Middleburg, VA – Oct. 21, 2019 – During a two-day clinic at the 2019 Rutledge Farm Sessions Olympian Ali Brock welcomed eight dressage riders up through the levels. Throughout the clinic, hosted in Middleburg, Virginia, Brock drilled down into the importance of balance in self-carriage and effective aids.
“When I teach clinics, I always want to make sure the riders come home with at least one thing [to work on],” Brock said. “I think the recurring theme of this weekend’s clinic has been balancing the horse underneath the rider’s seat, so that the rider is keenly aware of balancing the horse’s body and not riding off the horse’s mouth.”
Check out 24 educational tips Brock discussed with the riders and auditors during the clinic!
ON BALANCE IN SELF-CARRIAGE
1. As a rider, you must be particular about how the horse is balanced through turns and corners. I don’t want the feeling that they are pulling down and accelerating through the turn. The corner is the setup for all of your movements. It’s a repeatable exercise that’s easy to not do correctly.
2. Be precise. Be precise. Be precise. Be very particular with what he is doing with his body. Do not compromise. If you don’t like the balance, it’s your job to regulate it. Rebalance him so that is not leaning.
3. Expect him to carry himself. You want to feel him carry himself differently under you. He must stay upright between your hand, seat and your legs. Reiterate to your horse that he needs to lift up and meet your seat every stride. He needs to be jumping through himself, not pulling through the reins.
4. Horses don’t want to fall down, but if you give them something to lean on, they will lean on it. Be careful not to subconsciously be giving them a constant aid that they are leaning on
ON EFFECTIVE AIDS:
1. Don’t work so hard. Do less and be really mindful that you are not overriding. I want him really sharp on your aids so you feel like you don’t have to work too hard. Don’t hold him. You shouldn’t feel like you have to push every step.
2. It’s important for the riders to have an internal metronome so they can find the right tempo, not only in the horse’s gaits but for their aids as well. You have to keep the tempo in your seat. For example, be aware of the rhythm change your seat must follow from the one-two rhythm of the trot to the one-two-three swing of the canter.
3. My ideal half-halt is one step. I want them to come back in one step and then I allow the forward. I’m clear with any horse, young or old. With a collecting half-halt, you say ‘woah’, get a response and then give. Recycle the energy. If you tell the horse to wait, the horse has to respond. You don’t have three steps to make a difference. Every step matters. For example, imagine you are trotting straight toward a cliff. You would have fallen straight off the cliff and died because your horse took too many strides to respond to your half-halt aid! Ask like you mean it. Urgent! Convince yourself that he can’t pull you forward.
4. It’s about the high level of communication. It’s not like the horse sits up all night and thinks about ways of being bad or how not to listen to you. Fire up the level of communication with your horse. When we talk about communicating with our horses our seat is the main point of communication, their mouth is secondary.
5. Be aware of the importance of an efficient seat and how you cannot be working against the horse. You can change so much with your seat. He needs to be balanced in his body from your seat, not from your reins. He needs to feel like you are the point of stability that he adapts under. Regulate him with your seat. Don’t destabilize him with your seat.
6. You dictate the length and speed of the horse’s step by how you move [your body].
7. The main point of contact needs to be your seat and upper calf and less of your inside thigh and knee. Open your leg and give the horse space from your seat. Keep the swing in your hip and you activate their hind end with your lower leg. When he responds correctly, relax your lower leg and release the pressure.
8. If the horse doesn’t take contact correctly in one rein, you have to meet them with contact. The horse has to take the rein on the hallow side. Shorten that rein and take a feel of the bit in that rein. Don’t just float an empty rein.
9. Separate your aids. Separate your arm aids from your body and seat aids. Tighten in your core, but keep your thighs loose and independent. It’s about allowing the movement to go through your body.
1. Assume nothing and test all the things so that you know anything is possible.
2. It’s important to be able to take a horse that is not necessarily designed for the job, and educate them. They can learn it. You just have to be creative, tenacious and a positive cheerleader.
3. Don’t let him bluff you! Don’t let him talk you out of it.
4. If you have a horse that wants to play the game you can do a lot with them. You can’t win the game or even play the game if they don’t want to or they don’t want to be influenced by you.
5. Take risks in your riding — you shouldn’t back off once you start something. In training, do what scares you the most!
6. The devil is in the details. What separates the best riders is how they influence the horse and the quality of the movements.
7. Sometimes training rides are really messy, but I’m ok with that if the end result is good and positive. Some people freak out in this stage because they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but try to have faith in the process and have patience. It’s easy to be frustrated [if your horse is not picking up on what you want quickly or other miscommunications], but it’s ok that mistakes are being made. Dare to let him fall apart. You can’t think about what everyone else thinks, learn to tune everyone else out but your coach. Ignore the mistakes, set them up again and reward when it gets better. That way he is one step closer to figuring out exactly what you want.
8. A young horse must learn that he must go forward in any situation, and then as they get older they have to balance back to the hind end and use that momentum instead of speed.
9. You don’t want to look back and think ‘I wish I worked through this issue when he was younger.’ Teach him to work through it now, not around it [with avoidance tactics].
10. It’s not usually the exercise that is the problem. It’s the correctness of the exercise and the horse’s acceptance of the shape.
11. Sometimes when we take lessons we don’t get the lessons we want, we get the lessons we need.
The Rutledge Farm Sessions bring exclusive educational opportunities to riders and professionals in Middleburg, Virginia. Drawing from a pool of Olympic and International Champion clinicians, Rutledge Farm offers monthly clinics for riders at all levels and of all disciplines, including dressage, show jumping, eventing and equitation.
The 2019 Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series will continue with two-time Olympic gold-medalist Phillip Dutton and equitation trainer Stacia Madden.
To find out more information about clinics offered during this year’s Rutledge Farm Sessions, visit www.rutledgefarm.com/clinics.