fle or the dou­ble bri­dle, Miguel had some great ad­vice about the use of the reins. He wanted me to keep the inside rein steady

to keep the po­si­tion of the flex­ion the same all the time. He ex­plained that if the horse braces or loses the bal­ance, I was to try to keep that inside rein steady no mat­ter what. To fix any through­ness prob­lems, he said to use the out­side rein as if it were a valve. You can let the horse go longer or half halt him shorter on the out­side of the body. The prob­lem that can be cre­ated with too much sup­pling on the inside rein is the inside rein cre­ates a fake give when the horse re­leases the jaw. The inside rein re­leases the jaw but not all the other joints and mus­cles along the topline. When forced to keep the inside hand quiet, I found ways to use my seat and leg to im­prove the through­ness much more hon­estly than with the quick-and-easy inside rein “fix.” Then, the horse was much more hon­est be­tween the aids and achieved true through­ness in the body.

Sit Still

Felix is a bouncy and big-mov­ing horse. To fol­low his move­ment, I was mis­tak­enly try­ing to re­lax all through my body. You want the en­ergy to move through­out your body, but I was al­low­ing a bit too much move­ment as well. Be­cause of this, the horse was un­able to find his ideal bal­ance be­cause my bal­ance was un­steady.

Miguel ad­vised me to sit still, which made a huge im­prove­ment. For ex­am­ple, in the can­ter I felt the horse rock­ing along. When I wanted to im­prove the jump, I was try­ing to in­crease the swing in my seat. In­stead, he asked me to sit still but ac­ti­vate the horse with my legs. I could feel the mus­cles around my core en­gag­ing as I tried to stop the ex­ag­ger­ated rock­ing move­ment. Sud­denly, the en­ergy was mov­ing in a more up-and-down di­rec­tion and the horse be­came more ac­tive un­der­neath me. The use of my core mus­cles was even more pro­nounced in the trot. I wanted to bounce the horse with my seat into the swingy trot, but I had to sit more qui­etly. I could feel the burn in my core, es­pe­cially in the mus­cles un­der my rib cage, and then my po­si­tion be­came a built-in half halt to im­prove the bal­ance.

Over­all, train­ing with Miguel was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Us­ing the pres­sure in the feet, a stead­ier inside rein and sit­ting more still were my main take­aways. Hav­ing the help on the ground and watch­ing a great rider train made for an ed­u­ca­tional week that I will not for­get.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.