Mother Nature decided we needed a break from our regularly scheduled Weds group jump lessons, so we were rained out. In lieu of lessons, we decided to offer in-house lectures here at Manor Equestrian Center. Daniel Bedoya, Sr accepted my invitation to join me for the lecture. Daniel is the owner of the barn that Austin Eventing operates out of and if you don't know much of his history, check this out:
So, off I went to the lounge. 6 books in hand, food to share, and an idea for the lecture.
Secretly (or not so), I was excited about the lecture. Of course, I would rather be riding and teaching but I geek out on the learning process of riding as well. Yes, old school. You know, like from a book and such. As we started to fill our plates and settle into our chairs the reasoning for the lecture was put forward first.
For the sake of this lecture, in riding you can break the learning process down into three categories:
2) Emotional 3) Educational
Of course this is over simplified but bear with me. In lessons, we tend to deal with the physical because it is the active part of riding presented directly in front of us. Can they go forward, can they stop, can they turn? This tends to dominate our focus as riders as well as trainers. For example, most folks don't care about the BHS definition of the half-halt when there horse is bolting around the arena.
I teach a lot of adults so the Emotional aspect to the learning process becomes immediately necessary as well. How do you feel while riding? Take a deep breathe. You are good enough, etc. I am sure you see where I am going with this.
Now, the Educational element is ALWAYS there. Knowledge of the riding process is the foundation for all lessons and instruction, but it's awfully hard to fit a lot of theory into a 45 min lesson.
This is why evenings like yesterday become a necessary way to bridge the gap for riders (and instructors).
As I prepared my lecture ideas, I was brainstorming subjects I wanted to chat about: jump distances/shape of jumps at types of fences, equine conditioning, human conditioning/cross training, nutrition (Mmmmm brownies), Dressage movements and terminology, etc etc etc.
Suddenly I thought, instead of lecturing on what I wanted to speak about, I actually wanted to know what my students wanted to learn about. I wanted feedback on what subjects were unclear, what theories I didn't realize I didn't give enough attention to, etc.
As a trainer, this feedback can be incredibly useful as a self-evaluation technique. For example, if everyone said, "What the H$&(#!! is a half-halt?" I know I need to spend a bit more time discussing that during lessons.
Now, since I wanted to make sure that people felt comfortable admitting what they didn't know, I handed out blank scrap pieces of paper to everyone. They were instructed to write anything down they wanted to learn about, something they didn't understand, a movement they could even spell because it's in German, or an idea they struggled with- especially if it was something they felt they should understand but don't quite.
This became the subject of our lecture. The papers looked like this:
I have to say, the questions were fantastic! They were well thought out and challenging ideas to discuss. We randomly pulled a sheet of paper out and the first one we discussed was:
1) What does it mean to be behind the vertical? And how do you fix it? 2) What is the difference between a half pass ans a leg yield?
An hour + of interactive conversation later, we pulled the second paper:
1) Classical Dressage Training versus American Dressage Training
As you can see, we had some great conversations and got into subjects that are not likely to come up in depth during a lesson. I am so appreciate of having a group of riders that are excited to do this type of thing. I'm quite proud to see riders embrace all of the aspects of horsemanship and seek to further their understanding of this sport. We are all better for it and most importantly, the horses benefit from this constant education process. By embracing this process, we as riders, trainers, competitors, owners, and partners stay true to why we started this crazy journey in the first place... the love of the horse and the desire to be better for it.
Assuming you are still reading, the best part, if we have ALL THESE OTHER papers that we didn't get to. Over the next few days, I will offer more lectures and discussions based on these.
To give you an idea of future subjects, here are the other questions presented:
1. During the half-pass is the shoulder supposed to lead? During a Lengthening at the trot what frame is the horse supposed to be in? The same as the previous question but at the canter.
2. Can horses eat peanutbutter? (kidding) Can you speak to walking distances, including trot poles?
3. Shoulders/Haunches in lines in turns. Turning in general. Lift pole/ how does that effect horse?
4. I don't know/have a hard time figuring out if I am riding wrong or my horse is being a brat? or both. I have no experience attaching a trailer and driving a rig.
5. How the outside rein works in turning the horse. Feeling impulsion. What level of contact I should have vs. what becomes bracing in my hands.
6. I have trouble keeping contact and getting impulsion. Sometimes I struggle with balancing keeping contact w/o getting in horses face. I don't know what my seat should be doing most of the time I use reins and legs only. I didn't know which side arrow of bit went on- now I know- the left. The whole concept of roundness is difficult to get and feel.
7. How do you discipline a horse on the ground (in relation to keeping personal space) without haivng ot result in physical reprimanding?
If you have any questions about the above subjects, please join us for upcoming lecture/discussions. Just remember to bring food.