Now I am in the UK where we are currently looking for property around the Cotswolds area. All of the little villages are so pretty! I love the cream teas and good english pub food here.
For the past three days I have been at Talland School of Equitation which is run by Pammy Hutton, a very well-known international dressage rider and trainer, and you know why when she teaches you. I have had three lessons a day and my butt is paying the price!!!
I was actually very scared on my first day... people say that the Germans are straight-forward and daunting, but they obviously havn't met the English! However, it did get a lot better and I settled in pretty quickly. In every lesson you ride different horses, and I only got two of the horses twice. This is good in the way that you adjust your riding and investigate how different horses like to be ridden, but it is hard to actually train the horse because you only ride it once! So i have seen a big difference between 'riding' and 'training'. And let me tell you 'riding' is the easy part. But really, I am here to get experience and to improve my riding and I am definately not fussed if the horse I rode three days ago can't do a half-pass. Also, doing the basic riding on the different horses really concretes your basics in the pavement.
Those basic lessons were group lessons. Then, my last two lessons of the day were privates with four different instructors. I had Charlie (Pammy's son who is representing the UK at the European Young Rider Championships this year), Richard (a Grand Prix rider), Brian (Pammy's husband who trains international teams to victory), and of course, Pammy. So as you can tell, this place is a fantastic set-up for riders to do some serious training, not only in dressage, but in everything else you can think of, even circus tricks (Pammy demonstrated piaffe in hand on a tiny pony, and made it lie down and sat on it!).
The lessons were very good, but the main thing I learned was that not every horse is German-trained, so not every horse is correct. When a horse prefers an 'incorrect' way, that is the way you must ride it.
For Example: It is correct to have a constant yet yielding contact with the horses mouth, otherwise the horse can be said to be 'lost in space' and the energy from the hind legs can't run forward into the bridle. However, when the horse is naturally stiff and tends to lean on your hand, you must take with a quick movement of the lower fingers, then give immediately with a looped rein. The horse then rounds up and you have a lighter contact. Pammy also likes to do a 'quick release' which is similar to uberstreichen, but much quicker and you give a strong take before you release. This method works wonders when the horse has been trained that way.
At first, I got really confused about what was correct and what wasn't, but now I know that the horse will tell you what is correct because they can't read the damn book!
For two of my lessons with Pammy, I rode a Grand Prix school master and on the first ride she had me doing canter pirouettes! That was only after a hell of a load of screaming to get the canter collected enough, which was hard for me to do as I have never even crossed the border into the zone of extreme collectedness. Especially after Germany when everything was "forward and straight'. I did get some decent pirouettes today though, and the feeling is truly amazing. Pammy wondered where and how I learned to ride, and couldn't believe that I didn't have an advanced horse that taught me how to do the aids for those types of movements. It was literally "ok now do a canter pirouette" and it just happened. I guess I know from reading so many riding books on all these different aids for everything. A lot of it is also feel. Pammy has a strong view that feel cannot be taught, and it goes in a seperate 'toolbox' to your knowledge of aids. You only learn it from hours in the saddle.
The setup at Talland is awsome. It has it's own restaurant next to the massive indoor arena, spotless bathrooms, 40 rooms to house students behind the restaurant (so it is all in the same building) and about 60 stables. Students basically board there like in a boarding school and get brekky, lunch and dinner included. It is a really good environment and I would definately love to go back.
Tomorrow I am off for an interview at Hartpury College, and then we drive to Yorkshire to Chris Bartle's place where I am doing a summer camp. I hope my butt stands up to it! I'm not used to riding in saddles of brick (there are only a couple, but one ride is enough!).