I have nine pages of notes and hours of video from the weekend’s clinic with Robert Dover, hosted by Wyngate Equestrian, and I really will try to synthesize all that info and share it with you. For now, I’ll stick to just a couple key things I took away from the experience.
First and foremost, Dover focuses on the basics. He tested almost every rider’s connection with their horse, and proceeded with the lesson based upon what he observed during the exercise, no matter what level the horse and rider were at. One rider, who was mounted on one of the most fabulous horses in for the clinic (and that is really saying something, folks, there were truly some world-class animals there, including one that had been shortlisted for the Pan Am Games) that was purportedly schooling all the FEI work wound up working on getting the horse through and into the bridle honestly! It was an astounding lesson, from the standpoint that someone at that level could have such fundamental weaknesses. And this rider wasn’t alone. Another GP rider had similar issues with connection, and a third rider who was competing at fourth spent most of her lesson working on bend.
It was fascinating watching Dover work with these three in particular, because I really wasn’t expecting to see people with issues to which I can really relate. The difference in the riders from the beginning to the end of their lessons was amazing, and one rider must have done extra homework, because her ride the following day was truly extraordinary, drawing applause from the auditors, myself included.
In addition to his emphasis on the basics, Dover also emphasized perfection. “Walk perfectly,” he said dozens of times, going on to say that if your horse wasn’t through and on the aids at the walk, it wouldn’t be through and on the aids anywhere else. He required riders to follow his instructions precisely, and had them repeat the movement when it wasn’t up to his standards. As Christy noted in her first recap of the clinic, every rider rose to his challenge. In our chat about the clinic afterwards, Christy and I both noted that the charge to expect more of you, and your horse, was one that we would be taking back to Silver Fern.
Finally, the last big take away for me was around forwardness and responsiveness. I *know* that you need your horse to be forward and attentive, willing to respond instantly to the subtle aids that make well-ridden dressage so beautiful. Dover emphasized the fact that how we ride trains our horses, and essentially, we have to ride them like we want to ride, and require them to respond.
As I said, I have a lot more to share about the clinic, but now I need to talk about today.
Derby’s abscess seems to have healed nicely, but he’s been short on his right hind (the abscess was in the left.) I had the vet out, and while she did support putting him on Adequan and said he would need to have his hocks done at some point, the issues I’m seeing are more about weakness and tightness in his SI region. She prescribed a course of forward, correct work. Which means that between what I learned from Robert Dover and what my vet says the horse needs, I need to make some changes.
It’s been two weeks since I really rode, so I did a short lesson to get back into the swing of things. I told Christy to take no prisoners, and my formerly sweet trainer turned into a demanding taskmaster. But that’s what we needed, and we had a good ride – despite his reluctance to use his back end and step under himself, I was able to get him to do both, with constant coaching from Christy.
Because the correct work is now an absolute imperative, I’m taking lessons each night this week, and on Saturday, and will probably repeat the same next week. I need to channel Robert Dover and get the perfect work Derby and I badly need.