Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 5, 2017 – The final day of the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic was held at Hampton Green Farm where the horses and riders were under the instruction of Robert Dover, Jan Ebeling, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz and Adrienne Lyle. Today, Olympian Adrienne Lyle encouraged her riders to take ownership of their horse’s movements starting with the very first step.
Rebekah Mingari and Allure S
Lyle’s first rider was Rebekah Mingari and an 11-year-old KWPN mare, mare, Allure S. Lyle and Mingari worked on straightening the mare, who liked to hold on Mingari’s right rein, by implementing a renvers exercise. Throughout the lesson, Lyle also emphasized the importance of riding from the leg to the hand to increase throughness.
“Push with your leg up to the right rein,” Lyle instructed. “Renvers through the right rein if she comes up. Stand up off the right, think the renvers movement, counter flex if you need to.”
They continued to use a renvers like feeling to keep the mare straight on Mingari’s right rein as well as implementing transitions from a collected to medium trot to encourage the horse to stretch down into the contact.
“Big trot to little trot to keep the right side connected,” Lyle suggested. “Think of the same exercise with passage. Forward to medium trot, back to passage. The passage is just a closed up trot but remember that your connection is the priority. Both legs on her when she sucks back, when she’s strong and you want to back off, hold the right rein to stand her up.”
To improve the quality of the horse’s passage, the pair worked on dropping the mare’s head and neck down so she would reach more into the contact.
“The lower you get her neck the more she can use her back,” Lyle reminded. “She still has to want to stretch in the passage. Close up her stride and lower her neck. You want her low in the base of her neck. She needs to learn when you ask for more energy it doesn’t mean that she gets too strong. Ask yourself, ‘Can I close you up?’ and don’t be afraid to experiment with what works for her. Gymnasticize her body. Can you relax and have her stretch? That’s what you want.”
“Don’t drive her, let her carry you,” Lyle suggested. “Now she’s letting you bump her with the leg and drop her head and neck instead of getting hollow. You want more energy, but rounder. She’s not allowed to get higher at the base of her neck when you ask for more expression.”
In order to help Mingari regulate the mare’s tempo in passage, Lyle walked next to her and instructed Mingari to not let the horse go past her. This forced the rider to push the horse into the contact with her legs, and compress the stride to get a nice bouncy movement.
“Tap from behind to get more expression,” Lyle suggested. “Squeeze with both legs, but don’t let the stride get bigger. If she scoots out in front of you, half-halt to bring her back. Your legs say medium trot, but you don’t want to get her legs to move at the expense of the connection. When she’s unsteady, close her up and push her off the inside leg.”
When the mare began to worry and found anxiety in contact and used the piaffe to escape it, Lyle had the pair reinforce the connection by working on more lateral movements. They implemented exercises like shoulder-in, renvers and leg yields.
“She must allow you to hold the right rein,” Lyle stated, as the pair worked on suppling to the inside with contact. “You should be able to open the left rein and if she falls when you do that, you need more leg. If she scoots away when you relax the left rein, you need more on the right rein. Don’t let your hand do the job your leg should, make her accountable for standing up off your leg.”
Callie Jones and Don Philippo
Lyle’s second lesson was with Callie Jones and her horse Don Philippo, where they worked on sharpening the gelding’s reaction to her aids and keeping his energy forward.
“From the beginning, make sure he’s taking you,” Lyle advised. “Encourage him to be motivated on his own. Really fire him up. If he’s not giving enough reaction, sharpen him.”
When the gelding started to resent going forward by becoming inverted and throwing his head up, Lyle had the pair work on a circle in shoulder-in.
“The only reason he came up like that was because his hind legs got slow,” Lyle stated. “Be able to quicken him with your leg. Make sure you position him to be able to recycle that energy so he doesn’t throw away connection. Test it, wake him up to your leg. Get a bigger reaction with your leg. Kick, let him jump forward. Tap, tap. Create more energy, but this time don’t let the stride get bigger. Increase expression in that stride not just in a forward medium. More energy but not bigger. Increase the miles per hour without the stride shooting out from underneath you. Make your leg quicker.”
Once the gelding became more forward, they began to work on half-passes in the canter, where Lyle encouraged Jones to keep ownership of the tempo and collection. Lyle had the pair start a half-pass in the corner and ride a diagonal line. Around X, she had Jones collect the gelding into a canter that could be used for a pirouette. Once they achieved proper collection, Jones could move the gelding forward into a change.
“Collecting him gives him a lovely front leg that bends and articulates,” Lyle said. “Own the half-pass by putting the pirouette canter in the middle of it. Hold back in the half-pass to ride forward in the change. In the middle, bend his hind legs and let him move out at the end.”
“Everything is so smooth and you have a great feel,” Lyle encouraged her. “Your next puzzle piece is sharpening up both ends.”
Kayla Kadlubek and Freewill
Lyle’s last ride of the day was Kayla Kadlubek and her horse, Freewill. Right away, Lyle addressed using the rider’s legs to encourage the horse to stretch down, rather than her hands.
“A steady connection is a priority,” Lyle stated. “Don’t let him talk you into wiggling — bump with your legs any time he gets unsteady. Don’t get into it with the hand. Sit back, hold in your elbows and push with the leg.”
Lyle had the pair work on stretching the gelding’s head and neck down to improve the contact. She had Kadlubek put her horse on a circle where they worked on shoulder-fore and shoulder-in as well as spiraling in and out on a circle to keep the gelding’s neck low and round.
“When he drops down like you ask, your leg comes away and that’s his reward,” Lyle said. “A gentle push if he starts to disconnect but the contact stays steady. Let the stretch down be a reward. Pretend you’re a water skier, keep a gentle contact that pulls you to the end of the arena.”
To encourage Freewill to stretch more, Lyle had Kadlubek ask for a medium trot while capturing the energy in her reins.
“There’s a difference between stretching and reaching,” Lyle reminded. “In the shoulder-in, take a feel and make him rounder, by the end he’s wanting to stretch. Close your outside rein and think extended trot with your seat. He can only stretch if he takes that connection down with him.”
In the canter, especially in the half-pass, they continued to work on stretching the gelding down in his neck. Lyle reminded Kadlubek to keep the horse long and low, not short as they worked on a haunces-in exercise to prepare for a pirouette.
“Keep thinking extended canter in the pirouette,” Lyle reminded. “Keep the energy in your seat. Pick up the energy with your leg, but never at the expense of the connection. Make him respond without throwing his head, use your calf not the spur. When he wants to come up, push with seat and legs and take him lower and rounder. Let him stretch down into the canter.”
To improve the pirouette, Lyle encouraged the rider to ride less with her hands and guide the gelding with her legs.
“Keep your inside rein guiding rather than pulling back,” Lyle instructed. “The more you bend, the harder it is to turn. Don’t make it so hard by bending him at the base of his neck. Spiral your shoulder-in into the pirouette, only keep as much bend as you have in the shoulder-in. Make it tighter by sitting towards the center of the circle. You have control of his balance.”