I had the pleasure of watching and learning at a clinic for Canada's Pan Am potentials. The riders and horses and wonderful. The clinician is Robert Dover, who is fantastic! Here are a few tips i learned in the 3 days.
1. " Take your time!!" No matter what you are doing and trying to accomplish, take your time in getting it. Give yourself and your horse time to figure it out. You will both be happier and more effective.
2. Your ride is 1/2 halt to 1/2 halt. EVERYTHING we ride must have a 1/2 halt before we do it and after we do it. This includes, corners, transitions within the gait and into another gait, lengthens, extensions, shoulder-in, circles, diagonals, and so on.
a) breathe in
b) close your legs
c) close your fists
Hold for 3 strides; then
b) soften your fists
Riding 1/2 halt to 1/2 gives the rider something purposeful to focus on and quiets our other chatter we can have with the horse,with unnecessary aids.
When riding your tests, it is 1/2 halt to 1/2 halt; memorize your tests with the 1/2 halts and breathing!
3. "Ride it like you own it." We are in control at all times. Do not let the horse decide when to do a transition, when to turn, slow down, or give a little less. The rider decides how it is to be done and the rider rides it when she/he says so, in a positve manner. Don't accept good enough. 'Take your time" and do it right.The horse must wait for your aids and be on your aids at ALL times. She/he can not do anything ahead of the riders aids!! If this happens go back and do it again, and 'take your time', until the horse goes with you.
4. When doing walk pirouttes, ride the outside hind towards the riders inside hip. Keep the front end turning so the horse can keep walking and stepping in the right direction.
5. Be sure you use your inside leg in the 1/2 pass to help the horse stay rounder and step more thru and get more cadence.
6. Collection; think of collection as a collection of energy. When your collection of energy is really good, you are in a position to carry it into any movement, keeping that collection of energy within another movement. ie; in you extensions you are still carrying the collective energy, and the horse wants to move out into the extension because of all the energy he has. Keep that energy alive. When going from collection to extension, think of it as extended passage; visualize; to help keep the energy and keep it coming from behind, so you don't run and sputter out of energy and balance.
7. Elastic band exercise; In trot and canter; Go on a 20 metre circle, as you ride the 'short side' go into an extentsion towards the other wall; immediately for half a circle, 1/2 halt, collected gait for half the circle, 1/2 halt, extended gait. Great for warming up the horse, before the more active work. Doing an extension on the short side is a visual aid; the rider does not hold onto the horse in front, the same as on a diagonal and the horse is more willing to move out. Take the feeling you achieve and apply it to the diagonal.
8. WALK! Robert loves working on the walk. The collected walk must be with the poll the highest point, not 5" behind the poll, for the highest marks. Make the collected walk your home; a VERY comfy place for you and your horse, so it is easy in the tests. Move forward and back within the gait, and 'take your time' to get comfortable with it. Own the tempo, frame and the outline. Nose is slightly out, which allows the front legs to open more and reach.
9. If your horse is running from your aids, spooking, falling on the forehand, not listening to your aids; use the half halt as described above to get her/his attention back to you. Remember to breathe in!
10.Reinback; think of your seat moving forward and then pushing back with a stool, rather then pulling back on the reins.
11. Visualize; exactly what you want the horse to do as you are riding. If you are not visualizing the good, or nothing at all, then that is the response you will get from the horse. Even when it is going bad, keep thinking of the response you want to feel from the horse.
12.Praise the horse at the moment it responds correctly. You can pat it with your INSIDE hand, but that can sometimes lose the connection of what you just achieved. Use your voice; GOOD GIRL/BOY, with energy, so the horse understands that they did well and it is clear that it is giving you the response you are asking for. Be fair in your requests and firm in the response. "Take your time" "Ride it like you own it."
Robert was an excellent clinician that all riders and auditors went away with new tools in their box for working with their horses. The horses all went beautifully and the riders rode well! He was always praising the horses for their accomplishments and very considerate of the horse's capabilities; careful to not to ask more then what they could give.