“Ride with your mind” - sounds like a hoakie teaching method that anyone but a dressage rider would embrace. WRONG! I was more than happy to have Jennifer Truett teach a two day clinic at my farm using the RWYM techniques to myself and other students. It was time well spent on a beautiful fall weekend where EVERYONE, not just the riders but auditors as well, left inspired and excited to ride on Monday.
First off, we were introduced to new terms such as ”Vertical Alignment”, “Plugging In” and “Bearing Down.” Jennifer took each student on their horse to the arena mirror and showed them what their alignment on the horse looked like. She diagnosed if riders were hollow backed or round backed. Once this was determined, stirrups were shortened to allow a 45 degree angle of the thigh bone to the ground to get the rider to line up her shoulder, elbow, hip and heel in an imaginary straight line. Then she asked riders to find their seatbones on the saddle. Once the new stirrup length was established, every rider felt their seat bones and were able to “plug In” to the “receptor” in the horse’s back muscles, much like a wall socket and an electrical cord. Next was the “Bear Down” exercise to assist the rider in learning to use her abdominal muscles to become more secure in the saddle.
Once these basics were practiced, the next step was to learn HOW to breathe. This was my personal light bulb moment. Most riders don’t think much about breathing and how it affects their relationship to the horse. But I became a believer when Jennifer was able to diagnose the main challenge I was having with Rivelle, the 10 year old Westfalen mare that I showed Third Level in 2012. She was extremely unhappy in her right reins and had a few evasions to let me know she was not a happy horse. Jennifer hopped on Rivelle on Saturday and was able to feel that she was not breathing efficiently out of her right lung. After the riding session, I remounted and worked on really paying attention to my breathing. I take deep breaths but apparently was only using the top half of my lungs, not the lower half or even on the sides of my lungs. Jennifer had me do some mounted breathing exercises to change the way I inhaled and exhaled while riding and the difference in my horse and riding position was amazing! Rivelle started to relax and BREATHE herself, stopping her evasions and all of a sudden we developed an even better partnership than I thought could happen in 30 minutes of the RWYM method!
Sunday was a review of our body biomechanics and riders worked on more specific mounted exercises using our new found seat bones and breathing. A significant exercise involved NOT using the reins to pull the horse’s head and make them turn. Jennifer had riders make“square” turns, imagining that they were a bus driver turning a bus around a corner. The bus does not bend, the front end moves first, then the backend where the engine is located follows, there is no bending in the bus. This is the image we should use to turn the horse – use our legs instead of the reins. The steering is between the shoulders, the engine is in the hindquarters. The rider should use their outside leg to turn the horse’s shoulder, allowing the hindquarters to follow. The
inside front leg of the horse should reach in the direction the horse is turning and the rest of the horse will trail behind. Turning should be easy, not so much work on the rider’s part! We also added to our equestrian dictionary over the two days of the clinic with new terms and phrases to help ; Bearing Down, Narrowness, Arm Cuffs,Sidereins, BAMM, Garden Hose, “KIS” – Keep It
Simple, Reins are for whoo, legs are for go, Train with your look, I give you permission.
There were so many “Ah Ha” moments that I could write a short novel about my experience over this weekend. I am very lucky to have Jennifer coming back to the farm for another clinic on December 2nd and 3rd. I am excited to be able to show her how Rivelle and I have been improving on the knowledge she imparted to me during my first clinic. Stay tuned for more exciting clinic news on my blog~