Eval­u­at­ing Progress

Biome­chan­ics ex­pert Su­sanne von Di­etze cri­tiques a Sec­ond Level com­bi­na­tion.

Dressage Today - - Clinic -

Amanda Peer sub­mit­ted Photo A a year ago, which I cri­tiqued in the Au­gust 2017 is­sue of Dres­sage To­day. At the time, she and her horse, Caliente, were pre­par­ing to move up to Sec­ond Level. Since then, they have suc­cess­fully com­peted through Sec­ond Level and Amanda has sub­mit­ted a more re­cent photo in or­der to eval­u­ate her progress.

Study­ing the dif­fer­ence in the two pic­tures, I can only con­grat­u­late Amanda and Caliente on their de­vel­op­ment in Photo B. Caliente ap­pears to have grown! His neck and chest have clearly de­vel­oped and even though the an­gle does not al­low full view of his back, the croup ap­pears well mus­cled and round. The move­ment has changed, too. I can see that his hind legs move more pur­pose­fully—with less dust and more lift—and the shoul­ders are car­ried bet­ter.

In my cri­tique of the ear­lier photo (Photo A), I com­mented that Amanda’s ba­si­cally cor­rect seat was a bit pas­sive and she needed to be­come more ac­tive and part of the horse’s move­ment in or­der to move up to Sec­ond Level. In the more re­cent photo, I can see that she has ac­com­plished this.

Amanda’s seat now looks deeper and more con­nected. She looks like she is sup­port­ing Caliente in his work. I will men­tion that her lower leg is a bit turned out and her hands could be car­ried more freely, but the over­all im­pres­sion of more con­nec­tion and higher-qual­ity move­ment is what strikes me most when I com­pare these two pic­tures. Amanda’s home­work was well done. But as my own trainer tells me: “This looks good—now try to make it bet­ter!”

In or­der to of­fer in­sight for fur­ther de­vel­op­ment, let’s study the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two pic­tures. Even though Caliente’s mus­cles in his topline have de­vel­oped well, he is, again, slightly be­hind the ver­ti­cal and should carry his neck and head bet­ter. Es­pe­cially in this phase of the can­ter (the land­ing stride) the poll

needs to be the high­est point and the nose should be reach­ing for­ward.

I can see that Amanda is con­cen­trat­ing on per­form­ing well. She is aim­ing to re­ally keep the horse to­gether, to cre­ate more en­gine from be­hind and to help him in a more col­lected bal­ance. But she needs to be very care­ful that in this ef­fort she does not close the horse’s frame in the front. Her very slight habit of look­ing down gives her seat and Caliente a down­hill fo­cus. Amanda should try to look up proudly over her horse’s ears. This alone can make a dif­fer­ence and give the can­ter a more up­hill fo­cus and di­rec­tion.

An­other tip I would give to Amanda is in re­gard to the tim­ing of her hands in con­nec­tion to an up­right bal­ance in her body in can­ter. In an ideal can­ter, the horse has a round jump. Imag­ine that horse and rider are like two balls that are stacked on top of each other. When the bot­tom ball starts rolling for­ward, the ball on top needs to roll in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to be able to stay in bal­ance on top. This is a very im­por­tant im­age, be­cause many rid­ers roll their seat and hands in the same di­rec­tion as the horse. This con­se­quently leads to heav­i­ness in the move­ment and a more down­hill can­ter. To en­cour­age self-car­riage and up­hill qual­ity within the stride, Amanda should stretch up with her body and push her hands for­ward and up dur­ing the land­ing phase of the can­ter. With more “for­ward” and “up” think­ing in her own body, it will be eas­ier for her to cor­rect her leg po­si­tion and have her horse more in front of her leg, too.

When the horse has jumped off the ground in can­ter and is in the mo­ment of sus­pen­sion, it is al­ready de­ter­mined where the horse will land. At this point, if the rider in­ter­feres with the land­ing, she can only dis­turb the horse’s bal- ance. In can­ter, the rider can­not change any­thing af­ter take-off, but she can give the next stride a bet­ter di­rec­tion. That means when rid­ing the can­ter, you must al­ways think fu­tur­is­ti­cally. You must work for the next stride and stay out of the horse’s way in the land­ing. For ex­am­ple, look­ing down slightly is fo­cus­ing on the land­ing, but if you look ahead to where the next stride should be, you are au­to­mat­i­cally chang­ing the tim­ing of the aids.

To check that you are sit­ting with in­de­pen­dent hands, re­mem­ber that you must be able to feel the ex­act same con­tact in both reins dur­ing take-off and land­ing. In this pic­ture, it looks like Caliente is jump­ing a bit into the rein dur­ing land­ing and then, to avoid the stronger con­tact dur­ing land­ing, he low­ers his head and brings his nose more be­hind the ver­ti­cal. If you were to watch this in a video, you would see that it leads to a slight up-and-down nod­ding of the horse’s head in can­ter. I call these horses the “Yes-Say­ers.” This nod­ding mo­tion im­plies that the horse is not fully bal­anced from be­hind.

I can see that Caliente’s topline and neck mus­cles have al­ready im­proved a lot within the span of a year and I imag­ine that he will con­tinue to im­prove. How­ever, in sit­u­a­tions such as rid­ing a dres­sage test, old habits of­ten be­come vis­i­ble again.

As I look at this new pic­ture, I would now tell Amanda to trust her horse. She should seek fur­ther im­prove­ment by push­ing her hands and her horse’s neck more for­ward to achieve a more up­hill frame. Her scores will im­prove with this.

Amanda should be proud of her de­vel­op­ment and should re­flect this in her own pos­ture, too. Then her up­per body will open up and she and Caliente can shine with more power and har­mony.

BAmanda Peer rides Caliente, an Olden­burg geld­ing. Photo A was fea­tured in the Au­gust 2017 is­sue of Dres­sage To­day, while Photo B is a more re­cent photo.


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