Friday, August 23, 2013

1, 2, 3 GO - Clinic with Jaralyn Finn

Last Sunday I attended a clinic with Jaralyn Finn hosted by the Charles County Potomac Valley Dressage Association with my horse, Golly.

Golly has been under saddle for five years and we are attempting Intro C and are showing well at Intro B.    Moving off my leg without constant pressure and specifically canter departs have been a struggle for us.

After watching me continue to harass Golly with leg aids, Jaralyn stopped us to explain her “1, 2, 3” system.   “Your horse doesn’t want to work this way.  Think of it from his point of view.  He is thinking ‘Well I don’t LIKE her jabbing me in the sides with those spurs but she is pretty nice and she feeds me so I will put up with it.  She seems kind of upset so maybe I should slow down.  Well hey!  She jabbed me again… maybe she wants me to go faster.’ He would much prefer to just move along without the constant nagging.”  Jaralyn’s solution was one that I thought I had been using but her clarification and refinement of how I was using it gave us clear improvement.
Step One is the “Utopia aid” – just a gentle pressure on their side should move them forward.   She likened it to just brushing “the hair on their sides the wrong way”.  That is how she trains her horses to move off the leg aids.

Step Two is gradual escalation of the Utopia. When the leg aid from Step 1 doesn’t work, then you gradually escalate your aides until you get what you want, walk to trot, halt to walk, etc.
Photo by Dorothy Anderson
Step Three is the “wake up call” and it takes courage and some planning because you are going to give them a swift whomp with your leg or a tap with your whip and you have to be ready to go with them, not hold them back. Your body language has  to tell your horse they did a good job responding despite them potentially shooting forward or bucking.  Jaralyn explained that whenever you find yourself stuck in Step 2 (using more pressure than your “utopia” leg aid) you wait a few strides and then give them a #3 “wake up call” and really allow them to carry you forward. After the wake up call, you should take a few moments out of your ride and carefully repeat the process of all three steps. After two or three times, Jaralyn said most dull horses become sensitive and forward just from the Step 1.

Some version of this I have heard from my instructor, from articles and books and from other clinicians.  However, Jaralyn gave me some additional pointers I had not considered before and also pointed out very clearly that despite KNOWING this, I was not following what I knew.
The biggest pointer she gave is that I was escalating from Step One to Step Two to Step Three too quickly.   I wasn’t giving him time to process, learn and succeed so he saw the three steps of escalation as one big aid that he ultimately was failing to achieve.  The second pointer was that I needed to “leave him alone and keep my leg off” completely once I gave the aid.  Let him carry me.

Jaralyn summed it up with, “The trick with lazier horses is to incentivize them into moving forward. You need to get to a point where you don’t use your leg.”
We used her pointers a few days later in our ride and they continued to work.  I did realize that this is one of those situations where I need more training than my horse.   I ride tomorrow and I will be looking forward to seeing how much I can improve!

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