Within minutes of the beginning of the Nutrena/USDF Adult Clinic Series featuring Lilo Fore, a FEI “I” and USEF “R” judge, it was easy to understand why she is the successful and highly sought-after clinician and trainer that she is today. Held at the Averett University Equestrian Center from Oct. 5-7, the staff and students of the Averett Equestrian Studies program, in conjunction with the North Carolina Dressage and Combined Training Association, provided a beautiful and festively decorated facility for the clinician, riders, and auditors to enjoy. With a mixture of humor and practicality, Fore addressed a crowd of 50 auditors and the students of the Averett equestrian department, explained her philosophy and shared some of her goals for the weekend. Her goal, she said, “is to make each horse and rider the best they can be.” Regarding the riders’ goals, she said that “Every rider has one goal: to become a better rider.”
In what quickly became a short review of the topics to be covered in the clinic, she explained the absolute importance of the training scale: rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness, and collection. She particularly focused on connection, straightness, and the balance and adjustability of the rider. The eight riders, who ranged in levels from First Level to Grand Prix, did well to pay attention to Fore’s opening remarks, because those were the main points of interest throughout the two days of their private lessons with Fore.
Connection, Fore explained, is often misunderstood. “The horse must be taught to go from the seat and leg to the hand” for it to be correct, but some riders will try to force it by working their hands and arms to “work the horse’s neck back and forth to achieve that lightness,” which is incorrect.
When troubleshooting a problem, the connection will be a sure giveaway that something somewhere is wrong. Fore explained that the connection with the horse is not a solid thing, but that it flows. When there is a problem somewhere, the connection gets blocked.
She used a very common problem horse people encounter as a metaphor to illustrate her meaning: a kinked hose. When there is a kink in the hose, the water stops flowing. In order for the water to resume its flow, the kink must be found and released. Meaning, if there is a kink, or problem somewhere in the communication between horse and rider, or a physical problem, it must be found and worked out in order for a steady connection to flow between horse and rider.
- Leg yield from the centerline at A on a diagonal line to M to keep horse straight.
- Quickly let the inside rein go for a quarter of the stride so the horse must constantly be seeking contact.
- Imagine you have PVC poles as reins. When you push them forward, the horse’s nose should follow, seeking contact.
“Straightness,” Fore said, “is the ability of the horse to bend right and left.” The ability to be equally supple on both sides, with no hint of a stiff or strong side, or of a stiff or hollow side, is to be straight. It is precisely those qualities that take it from an easy feat to accomplish and place it almost at the top of the training scale. “Ride each side both mentally and physically,” Fore advised.
- Ride in counterflexion to correct overbending, on straight lines and circles.
- Ride away from the wall to teach the horse to stay even between both legs.
- Ride with the concave side to the outside and ask the horse to stretch into contact with the outside rein. This puts the stiff side on the inside, creating an opportunity to work on the bend.
- Ride a shoulder-in in both directions to gain better control of the forehand and even the contact.
The ability of the rider to balance on top of the horse was a major point of interest for Fore. Once the rider can balance and adjust to the horse’s motion, she said, then they are riding. The balance of the rider wholly affects the balance of the horse, for the balance of the rider is directly proportional to the ability of the rider to create a balanced horse.
The ultimate goal of the rider is to be able to ride with his or her body more than the reins, but an independent seat is not possible if the rider is not balanced on top of the horse.
- Open your legs off the saddle to find the middle of the seat.
- Lean far behind the vertical, far in front of the vertical, and settle on the vertical, with even pressure on both seat bones and pubic bone.
- Work on the lunge line with instructor to improve flexibility and independence of seat to improve balance.
Throughout the two days of the clinic, Fore gave many insightful bits of wisdom that stuck with me:
- “First organize. Don’t do anything else.”
- “Every time a rider gives up the figure of the circle, you give up the figure of the training.” (No matter the level, she stressed the geometry of the arena)
- “Riding is like a marriage between the horse and rider. Don’t let the familiarity trick you into doing the same thing over and over.”
- “Every transition is a new beginning, not an end.”
- “Riding is a recipe. You add a pinch of this, a cup of that. It is not just one thing, it’s a combination of things.”
- “There is no black and white with horses, but there is a lot of grey.”
- “Prevention is better than correction.”
- “Be strong when you need to be and kind when you can.”
- “Prepare the horse to do his job, then let him do his job. Don’t just keep riding and riding and interfering.”
All of the riders came with a specific goal to work towards, though that might not have been what was targeted for improvement by Fore. However, what was given to the riders were not only lessons, but a training plan for the future. All of the riders were pushed to become better and more accurate riders, and left the clinic with the tools to continue to improve past what they accomplished this weekend.