Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Dani's spring course with Jenny Rolfe

Shiny hooves and riding macs
Danni was pretty sure that "something was happening" of course because h may be a horse but he's got a pretty good antenna for changes in his environment. The signs were starting to add up - he'd watched his tack getting a special clean across the stable yard in the tack room, he'd been washed (or at least his legs because of the cold weather) and then there was the arrival of Jenny and Barry Rolfe the evening before! And so all in all it all added up to a jolly good outing with him as the centre of attention.
The next morning brushed and preened with shiny oiled hooves he could hardly contain himself, eagerly stretching out his front legs  to do to get rid of any girth wrinkles and finally settling down in a low bow to stretch his back until finally we set off weaving our way through the village traffic to a nearby indoor school muffled against the inclement weather in as many layers as I could muster sensibly.
Danni decided to limber up while he was waiting

Legs have to be stretched

We warmed up at walk, trot and canter as we waited for Jenny and Danni was enthusiastic as he arrived for his first session in fact full of energy and starting to rush. Following Jenny's advice he was grounded for the session to listen to the breath before serious work started. today the advice was about settling Danni's rhythm - slowing myself down to try to give him a slower, more measured trot with frequent downward transitions before returning to the giravolta exercise. Always with the advice to "slow down" something the late Col Froud used to say to me too! "Slow down and let your horse come from behind"
Jenny wanted me to "carry the hands" which probably made me sit up properly!

Moving laterally in Giravolta

"Slow the breath"
Our next exercise involved me slowing down my breathing to a deep rhythmical rate and bringing Danni back to a very slow considered walk before releasing again to allow the walk to flow forward

Barrie and Jenny watching intently

We worked slowly, laterally and then ino trot halting and reining back before trotting forward again to increase Danni's collection finishing for the day with what Danni regards as the very tricky half pass. Jenny told me to almost lead Danni with my inside hand to prevent me from blocking his inside shoulder.
Today also Jenny often asked me to turn my shoulders to the outside to stop a build up of my rider tension until we reached a soft fluid balance.

I'm pretty sure this is Giravolta - or Danni has taken up

Half pass

Danni was full of enthusiasm
Contented boy

Day two

I concentrated more on the canter as I waited for Jenny to arrive and keeping Danni straight on the long sides - he likes to "right banana" so i rode a shallow loop to the long side and used a little counter bend through the corners while warming up. Today was about finding a long lost place of contentment and suddenly Jenny said

  "Remember that feeling" 

Danni has a light springy canter

Lifting the hands forward to offer freedom

Danni worked more through his topline

Danni was content in his work
and yes it was a long lost instinctive feel or contented harmony with the horse - a feel or a personal place that I had lost over the years.
Today Danni remained busy in his trot but listening and alert and we found a harmony together
Day three

Danni set out making the little crackling noises he makes in his nostrils when he is happy and excited and we soon bounced down to the school.

As we moved up into trot  he felt soft and elastic straight away in his trot and he had more poise and consideration in his movements. Over the course of the three days I found that using my breath to balance my body helped him to be freer and looser in his movements.
Dani canter

Danni rein back

We found a new harmony on this course

happy in each others company

"Remember that feeling"

A big thank you to Jenny for coming to Cornwall to help Danni and me - we stopped for a snap on the way out of the school and a lady popped out of her house alarmed by the cameras and said "You're not selling him are you - I do so love to see him in the lanes"! No Danni is a member of the household and we moved on to a deeper understanding of each other under the gentle guidance of Jenny over that weekend. I'm sorry it took so long to post the pictures but the nasty cold kept me in its gris for weeks afterwards and maybe continuing the night nurse too long wasn't a good idea because i came up in spots from head to oopp literally urgg!! Still i had was just finishing the second course of antibiotics in time to visit Jenny in Devon for a course with Antonio Borba Monerio of the Portuguese School of Equestrian art. Coming up in my next blog!!
Danni grew a hand over his course with Jenny Rolfe

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

An Autumn Dressage course

Danni's back story.

The years have gone passed, the recession had hit and  I'm in my sixties now so all in all, I had resigned myself to my own particular Dressage ambition slot in life. That is bumbling along within my own limitations and teaching Danni as i found a way in our goals towards Passage and Piaffe with the additional interest for my thought process, that we don't have a school but I could train in hand in our carp park. Not that I'd ever trained in hand before but hi ho I had never had a spanish stallion either! And then one day things changed and Jenny Rolfe offer us some help with our efforts and its seemed possible to move on again.
Danni had been busy over the previous summer escorting the young horse out around the roads and has learnt to expertly move them back to the side of the road out of the traffic and lead them passed the more threatening paper bags or exploding sparrows. Some Days he patiently hops over a log and then back again to collect his young charge until they gather the courage to follow him, some days he has cantered side by side along tracks with the skylarks singing overhead and some days we've just got very wet! But Dressage was a dream in another country or so I thought until one September day

Danni's Autumn Dressage Course

Danilon with Jenny Rolfe
We'd hired as small indoor school a short hack away from us on the other side of the village and Danni arrived in his usual laid back way very nearly ready to start work!
jenny asked me to tune him more to "me" by using my breath outwards when asking him to walk forwards and breathing in to halt. Each of these exercises produces a subtle change to the rider's core which jenny described as "child on a swing" when we we able to visit her in Devon a few years ago. You may have read Danni's case study in Jenny's book "Breath life into your riding" On that visit I took the first steps towards forming a closer and unique bond with my freckled friend Danni and now we were moving onwards.
Jenny was insistent that I "had no legs" and Danni should glide forwards in his own balance moving from my intention and to changes in my breathing in a loose and relaxed way. Gradually danni's neck became longer and he lifted himself up into a beautiful swan like arch and he was ready to work more towards collection.
One of the first exercises jenny used was Giravolta which followed on nicely from the in hand exercises I had previously practised. The Giravolta t is an exercise i would recommend exploring to observe the horse balance and fully absorb the real meaning of the horse stepping into the rein in collection.

yes i have collapsed my waist initially but I Find by focussing on my breath I
do remain much straighter

We continued in a steady rhythm, never rushing towards collection
letting the lateral work sofen Danni

"Light, light, light"

On the second Day Danni offered much more activity and started to understand what was wanted from him with Jenny always telling me "Light, light light" so that the contact remained the weight of the reins throughout the morning. The final photo I must say is my favorite and shows Danni after an exercise in Giravolta, again always keeping the steps slow and measure before inclining laterally to the track and asking for a bouncy Piaffe like trot .
My next blog will be from our recent spring clinic working more to bring Danni's spanish stallion soul out into his work and always ...............

"Trust the lightness" Jenny Rolfe

Dani on the final day of the course "Trust the lightness"

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Danni looking forward

Danilon in hand

As we haven't go a school most of my time with Danni is spent hacking and these days he escorts the young horses out and about the countryside shielding them from the traffic and leading them passed the scariest man holes, occasionally using his spanish "bull fighting " skills to push the youngsters back to the side of the road
Danni with his son Archie stopping to gossip!
I have just maintain his dressage and suppleness with a "top up" session of in hand each week in our car park. slowing working towards more collection  using the lateral exercises
Over the years we've worked towards piaffe and he is a last starting to show signs of lowering his hind quarters. I thought that this would be the extent of our endeavours but a magical opportunity arrived for us to work with Jenny Rolfe of Naturally Classical and transfer our work from in hand to under saddle

and so my next blog post will be about our first ridden work in an indoor school for a many a year under the gentle guidance of Jenny Rolfe. The next stage will stretch me as I try to transfer the collection I have previously achieved under saddle and take us into territory we have never visited before - how lucky we are to have a guide to encourage us along the way with the mantra "light, light, light"

Danni working in Giravolta