Middleburg, VA –Oct. 19, 2019 – Olympian Ali Brock headed to historic Middleburg, Virginia, to host a two-day clinic as a part of the 2019 Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series.
Renata Petraitis kicked off the spritely morning in Middleburg with Rochambeau LF, a 4-year-old GOV gelding working at Training Level. Despite the chilly new environment, the young horse was focused throughout the lesson. Brock immediately focused on improving the connection as the horse would occasionally throw his head above the bit and become unsteady.
“I am very happy to see you challenging him in the contact,” Brock said. “We’ll work on you using your arms and hands more effectively to correct him. One thing I’m super mindful of is where my seat is and teaching from a young age that they can balance around me in the saddle.
“If they challenge you in the contact keep your leg on and widen your hand instead of pulling backwards,” she continued. “Keep your connection out in front of you and in front of the saddle. It’s important to close your calf before you talk to their face.”
Brock emphasized one of the key lessons she instills in all the horses she has in training, especially the young horses.
“The first thing I teach young horses is ‘Thou Shall Go Forward’ and next they need to learn that I’m not going away,” she said with a laugh.
When the rider would use her aids to encourage the horse to accept the bit, Brock explained the importance of keeping independent aids.
“Separate your aids. Separate your arm from your body,” Brock said. “Tighten in your core, but keep your thighs loose and independent. He needs to learn early on that he can’t manipulate you or your position. When he challenges you, and he will, close your leg and widen your elbows to channel him into the bridle differently so he really feels like he’s winning. Allow him the opportunity to sustain it himself. Let that energy go forward to the bit.
“There is reactive riding and then there is connected riding where you ask him to connect and relax in the contact.You give him the opportunity to sustain it for a few strides before his head goes straight in the air — then you have already started working on connecting him again.”
As the pair worked on basic forward connection to the bit, the work became better as the lesson went on.
“Young horses aren’t strong yet and it’s common for them to curl behind the contact, so it’s your job to encourage him to open his throat latch,” Brock said. “Your job as his pilot is to educate him and to teach him to follow you. Follow his mouth with your arms. Before I ever go to their mouths I always start the conversation with my legs. Talk to their body first before going to the rein contact.
“He needs to learn when he yields, the pressure goes away,” Brock continued. “When you use your leg, he needs to reach for the bridle and lift over his back. When in doubt remind him that his hind legs are there. Your goal is to make him longer and extended in front of you and shorter behind you. Every time you pitch forward in the saddle, you are making it easier for him to be on the forehand.”
Check back on PS Dressage over the next few days for continuous coverage of the two-day clinic with Ali Brock at the 2019 Rutledge Farm Sessions.