Monday, January 28, 2013


That's German for weekend.

I had the pleasure to meet fellow blogger Karen of Bakersfield Dressage who came to my neck of the woods for the Dr. Christian Schacht clinic at the lovely White Birch Farms in Somis. Unfortunately the clinic ran early on Saturday so I missed the first day's rides, but I showed up early on Sunday to make sure I caught the action.

First of all, if you don't already follow Karen's blog, head over there right now and add it. She is not only witty and articulate and talks about everything under the sun about horses in a totally relateable way, but she's also very down to earth and just a really nice person and fabulous horsewoman.

Dr. Schacht was a good clinician, and I would be very interested in clinicing with him someday (maybe after we do at least one dressage test - first things first here). He's uber calm, has a soothing voice, and gives a fair evaluation. I was impressed that he was able to clearly communicate when an issue was caused by rider, by horse, or by himself (in continuing an exercise too long, for example). But there was never an ounce of blame or negativity, so riders didn't get defensive as they might have in a regular lesson.

He also knew when to say "ignore it" when a horse did something undesirable - he really picks his battles with horses, and he picks a lot less of them than we riders do, I think. By and large we are quick to call something a disobedience when its really just nervousness or silliness. Moving past it and into an exercise was Dr. Schacht's approach, and it worked - the behavior quickly ended and rarely came back.

Dr. Schacht on left, coaching Karen on Speedy G.
Additionally it was clear that he made the riders think outside of the box. He pushed them into areas of discomfort in terms of their mental riding. He had riders doing things they'd never done before and had them working on their aspects of riding that they had some mental blocks in, and he did this with all the riders - from Training level riders all the way up to International level riders.

He wasn't afraid to give exercises that challenged both the horse and the rider, but he also ended the challenge sooner than I think most of us riders would on our own. His method seems to be to make the horse do the exercise promptly and correctly, then to move on to something else before it can go "wrong" in any way, and maybe come back to it later. That way the horse is always thinking, always working hard, and constantly having to work on something new.

Exercises I want to try (some sooner, some later):
  • Shoulder in then haunches in, on a straight line and on a circle. 
  • Leg yield at trot, after turn down centerline to quarterline, then change diagonal and change bend, then leg yield back.  
  • Circling in then circling out. 
  • Half-stride work/ultra collected (wow!). 
  • Canter up a long stretch, then turn at C or quarterline past C, and come back to E to form a teardrop shape into counter canter (can be done at all levels, according to Dr. Schacht). 

My main takeaways:
  • "Each canter stride is a new beginning."
  • "Think shoulder in." (To prepare for a turn and on a circle.)
  • "Ignore it."
  • "Pet him." (Very big on rewarding horse).
  • Canter aid comes from inside leg first, then outside seat.
  • Change your posting (faster, higher) to encourage forward trot.

Sometimes it's not that you're learning new things, its that you're learning old things in new ways. Overall I'm so glad I went. The riders, horses, and clinic exercises were all great to see. I came away inspired.

Meanwhile, back at my barn, although it was a stunningly gorgeous weekend, the rings were not ride-able  The turnouts were iffy but since Hemie is pretty careful I decided to let him get a turnout both days. He promptly covered himself with as much muddy grossness as possible (I saw him flip over while rolling for the first time - yay!). When grooming (if we want to call it that) I was very careful to do his whole body before heading to the girth area, and then watched carefully to see if he would have any girthiness...

None. Not even a twitch. Whew.

We will see if it comes back when I have an actual girth, but at least he's okay with me brushing and patting all around down there. Both days I was trying to see if there's fungus or anything else that might be bothering him in that area, and nope - all clean. When it warms up I want to give him a full medicated bath though.

This week I hope to (a) meet with Laurie to discuss shows and schooling plan, and (b) measure and order a new girth for the jump saddle. Thanks to everyone for the advise on girthiness - I've been reading and re-reading all those comments and doing homework.

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