Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 4, 2018 – The horse-and-rider combinations participating in the 2018 Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic gathered on an unusually cold Florida day for the third day of lessons with instructors Robert Dover, Jan Ebeling, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz and Adrienne Lyle. International Grand Prix rider Jan Ebeling encouraged the riders he taught to let their horses perform their movements unhindered while still maintaining collection and control.
Ebeling’s first lesson of the day was with Isabel Gregory and a borrowed horse. The pair focused on sharpening their transitions within the gaits, as well as gait-to-gait transitions. They also worked on keeping the gelding in shoulder-fore during the transitions.
“It’s all about getting your horse in front of you by pushing it forward off your leg into the contact. Shoulder-in or a variation of shoulder-in is a good exercise because it tells the horse to go straight from your inner leg to your outside rein,” Ebeling explained. “You want to make the horse straight because when he’s straight, you can tap into the full power of the hind end. If he isn’t straight, you can still make him go forward but it’s like he’s on three cylinders instead of six.”
These transitions became especially important when they began to incorporate flying changes into their ride. To begin their changes, Ebeling had the pair work on a circle, moving the tempo of the canter forward and back.
“Forward, get him straight. Add a little bit of power. Think of the exercise on the circle, forward and back,” Ebeling reminded her. “Move over, shoulders lead. Think of speeding up. Push him on, big change.”
“Use a small aid,” he encouraged when the horse seemed to get a bit sticky. “Make sure he’s in front of you. You have to be clever. You have to outsmart him a little bit. It’s not possible that the horse is smarter than you.”
When they moved on to their canter half-pass work, Ebeling suggested Gregory think of the half pass as a more simple exercise.
“The half-pass isn’t that difficult, it’s the setting up. If you think haunches-in on a diagonal line, it’ll be easier,” Ebeling advised. “Make a line from point A to point B and ride that line as a haunches-in. If the haunches trail it’s a ripple effect. It’s not just the half-pass that isn’t good, but a lot of other things will go downhill as well.”
Kasey Denny and Feyock
Up next, 11-year-old Kasey Denny and her Westfalen gelding, Feyock, worked with Ebeling. When they first started, Ebeling had the pair work on going forward and back, much like his previous lesson. While he wanted the pair to warm-up in the rising trot, he encouraged Denny to sit for the first couple of strides in order to get Feyock’s tempo where she wanted it.
“Push him on and then you can cruise. Think medium trot. You don’t necessarily have to go to it, but think it,” Ebeling suggested. He encouraged Denny to keep after her horse when he didn’t listen right away. “If you tap him and there’s no response, give him another one twice as hard and then back off. If he goes, pat him.”
As the lesson progressed, Ebeling stressed the importance of keeping light, even reins and not over bending the gelding.
“You don’t have to pull on the reins anymore, push on your inside leg for your shoulder-in,” Ebeling said. “If you push him through, moving him up into the outside rein, you don’t have to hold your rein for very long. Hold three strides and then you can back off for four, five, maybe even ten strides. You want to give your aids so clear that he comes through quickly and you don’t have to hold the rein forever.”
With the bend under control, they moved on to improving the half-pass. To start, Ebeling had the pair work on a leg yield first.
“Forget the bend for a moment, just leg yield. Ride the half-pass without bend. We forgot about the bend, but he was listening to your leg. It’s a good way to cheat your way into the half-pass. There’s no point in bending him if you can’t make him go sideways,” Ebeling said. “When we do shoulder-in, we say move away from the inner leg. In the half-pass, we say move into the inner leg, and it’s a hard change for some horses. So ease him in gradually with the leg yield. Make him look and bend a little more each time.”
When cantering, Ebeling reminded Denny to let go, as the gelding was a bit reluctant to depart into the faster gait.
“Take a deep breath, get light, put your outside leg back and go. Don’t pull on the outside rein, it slows him down too much, makes him crooked and makes it hard to canter. Just outside leg back and canter,” Ebeling said. “The more you bend, the more he wants to slow. No bend is the easiest way to go forward. Close your fingers, push, then get light. As soon as you feel he’s going, you back off.”
“The more you bend him left, the more the haunches want to go to the right,” he explained. “The less you bend left, the less the haunches will fall right.”
Natalie Pai and Unlimited
Natalie Pai rode Unlimited in Ebeling’s third lesson of the day, where he continued to encouraged her to let go and ride from her leg. The pair started off riding a mini shoulder-fore down the long side.
“Just feel him move from the left leg to right hand, your leg changes the flexion just a little,” Ebeling reminded her. “The mini shoulder-fore is not about the angle. It’s about the inside leg to outside rein so he can feel the pressure and submit to it.”
When they moved onto the canter, Ebeling had Pai ride the gelding in a “rather forward” working canter as they played with transitions within the gait. They moved from their working canter to a very collected canter, where he still encouraged Pai to stay light in her hands.
“Try not to pull so much back and forth because it gets him off balance. The more off balance he is, the more he wants to bring his head and neck up,” Ebeling cautioned. “Think guiding him along through the transition.”
To improve their canter half-pass from the Intermediate II test, Ebeling had Pai work on riding the collected canter in a haunches-in to a small 10-meter half circle, where they once again implemented the forward and backward exercise.
“Just because he’s collected doesn’t mean he gets to turn tight. I want you to turn rather wide,” Ebeling explained. “Increase the tempo during the haunches-in, decrease the tempo in the turn to get the feeling for the pirouette. The amount of collection shouldn’t affect how tight the turn is. You don’t want him to think collecting means turning.”
When they rode the half-pass from the corner to the centerline, Ebeling advised Pai to use this movement as a chance to set up for her pirouette. He encouraged her to gain the collection needed here, rather that right before the movement.
“Work less, do the work from your half-pass right until when you’re turning. Just sit and relax [in the pirouette] and then make it bigger. Play with the pirouettes, don’t think of them as something where you have to work so much,” Ebeling suggested. “Stay light [starting the pirouette], keep a tight circle but very light hands. Pat him with both hands, but stay here. He’ll turn off the leg.”
When they finished a complete circle of a pirouette, Ebeling reminded her to stay light in the hand. “Get light in the turn, let him jump and give. Don’t pull when you get out. Don’t pull to C, think of giving to C,” he explained as Pai finished up her movement. “You can make it nicer by doing less. Do the work before the movement.”
Aleyna Dunn and Donegal GGF
With Aleyna Dunn and Donegal GGF, Ebeling worked on transitions and collection to make the gelding lighter in her hands. The pair worked on small lateral movements, like shoulder-in and haunches-in, but with no bend to encourage the horse to move off of Dunn’s leg and stay light.
“If you take in the front, push with the leg,” Ebeling reminded her. “If you only take, he just wants to lean and uses your hands as a leaning post. Slow down, collect and try to give him the inside rein. Don’t carry him, let him carry you. Think forward to the hand. Let him go, it’s better to take the risk and let him go than it is to hold him back. You can always do something to put him back together if that happens.”
“Spiral in on a 10-to-15-meter circle with haunches-in to play around with the degree of collection,” Ebeling instructed in the canter. “Collect him a little, but no need to increase the bend. Sit on your pockets and collect him. Go to medium for three strides then collect right away. The size of the circle doesn’t change with the amount you collect. Think you’re getting ready for a pirouette without actually doing it.”
Before they moved onto flying changes, Ebeling had Dunn ride Donegal GGF on a circle, practicing transitions within the gait to make sure she had control of the tempo and quality of the canter.
“Speed him up as if you are going to a medium, then ride the change,” Ebeling said. “Just think about the quality of the canter. If he runs, turn and start your line over. If he doesn’t listen, don’t change how you ask for the flying change. Keep him straight on the outside rein. When he gets strong, just check him back on the outside so he comes up and back into your hand.”
Emily Smith and Dublin
Emily Smith rode her gelding, Dublin, with Ebeling next. To begin, they worked on sending Dublin forward and getting him more responsive.
“Forward tempo in the warm-up. Focus more on where you put his front feet than where you put his neck,” Ebeling advised. “Push him forward for three or four steps, then collect again. It’s to make sure that when you put your leg on, he fires and goes. Get a response and back off.”
Ebeling encouraged Smith to ride more off her inside leg to encourage her gelding to bend and flex, especially in their trot half-passes.
“Sit a little more going into the trot and don’t tip forward. Bend a little bit, then give,” Ebeling said. “Try to ride your haunches-in and your half-pass by not using so much outside leg. Your dominant leg is always your inside leg. Use it to push into the outside rein.”
For the half-pass, Ebeling suggested using the short side to build up energy to improve the quality of the gait. When they started the movement, he wanted the gelding’s ears to be pointing straight down the track to begin a haunches-in feel on a diagonal line.
In the canter, Ebeling wanted Smith to reach more with her inside hand and focus on sitting deep in the saddle to ride off of her seat.
“Allow him to reach his shoulder into the canter by giving. Stay light with your inside hand. Feel him in your outside rein,” Ebeling said. “Leaning back just a little bit made a big difference, and will really help in your tempi changes. Hold a bit more on the outside so you don’t have so much bend.”
Geena Martin and Bon Chance
The last rider of the day was Geena Martin, who rode the 12-year-old gelding Bon Chance. Like riders before her, Ebeling had her start off with a mini shoulder-fore exercise to encourage the horse to move off of Martin’s inside leg into her outside rein.
Ebeling also had the pair work on transitions within the trot, having them move from a working trot to a trot that was almost a piaffe.
“When he comes back you should be pushing him on, not pulling,” Ebeling reminded her. “Him slowing down is simply him activating. When you collect the trot, you want the forward. You can change his rhythm and make it quicker, but you need to affect the impulse.”
In their canter work, Ebeling had the pair work on a circle, doing haunches-in on a small volte to quicken and shorten the steps, almost in a pirouette.
“Miles per hour get slower, but the rhythm stays the same, if not quicker in collection,” Ebeling said. “In the collected canter, you’re also looking for him to bend his hocks. Improving his canter and his balance depends on the rhythm. His stride is too big and the rhythm too slow. Shorten the stride and increase the rhythm.”
“You have to feel what his body does when you push with a certain amount of pressure,” Ebeling suggested as Bon Chance responded to Martin’s leg. “Forward-back transitions are always the medicine for everything. But the key is to always do it the right way based on how the horse moves.”