14 Tips from Olympian Laura Graves

In a Dres­sage for Jump­ing clinic, Graves fo­cuses on ef­fec­tive rid­ing that ap­plies to rid­ers of all dis­ci­plines.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Lind­say Paulsen • Pho­tos by -ump Me­dia

In a Dres­sage for Jump­ing clinic Graves fo­cuses on quiet ef­fec­tive rid­ing

Dres­sage fans are ac­cus­tomed to the sight of Laura Graves rid­ing her own Dutch Warm­blood, Ver­dades, un­der­neath palm trees at the Global Dres­sage Fes­ti­val in Florida or head­ing down cen­ter­line at an in­ter­na­tional event in Europe. Or­di­nar­ily, one wouldn’t ex­pect to find her coach­ing at a barn full of hunters, jumpers and eq­ui­tation rid­ers work­ing with short­ened stir­rups and brown tack in a ring void of dres­sage let­ters.

But last Au­gust, au­di­tors from all dis­ci­plines—hunters to even­ters to dres­sage rid­ers—gath­ered at Ohana Eques­trian Pre­serve in Aldie, Vir­ginia, to lis­ten to Graves share her wis­dom in a Dres­sage for Jump­ing clinic hosted by the Washington In­ter­na­tional Horse Show and spon­sored by BarnMan­ager.

Kama Godek LLC’s Team Kama won the clinic as the grand prize of the 2017 Washington In­ter­na­tional Horse Show Barn Night Video Con­test. In the clinic, Graves pro­vided one-on-one flat­work in­struc­tion for nine rid­ers of Team Kama, in­clud­ing Piper Tyrrell, Erin Gil­more, Ni­cole Butchko, Kama Godek, Maya Aryal, Casey Os­born, Ste­fanie Oben­haupt, Abby Grabowski and Ste­fan Parker. Based at Ohana Eques­trian Pre­serve, Godek is a Grand Prix show jumper who has com­peted in­ter­na­tion­ally and runs an in­ter­na­tional equine sales busi­ness.

Al­though the scenery and style of rid­ing were dif­fer­ent from the norm, Graves’ ad­vice was as ap­pli­ca­ble as ever for ev­ery rider, re­gard­less of dis­ci­pline. Fol­low­ing are in­sights from the clinic:

1. No mat­ter the dis­ci­pline, the chal­lenges are the same.

“It’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing to see that whether you’re jumpers or even­ters or just dres­sage peo­ple, ev­ery­one is al­ways strug­gling with the same thing: get­ting horses in front of the leg and straight,” Graves said.

2. zou have to de­cide how hard you want to work.

This was a phrase that Graves re­peated con­tin­u­ally through­out the day. She ex­plained that it’s nec­es­sary for the rider to set a stan­dard of how the horse should react to the rider’s aids from the be­gin­ning. “As for me, I’m lazy,” Graves said in a state­ment that might have come as a sur­prise to au­di­tors. “Do as lit­tle as pos­si­ble but as much as nec­es­sary.”

With both be­gin­ner and ad­vanced rid­ers, Graves asked: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard are you work­ing?” Ide­ally, she ex­plained, she likes her horses to be per­form­ing op­ti­mally when she is ex­ert­ing min­i­mal ef­fort—prefer­ably at a 1 or 2. “I never feel sorry for some­one who is out of breath at the end of their ride,” she said. Through­out the day, she worked with vir­tu­ally all rid­ers on sharp­en­ing their horse’s re­sponses to the aids. “A horse must take your ‘per­fect’ aid se­ri­ously,” she said. “And any other re­ac­tion re­quires a cor­rec­tion. You need to be hon­est with your­self if you’re get­ting the re­ac­tion that you want and that you’re get­ting it on time.”

If a rider asked the horse to go for­ward and he did not re­spond im­me­di­ately with the ap­pro­pri­ate amount of ef­fort, Graves told her to im­me­di­ately sur­prise the horse with a sharper aid. Once the horse re­sponded ap­pro­pri­ately, it was the rider’s job to dis­ap­pear and be quiet as a re­ward.

“How hard are you work­ing?” she would ask. “Re­lax,” she told Erin Gil­more on the chest­nut geld­ing, Sirocco, as they were work­ing in the can­ter. “Re­lax so much. Just don’t fall off. Do noth­ing. If he breaks to trot, then we at­tack it. Say, I dare you to trot. You’ll find out what hap­pens if you trot.

Give him a cou­ple of chances. Right now, I don’t care how spec­tac­u­lar the can­ter is. If you’re al­ready work­ing at an 8, there isn’t much room for im­prove­ment.”

3. eet more by do­ing less.

“If I am work­ing at an 8 and my horse is giv­ing me a 5, then my abil­ity to make that horse a 10 doesn’t ex­ist,” Graves said. “If you’re us­ing all of your en­ergy and get­ting a medi­ocre per­for­mance, you won’t be able to get a bet­ter per­for­mance. Get more by do­ing less.”

4. Ef­fec­tive­ness comes first.

“If you’re not an ef­fec­tive rider, I don’t re­ally care how nice you look on a horse,” she said. “Part of what makes some­one a beau­ti­ful rider is be­ing so ef­fec­tive that they can be quiet. Your horse has to be sharp so that he re­acts to an in­vis­i­ble aid.”

5. Some­times you must look down.

“Ev­ery­one spends all their time telling you to look up, but you can’t know what’s go­ing on some­times un­less you look down. Watch your reins. Look down,” she said. This not only ap­plied to rid­ers who let their reins grow in length, but also those who tended to want to over­bend the horse in the neck or had horses who tended to be crooked.

6. dind a Way to Say “zes.”

“If you get so caught up in chas­ing the mis­takes, the horses never learn to search for the right an­swer. You have to find a way to tell them ‘yes,’ in­stead of al­ways say­ing ‘no.’”

7. areate an ea­ger part­ner.

“Make your horse feel like it’s fun to go for­ward. When we take away the horses’ abil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in the con­ver­sa­tion, they’re go­ing to stop try­ing. When I train horses, my goal is to make ea­ger part­ners. When I walk into my barn, all of my horses want at­ten­tion. And I don’t feed them a lot of treats. What’s in this for me is that I’m try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate re­ally lit­tle de­tails with some­thing that doesn’t speak my language.”

v.S. Olympian kaura er­aves (mid­dle) coaches rider Maya Aryal as trainer and erand Prix show jumper iama eodek looks on.

er­aves’ focus through­out the clinic wCS GNEOTRCIKNI GėGEěKUGNGSS that al­lowed rid­ers to be quiet and el­e­gant in the sad­dle.

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