Look Ahead of the Horse
Hoyos and Wilcox instructed three riders in using the seat to influence every stride. Texas rider Lisa Blackmon, symposium host from Stargate Sport Horse Breeders, demonstrated connection and rhythm on a four-year-old. Driving the horse forward kept him active from behind.
On this young horse, Hoyos emphasized developing the horse from the seat. “Send him on to a more consistent connection. Push him onto it,” said Wilcox.
Riding each stride helps the rider evaluate the quality of the connection. At the rising trot, a vertical upper body eases the horse into responding to the aids. The horse tells the rider when he is ready to accept more of the rider's weight.
The message from Hoyos was, “Look for a good feeling, so he understands when you drive him on, and why.” At the canter, the rider's posture influences activity. “Try to stay longer in the saddle. Be passive with your hips so your weight sinks into the saddle. Relax your shoulders and bring your balance into your stomach muscles.”
Hoyos cautioned against tipping the upper body forward, noting that the rider's head position can put the horse on the forehand. “Look up and get your chin up. Look ahead of the horse.”
Redevelop Every Stride
On a more experienced horse, Christopher Hickey showed how to improve elasticity. His goal was to have the horse swinging over the back, for more reach with the hind leg.
“Redevelop every stride, to keep his poll quiet and to send his weight into the outside rein,” Wilcox explained. She translated Hoyos saying, “Drive him onto the hand. Sit deeper and push him out. Really sit so your seat asks him to go forward.”
Hoyos shared an insight into the way horses think: “We have to work with the mind, and we will get his body. You work with his mind when you work correctly with your seat.”
The correct seat avoids disturbing the horse's movement. In working pirouettes, the rider must coordinate his seat with the horse's actions.
The rider guides the horse's forehand around the hindquarters in the pirouette. “Balance the horse on the outside rein and slowly bring the forehand around. Activate the hind end with your outside leg.”
Here in every canter stride, the rider must ride the horse into the hand, asking for forward motion. To avoid getting “stuck,” the rider consistently maintains the horse's rhythm.
Riding a large horse, Susan Jaccoma used frequent transitions to activate the horse from behind. “With every stride, you reconnect the outside rein,” Wilcox said.
“The exterior of the horse makes it easier, or more difficult. The bigger horse is more difficult to keep him together, every single stride.”
Hoyos instructed to ride the half-pass from the shoulder-in as this will keep the horse straight, into the outside rein, and allow the rider control the outside shoulder. The shoulder-in helped the horse move with greater elasticity, and more expression. “Every trot stride should get bigger in the half-pass.”
He also addressed how rider and horse coordinate in ability. The rider must recognize and improve the horse's weak side.
“It's better if the horse and rider have different weak sides,” said Wilcox. “Here they both happen to have the same weak side. That requires more self-discipline and more immense concentration on the seat.”
To improve the horse's passage, Hoyos worked with the rider from the ground. In a three-way coordination, he walked beside horse and rider, to coach the rider while using the stiff whip to guide the horse's response.
With all horses, Hoyos emphasized to take the time each individual requires to respond. He was attuned to each horse's attitude and energy, and signaled when the horse was ready to finish work for that session. Each horse ended with a lengthening, to stop after a relaxed, forward gait.
USDF University Courses
During the 2003 USDF National Convention, USDF University courses complemented the demonstrations at the Symposium. Authorities shared knowledge with dressage enthusiasts in lectures and question-answer sessions.
Dr. Hilary Clayton analyzed biomechanics of elite dressage horses. Through slow-motion video, she showed how the World and Olympic Champion Rembrandt exemplified outstanding movement. “He elevates—his shoulder girdle muscles lift his body,” she said of Rembrandt filmed at the collected canter.
Clayton also presented analyses of the elements of tempo and rhythm. Her description of the four-beat rhythm of the canter pirouette prepared spectators for the working pirouettes demonstrated in the Symposium.
Dr. Max Gahwyler compared and contrasted classical and competitive dressage. He discussed the shoulder-in as the foundation of classical training, emphasizing the four-track shoulder-in. “In the four-track, the weight is to the outside. The key is the symmetry on both sides. The horse has to be equally strong and supple on both sides.”
Gahwyler studied at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Hoyos is also a veteran of that renowned institution, with 29 years at the School.
Hoyos and Wilcox also presented “The Correct Seat” lecture before the Symposium, commenting on videotapes of Wilcox riding horses in Germany. “The harmony and fluidity you see at the show is the result of the work at home,” said Wilcox.
USDF Members can read more in depth coverage of the USDF Symposium and meeting in the next USDF Connections Magazine.