Kyra Kyrklund taught the clinic through fun metaphors with a method of particular systematic exercises to clearly teach a horse a competition movement for the International Dressage Arena. From beginner to advanced rider, she showed a caring yet firm rooted nature in making sure the horse’s back swings long over the topline and not from a long underline. Whether rider position or horse position, she went right to work in finding the one thing at a time to help the rider or the horse. A great clinician with great visual examples to make her point, Kyra made an understandable change to improve the horse’s way of going in a more correct way in order to find the path through the levels in dressage.
A six-time Olympian, silver medalist at the 1990 World Equestrian Games, winner of the 1991 World Cup Final, Kyrklund born in Finland, now lives, trains and coaches horses and riders in West Sussex, England. Also a Professor in Equitation (dressage) at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, she trains successful international dressage riders like Jan Brink and is the supervisor for the Swedish dressage team. Kyra explains things clearly and concisely. This interactive symposium featured eight horse and rider combinations from young horses through Grand Prix. The Dressage Masters Symposium with Kyra Kyrklund was organized by Wellington Classic Dressage at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach the weekend of January 25-26th.
Kyra said, “Important to keep contact on both reins. It’s confusing the contact, many people think it’s just the outside rein. It’s the inside rein too."
"I want to give the horse an outline. I must keep my hands still, not wiggling my fingers. I can move my inside fingers a bit, if needed, but in order to get the power and activity from behind the front end has to be steady. The horse’s head cannot move from side to side. The motion is behind the horse.”
Get a reaction from the leg:
“The reaction is important from the rider’s leg. It’s the horse’s responsibility to react," she said.
Kyra spoke of her mentor, “Herbert Rehbein just sat there. He expected the horse to change. If the horse doesn’t change or react from the rider, then the horse will be in charge."
"Remember the motor is behind and the transmission is in front,” she stated.
“Keep the horse straight from the seat. First the horse must be straight off the seat. It takes a lot of core strength. It feels like you are lifting the saddle up from the front. That’s core strength.
Instead of trying to fix everything here and there, it’s better to simplify it to just the seat…just one thing.”
“You cannot say the aid is this, this and this. It’s the reaction from the aid, however that reaction may happen.”
Piaffe and Passage:
“When it comes to piaffe and passage, I tend to work with what’s harder for the horse first, then what is easier.”
Kyra shared several high level exercises she uses to improve the canter Zig Zags in the FEI Intermediate 2 and Grand Prix:
Neve Myburgh rode Topper, a 14 yr old KWPN Gelding, schooling Intermediate II. They worked through a series of exercises to master the Zig Zag (a movement in the Intermediate II and Grand Prix tests).
The Main Goal is to keep the horse's shoulders (front end) straight for the flying change (if the horse leans one way or the other, the flying change will not be clean).
1. A. Start at the walk – Travers down the centerline to the right, then straight, the left travers. The goal is to make sure the front end of the horse is not bent (no neck bend and no shoulder’s falling left or right). Kyra said, “Straightness is the most important in front. Keep it honest, keep the front end straight. Only the hind legs come to the inside.”
B. Same exercise on the diagonal – “Keep the line completely straight in the front of the horse from H-F, only the haunches come to the inside.” The Half-pass becomes haunches in on the diagonal.
2. Same exercise in the trot (continuous focus on front-end shoulder straightness)
3. Same exercise in canter
A. down the centerline in straight to Travers with a flying change at X
B. down centerline straight to Travers to flying change to Travers up to 5 times on the centerline (work up to 5, start with 2 changes of bend, then 3 (as many as the horse can comfortably do). The Zig Zag at the Grand Prix level requires 5 half-passes, therefore 5 travers changes on the centerline is possible (with the right amount of strength and relaxation from the horse).
C. Kyra stated, “One way is more difficult than the other. It’s hard to get the straightness on way.”
D. “You don’t have the risk of a swinging hind leg in the change because you have control of the front end.”
4. Travers on the diagonal at the canter (keeping the front end straight on the line with haunches in) Kyra said, “Such importance that the front end of the horse is straight on the diagonal and the haunches are in."
5. Half-pass on diagonal straighten and then to Travers on a straight line
“The shoulders tend to fall out, and if that happens, the change will not be clean. The horse will be leaning. If we practice it this way, when the horse is straight in front, the rider can also activate the horse if needed (whereas when they are crooked in front you have no chance to activate the horse). You must practice this clearly and cleanly, because if you practice with leaning all the time, the horse will compensate (and come up with problems) instead of being clean and clear. Be sure you do this in walk, trot and canter.”
6. For the rider to clearly count the Zig Zag number of strides
a. Half-pass in canter from the diagonal - Side, 2, 3 Straighten, 2 3 – then back to Side, 2, 3 Straighten, 2, 3 – (one more) Side, 2, 3 Straighten 2, 3
To conclude Kyra shared real concepts to help each rider and each horse. The 150-200 audience members found all sorts of lessons or tools to learn from such a down-to-earth caring yet enamored with confident knowledge of such a coach. What a great opportunity to watch and learn from such a successful knowledge base as Kyra Kirkland.
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