Wellington, Fla. – January 8, 2020 – Riders returned to the Van Kampen Arena on Friday morning for their second phase of lessons as part of the 2021 Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic Week. The group of 20 riders, given the opportunity to work with top trainers like Robert Dover, George Williams, Christine Traurig, Charlotte Bredahl, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz and Sabine Schut-Kery, were excited to put the skills they absorbed on Thursday into practice when the lessons kicked off at 9:15 a.m.
During LaGoy-Weltz’s sessions of the day, the top US Dressage competitor and trainer focused on instilling the importance of keeping forward momentum in every movement her students performed. Her first pupil on Friday, McKenzie Milburn of Bothell, Washington, spent the first part of her lesson working to keep her gelding even between? her legs and not favoring one side when performing the task at hand.
“You need to work around things sometimes, but also know how to work through them,” LaGoy-Weltz said. “Figure out when it’s appropriate to ask him for certain things – it’s always a compromise.”
When Milburn had some trouble getting her horse off of her leg in the half-pass left, LaGoy-Weltz reminded her to stay consistent and ask him more gently without rocking the boat too much.
The pair then picked up the canter, navigating a half pirouette from a diagonal line. To help her achieve the movement more efficiently, LaGoy-Weltz instructed her to think about riding a half-pass left when she rode the half-pirouette left. By collecting him properly first and thinking about keeping the uphill, forward movement, Milburn was able to complete stronger pirouette work.
Evenness remained a theme throughout the ride, with LaGoy-Weltz reminding Milburn to keep her horse’s straightness at the forefront of her mind. “Ride assertively. Keep even changes and don’t let him get behind you. Find the middle ground, stay round and soft.”
Tillie Jones of Lincoln, Nebraska, was the second rider instructed by LaGoy-Weltz on her 12-year-old Hanoverian mare QI Gong TF. LaGoy-Weltz complimented the mare’s willing attitude and consistency, but reminded Jones to think about keeping a clear rhythm in her pace and asking for a little more energy.
“Think about the bounce coming from her back feet,” LaGoy-Weltz said. “Get a little bit more energy. Be honest with yourself about how in front of your leg she is. Go more forward — if you ever need to post you’re allowed to post to get there.”
When working on their half-passes she told Jones to make it feel like the mare is carrying her uphill and through that line, going into a shoulder-fore immediately after the half-pass. “Make sure you’re not working too hard,” LaGoy-Weltz said. “If you are, then give her a kick. I am fine with her front legs being more suspended as long as she is truly working from behind.”
LaGoy-Weltz told Jones to add one “notch” more on her aids to make it one notch easier in her riding and enable her to be more effective. As they worked on the extended trot, she encouraged bigger steps rather than a quickening of the pace, and the pair showed a great improvement in the movement, stepping through with her hind-end more powerfully. “Have it come through the whole body,” LaGoy-Weltz said. “She has great front legs, but you need to get the movement pushing through the whole body to make it more fluid.”
Similarly in the canter work Jones was encouraged to think about sending energy down and back into her horse’s hind legs, thinking of keeping the energy from dropping down in the mare’s front legs when she landed.
“She has to shorten from the wither to top of the croup — it’s how she lands from her hind legs to her withers that is the difference between her being short and long in [in the back]. She struggles with her mechanics a little, so you have to help set her up the best you can. Help her learn to use her butt and coil her hind end a little more over time. Try to keep more of that great shape in the pirouette work in the canter all the time. She does it really well.”
Rounding out the lesson with practice in the tempi changes, LaGoy-Weltz left Jones with useful advice: “Tidy, straight changes score quite well. Big changes only score well when they are straight and reliable. Take the time now to train the tempis well, we want them good enough for the Grand Prix.”
LaGoy-Weltz’s final student of the afternoon was Katherine Mathews of San Marcos, California, riding Soliere, a 17-year-old Hanoverian stallion. LaGoy-Weltz complimented the pair’s harmony and the stallion’s correct movements, but once again asked the pair to create even more energy in each step.
“We want [our horses] to carry us with energy, but it needs to be you setting the tone,” LaGoy-Weltz explained. “Double the tempo. You have to move just a little faster than him. That’s the energy you have to move across the ground with. He has a lot of suspension, so you have to match that suspension with energy and intention. Don’t settle for just barely enough.”
LaGoy-Weltz reminded Mathews that it is better to ask for a little too much energy then back off, than it is to not ask for enough energy from the start. Being a little more forward, “hot” thinking, will create the energy she needs throughout her ride.
“Push —he has to keep the energy,” she said. ”Be a little faster, a little creative. Your lines are super correct. When you are trying to keep him alive underneath you, you need to be a little less predictable.”
With this pair working on their tempi changes, LaGoy-Weltz was happy with the straightness they created and pushed them for just a little more roundness and spark. “Make it interesting! He needs to be cantering way up off the ground, and he can do it. You’ve learned to do everything, so now is the time to upgrade the reaction he gives you and the presence. When he powers up underneath you, you look like you are being carried. Then you won’t wait to ask for more once he has given it to you.”
The Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic Week continues Saturday, Jan. 9 and concludes Sunday, Jan. 10. As the week is closed to spectators this year, live streaming is available for free on USEF Network.