Part 2 of the Global Dressage Forum North America – Star Struck

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This is a repost from my Barnby Notes journal.  I’ve decided to transfer the entire series bit by bit to my new blog.  Enjoy!

February 9, 2013

When Ingrid Klimke arrived for the second day of the Global Dressage Forum North America,  I was mulling around the beautiful Jim Brandon Equestrian Center grounds secretly hoping that the infamous cupcake truck with its marshmallow cupcake goodliness would magically appear.  Yes, that very same cupcake that Lauren Sprieser of Sprieser Sporthorse posted a picture of on Facebook during the World Dressage Masters.  Sadly, no cupcake truck arrived and while I was contemplating other ‘not-so-much’ healthier lunch choices, I caught a glimpse of Ingrid out of the corner of my eye walking down the sidewalk with her roller bag in tow.  I am guessing that she just stepped off a long transatlantic flight, but she certainly didn’t look like she did.  I noticed right away how genuinely happy Ingrid appeared.  She seemed so approachable; however, I fought back that overwhelming urge to disrupt her progress and become known as the star struck, bothersome, pink iPhone paparazzi girl because I have on my bucket list a lesson from Ingrid.  I knew by Ingrid’s entrance down centerline (I gave it a 10 by the way) that her presentation was going to be stellar and my friends, I am here to tell you that she didn’t disappoint at all!

Ingrid is a fantastic speaker.  When she spoke, it felt as though you were invited over for dinner at her house.  She engaged the entire audience.  You could literally feel her energy and passion not only for riding, but for her horses.  Her presentation reminded me that we should always have a joyful, playful spirit when working with all horses.  Something we often lose a bit as we enter adulthood and it changes our riding.  My mentor who coaches many top Triathletes shared the reason so many adults find running difficult is that we’ve forgotten what it is like to run as a child.  Watch a child run.  They don’t run in that restricted, held back, stiff, linear manner that so many of us do.  Do we do that in our riding too?

Ingrid stated that the rider must also be elastic.  Students should be encouraged to do other sports.  Riding one or two horses a day is not enough.  Our dressage horses should be cross-trained too.  Simple gymnastics using cavalettis (dressage jumping 🙂 improves back strengthening and self carriage for the horse and the rider’s playfulness.  Refresh your horse’s mind (and your mind!) every day, work no more than 3 days in a row in the same arena with the same exercises.

Those of you who know me well, know that I agree 100% with Ingrid’s diversify message.  It is very important to incorporate other sports/workouts outside of my riding, so I can be the best athlete possible for my horse.  With this endeavor, I also have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the mental and physical aspects of riding.  I was taking a spinning class at my local gym the other day and my eyes were instantly drawn to a flier taped to the wall advertising yoga for athletes.  I was curious as to what this yoga for athletes was all about, so I decided to take my first class this week.  I arrived at class without my own yoga mat which is a BIG mistake because I had to use one out of the community bucket.  If you want to try yoga, bring your own mat.  I thought this class would be very relaxing and I could take a small nap during those moments of Zen.  I was wrong.  I realized this seconds after the instructor told us to get up in the chicken pose.  Picture a flock of wayward chickens toppling over in a fit of giggles.  And it only gets better!  The instructor then showed and asked us to do a kickstand on our hands.  At this point, I made a mental note to bring not only my yoga mat, but my riding helmet to the next class.  It turned out to be a really fun class that definitely got my heart rate up for most of the hour.  To perform these exercises, we focused on continuous deep breathing from our core, our instructor stated that is where the magic happens.  Playfulness while breathing.

Ingrid’s father left her with a special forever message that she shared with the audience that day,

We have to understand the nature of the horse and not suppress their personality.

Ingrid further added that horses need to be brave and that her pony, Braxxi (twice an Olympic gold medalist!) has the heart of a lion.  Everyone should watch the replay of Ingrid and Braxxi’s 2012 Olympic effort.  Amazing!

Ingrid climbed aboard a young horse unfamiliar to her for the demonstration segment of her presentation.  Ingrid continued her conversation with us as she schooled the horse while grinning from ear to ear.  She opened the warm-up with a stretchy trot circle.  The horse should be in front of your aids, but not running.  Give (release) it all (aids) and see what the horse does.  Pat with the inside hand and not the outside hand.  If the horse falls on the forehand, shorten the outside rein and push (in rising trot) while applying positive leg pressure into the contact.  Ingrid then proceeded into a forward canter around the arena with a light seat that was slightly up out of the saddle.  Sit back for your transitions stated Ingrid.  Reactions from the horse should come from your seat first, then your legs, then your hands.  During the walk break, keep your horse moving forward and in front of your aids.  Let the movement come out, but retain your soft contact.  Ingrid did a lot of transitions on the circle, walk-trot-walk, the trot aid should come from the seat.  Hind legs in the canter must work under the center of gravity.  The horse clearly enjoyed cantering and Ingrid commented that the canter is now her carrot.

Ingrid adds fitness using hill work.  Fitness training on a gradual slope, especially while going down the hill, is super work for the horse’s shoulders.  Hill work should be incorporated every 5-7 days.  Do not have a huge spread between the intervals and then expect this work to have great benefits.

Ingrid continued her session with some pole/cavaletti work.  For the walk work, Ingrid suggested putting two poles in the middle of the walk pirouette.  This will act as a visual aid and help keep the walk pirouette the same size and ensure that you are returning to the same spot you originated from.  I can’t wait to try this exercise!

Ingrid ended her session with a small jump.  In Germany, it is common to finish the work session with a jump.  Ending it on a rewarding note.  Even the ‘not-so-jumping-inclined’ dressage horse can find joy by randomly jumping over a cross rail.

 Thank you, Ingrid for reminding us all to be more playful every day!

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