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The (Academic) Art of Riding

Well, I had a very enlightening clinic this weekend with Kenneth Vansweevelt of Belgium.

We learned about allowing your horse to make a connection with you, instead of forcing one. The horse is invited to communicate with the handler or rider, and the rider responds by allowing. It really does becomes like dancing. They are so in tune to our body language, that if we simply show them the way, they will choose to follow. Even my blind mare could follow my lead.

As I thought, many of the goals and philosophies are very similar between AAR and Ecole De Legerete, but the execution is really quite different. AAR is about opening the connection between the spine and the brain (essentially, unlocking the poll) and keeping the spine in a comfortable alignment. Overbending “kinks the hose,” as Kenneth puts it, and messages fail to be sent and received.

Where in Legerete, I use light pressure to obtain a reaction (slight lift of the bit in the mouth to ask the horse to extend is neck and take the bit forward), in the Art of Riding, I guide the horse with my outside rein to evenly stretch the outside muscles of her body and give forward to allow her to seek the hand (AAR prefers to start a horse’s education with a cavesson- there are well explained reasons for this, but it is not strict, you just must take extra care to get the correct results of you are using a bit).

There were some very interesting groundwork exercises to guide each part of the horse to help him find his perfect balance (which is different for every horse), then how to teach him shoulder-in and travers to free the shoulders and activate the inside hind leg, lowering that hip and then bringing equal balance to both hind legs (I assume this is how the horse eventually builds collection and lightness in the front).

It is SO simple for the horse, but very difficult for us humans. This method teaches awareness and respect and I like that it doesn’t risk pushing my horse to do something she can’t physically do. With a previously fractured pelvis and hock, ultimate collection may be very difficult for her. Kenneth says, thouh, that with true relaxation, in time she may develop the power to do so.

A moment of relaxation with Lacey. We are looking for her to lower her neck just enough fill the dip in the front of the withers (lowering too much blocks the poll as much as an inverted outline does), the with stretch of the outside of the body, I can encourage her inside leg to step forward and under more, naturally opening the withers and lifting the shoulder.
We hope to have him back for more clinics!

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