West Palm Beach, FL – January 25, 2014 – The Wellington Classic Dressage Master Symposium clinic kicked off today at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, FL. An estimated 300 auditors watched a series of eight halfhour sessions with the clever and sharp Kyra Kyrklund.
“Horses bite in the front, kick in the back and are slippery in the middle,” she said during her first session of the day.
Kyrklund engaged the audience with a dynamic and interactive series of lessons. Every rider was called to the center of the ring at some point for Kyrklund to demonstrate something for the benefit of the rider or the audience. While she mostly taught and spoke, she did get on the first and last horses of the day.
At the beginning of the day, Kyrklund explained that her aim was to address the fundamental and at times overwhelming question of, “What is collection? How do you get it?” During her sessions, she frequently traced horse’s hindquarters and underbellies for riders to feel the kind of lift of their horse’s back which they should achieve.
Kyrklund, a witty and comfortable public speaker, employed many metaphors throughout the day. Imagers varied from baking a cake to landing an airplane, dancing together, blowing a balloon, bouncing a ball, being chased by lions and being confronted with an earth splitting crevice before your horse.
As Neve Myburgh and Topper practiced downward transitions from canter to walk, Kyrklund dropped her airplane reference: “Think of an airplane that lands on the hind wing, not the front.”
“Is it your rhythm or her rhythm?” she asked of rider Michelle Hall aboard Whimsical. “Is she dancing with you, or is she doing a solo there?”
One Thing at a Time
Kyrklund made clear that one important aspect of effective training is to make it manageable. During the first session with Heather Bender and Blackstone Interagro, Kyrklund explained her philosophy on focusing or highlighting certain aspects of a problem and then chipping away.
“Change is really difficult,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that you can only change one thing at a time.”
Kyrklund explained that it is easy to focus on too much all at once, which means you risk frying the brain of the rider or the horse.
At the end of the day, as she worked on collected canter with Ilse Schwarz’ mount Don Joseph, Kyrklund talked as she worked.
“I don’t ask for 100% all the pieces,” she said. “I just want him to change. I’m not too greedy. Okay, it’s hard work, but if he offers more, not always do I ask for more.”
Whisper Instead of a Scream
Another important message Kyrklund stressed today was the negative effects of how loudly riders often train their horses.
“They feel a fly, so why don’t they feel a leg or a spur?” she asked. “Mostly because we’ve been talking and talking and talking, and now they’re not listening. We have to train them to listen to a whisper instead of a scream.”
Kyrklund was always sure to back up her images with concrete instructions or exercises, making them easier to understand.
Later during ride six of the day, Kyrklund told Amy Swerdlin on Scholastica, “Whisper with the spur, and if she doesn’t listen, then maybe you have to shout once. Then go back to the whisper.”
Safety and Manners
An additional benefit of Kyrklund working in the saddle was the refreshing commentary that accompanied her getting on the horses. As she mounted Blackstone Interagro, she stressed the importance of safely readjusting one’s stirrups. She advised that all learn how to properly adjust one handed while keeping a foot in the stirrup and the other hand on both reins.
“Even if your horse is nice, you never know what the idiot next door is going to do,” she said.
After getting on Don Joseph, Kyrklund asked Ilse Schwarz if she trained him to stand at the block, as he stood quite patiently. Kyrklund went on to share that she teaches all of her horses to stand still until asked to move off.
“I give all my horses sugar when I get on,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to teach them to stand still. Nowadays, my horses don’t move anywhere.”
Almost all of the riders’ leg positions were picked on today in varying degrees for being too far back. Kyrklund noted that horses’ ‘sweet spots’ are located closer to the girth.
“Almost imagine you sit in a chair seat,” she told many riders. Riders will have a chance to apply the lessons from today when they return Sunday for the second day of the Wellington Classic Dressage Master Symposium.
More news from the Wellington Classic Dressage Master Symposium: Wellington Classic Dressage Master Symposium: Taking it to the Next Level: The Horses Must Carry Themselves