Tag Archives: Horse Training

Rutledge Farm Sessions with Phillip Dutton

Phillip Dutton with Aleco Bravo-Greenberg at Rutledge Farm.

Middleburg, Va. – May 15, 2020 – Rutledge Farm is pleased to announce a partnership with EQUITANA USA to present a clinic with Olympic eventing gold medalist Phillip Dutton as a part of the Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series. EQUITANA, the world’s largest equestrian trade fair and exhibition, is coming to the United States this fall at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky from September 25-27. Historically hosted in Middleburg, Virginia, the team at Rutledge Farm is looking forward to expanding the successful Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series to offer this unique learning opportunity to a new audience of equestrians in Kentucky.

EQUITANA has been the leading international equestrian exhibition for over 35 years. Since its inception in 1972 and its continuously growing popularity in Essen, Germany, EQUITANA also offers exhibitions in Australia and New Zealand. The new EQUITANA USA will take place in Lexington, Kentucky this year, showcasing a variety of popular equestrian personalities, professional performers, authors, veterinarians, and other top professionals sharing their expertise on a wide range of disciplines and topics. Each day will feature a trade fair, showcasing equestrian related products and services, along with special demonstrations and performances.

Aleco Bravo-Greenberg, owner of Rutledge Farm, commented, “I am really excited about bringing the Rutledge Farm Sessions to Lexington, Kentucky. I am proud of the series we have established at my farm in Middleburg, and I can’t wait to offer these exclusive opportunities in a new part of the country. Our Middleburg community has enjoyed having Phillip [Dutton] teach at Rutledge Farm over the past two years, but I am looking forward to a new group of riders having the opportunity to learn from his vast experience.”

Olympic eventing gold medalist Phillip Dutton has been a staple clinician for the Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series since 2018 where he has taught beginner novice riders up through advanced athletes. Dutton earned back-to-back Olympic gold medals for Australia’s eventing team in 1996 during the Games in Atlanta, Georgia and again in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. After changing his competitive nationality to the United States in 2006, he was a member of the gold medal eventing team at the 2007 Pan-American Games in Rio De Janeiro and rode to the individual silver medal. In 2016, he was awarded the individual bronze medal for the U.S. Eventing Team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics riding Mighty Nice.

EQUITANA USA Event Director Meghan Margewicz said, “EQUITANA USA is thrilled to be working alongside Rutledge Farm for this year’s clinic series. Rutledge Farm and EQUITANA USA have an ideal synergy, together providing the equestrian community new and exciting opportunities to learn, grow, and excel in equestrian sport. Aleco [Bravo-Greenberg] has created such a unique and beautiful equestrian community within Rutledge. Held in such high regard throughout the industry, and the clinic series – with such impressive names – is another extension of the fabulous opportunities Rutledge Farm offers equestrians of all disciplines. It is with honor that EQUITANA USA and the Kentucky Horse Park will be home to one of the Rutledge Farm Series clinics this fall, and we look forward to a successful and continuing relationship.”

To learn more, visit www.equitanausa.com.

Dressage4Kids Tips: Ride Better with Christoph Hess

Straightness – A Challenge

Practically every horse has a natural asymmetry. Eliminating this asymmetry and thus straightening the horse is a central task of basic training.

Every rider must realize there is no such thing as an “absolutely” straight horse. This means that all riders, regardless of discipline or level, must rise daily to the challenge of straightening their horses.

The Corner – A Bending Line

It sounds counterintuitive, but what really helps is riding correctly through the corners. Every corner that the rider travels helps her straighten the horse. A corner is a quarter-volte, provided that it is ridden through correctly. How deeply you ride into the corners will depend on your horse’s age and, above all, level of training.

This means you won’t ride quite as deeply into the corners with a five-year-old (picture a 10-meter volte) as you would with an older and/or more highly trained horse. In this case, you could imagine a volte with a six-meter radius. What does experience tell us? Perhaps you are not riding the corners as quarter-voltes. The horse is not being positioned and bent through the corner. Often, the corners are ridden very flat and the horse does not come through with his hindquarters in the direction of his forehand. Often, the hindquarters fall out.

Therefore, you must give the task of riding bend through the corners special attention. When you can get successful “straight bending work” in the corners, it helps you correct the horse’s asymmetry and improve his straightness. At the same time, you are improving the horse’s obedience to your leg aids, which is especially important for the horse’s durchlässigkeit. This should apply regardless of how deeply you are riding through the corners.

If the rider goes large around the whole arena and rides through every single corner correctly – that is, her inside leg is driving the horse to the outside rein and she has the feeling that the horse is bending around this leg – she is on the correct path. Every time she rides through a corner, she must be able to feel forward with her inside rein, without this changing the horse’s connection and balance.

Thank you to Martha Cook and Trafalgar Square Books for providing this excerpt. Ride Better with Christoph Hess is available at Trafalgar Square Books. D4K friends can use the code D4K2020 and receive 25% off.

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It’s Time to Finally Get a Look at the Judge’s Card

What does a judge need to see to get YOU to the winner’s circle? Now you can find out.

Get a top Hunter/Equitation judge’s point of view on your show round and personal performance tips for a winning ride.

Why Tom Brennan?

Tom Brennan is one of the premier hunter and equitation judges in our country. As an “R” rated judge, he has judged our sport’s most prestigious competitions. In just the past two years alone, he has judged the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Finals, the USEF Pony Hunter Finals, the USEF Pony Medal Finals, Maclay Regionals, Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, and Lake Placid Horse Show, among many others.

How It Works

Each “Judge My Round” video is approximately 8-10 minutes long and has the following parts:

  1. First Impression Commentary: Tom will watch your round straight through the first time the same way he would if he were judging and provide live commentary of what he’s observing exactly as it happens in real time. No pauses and no rewinds (because we don’t get those in the real world either). He will assess your round and you will learn what stands out about your horse and your riding during that short but critical time in the ring that the judge is deciding.
  2. A Closer Look: Now it is time to get into the details. Tom will start the round again at the beginning and this time, he will go through it play-by-play style. Through pausing, rewinds, and on-screen annotation, Tom will point out what you and your horse are doing well, and he will share observations that might help the next ride produce a blue ribbon.
  3. Ask the Judge: When you place your order and submit your video, you can submit 3 judging questions you would like Tom to answer. These could be specific questions about your horse, your tack, your position, our sport — it’s up to you! In this final section of the video, Tom will address the questions that you submitted.

To learn more about how to submit your round for review, please visit our website: https://www.judgemyround.com.

To see examples of other riders’ rounds being analyzed by Tom, please like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judgemyround/.

Dressage4Kids Tips, by Lendon Gray

I recommend spending a little time staring at the picture and thinking about where all the joints are and how they move. Check out the website: www.horsesinsideout.com. There is some wonderful educational content there.

One excellent exercise that I think many people do not use enough is the turn on the forehand. For beginners this is a wonderful exercise for learning coordination of the aids – how much leg, where to put the leg, and just enough hand to discourage the horse from moving forward, but not hanging on the mouth. For the green horse, it’s a wonderful way to introduce moving away from the leg as opposed to going faster to the leg. For the advanced horse it can be an excellent tune-up.

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Dressage4Kids Tips, by Lendon Gray

I always tell my students that they can’t tell me they can truly do something with their horses unless they do it the best they can do it the FIRST time they do it each day. If you have to practice several times you are still learning it/working on it. So, when you ride today, what can you do the best you are capable of the FIRST time? Sometimes riders just allow themselves to sort of do it and then make it better. Challenge yourself to do “it” the best you can the first time. This could be a walk to trot transition or a schooling canter pirouette.

And if you can’t ride at the moment, sit in a chair and visualize the things you have been working on. Close your eyes and feel yourself on your horse and go through every thought process for every tiny part of doing the movement correctly. Then open your eyes and double check what your instructor has been reminding you – are you doing it the best way you can or the way you tend to do it that is not necessarily your best. Then look at it as the judge sees it – get online and look up tests or tutorials on that movement. Does yours look the same? And if you are riding is there someone who can video just one or two movements that you are doing the best you can the first time?

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Dressage4Kids Tips, by Lendon Gray

I am amazed at how often I have to have riders get off at the beginning of a lesson to adjust their helmets. In brief, your helmet should be steady on your head, not able to wobble (especially if you put your hair under it). The brim should be just above your eyebrows. The chin straps should be just tight enough that if you open your mouth wide it pulls the helmet a bit tighter on your head. There are many online tutorials about helmet fit and the safety of various brands of helmets. Remember they do not last forever and also if you have had a fall where your helmet hits the ground you must replace it. This might also be a good time to look into cleaning the inside of your helmet.

I would love for those of you exercising at home to share your exercise routine with us. Hopefully you are working to strengthen your core, and working on your flexibility and balance. Write us a note or share a video on Facebook.

For those riding

What a great time to do all your riding (except your warm-up) without stirrups (your horse is safe, right?).  Surely I don’t need to talk about the value of riding without stirrups, do I? You should ride without stirrups enough that it is your preferred way of riding. Make sure you aren’t gripping with your thighs and that your legs are hanging long and of course that you aren’t using your horse’s mouth for security. If you’re nervous about cantering, practice at walk and trot. If you are nervous about trotting, practice at walk until your confidence grows.

What happens if while you’re cantering you take your leg off your horse’s side. Does he break? If so that tells you that you are holding hm in the canter. You are using up your leg aid just to keep him going. If this is the case, get your canter, give him a little push forward, and then take your leg away (let your heel down). Two strides later give him another little (big?) push and take your leg away. Gradually you will be able to keep your leg off longer, but even if you have to push him every third side, so be it, but make sure your leg comes off in between. It’s fine to have your leg close at all times, just make sure you’re not clutching. And of course, this is the same at walk, and trot.

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Dressage4Kids Tips

Photo credit: Harry Furey.

This suggestion is for those riding and those who are not able to ride. I find it surprising how often I have to teach riders how to shorten their reins. Seems easy, right?

First of all, normally one should not shorten the reins by dropping and grabbing the rein with the hand on the same side as the rein – right hand jumps forward or even crawls forward on the right rein to make it shorter. This causes the contact to be dropped and then often grabbed back or at the very least to wobble. One should reach across with the thumb and top finger of one hand, pull the rein through the other hand – taking the rein on top of the thumb and first finger of the opposite hand. And when you shorten the rein your hand should slide forward on the rein. Usually we do not shorten the rein to make it tighter, but to have the hand further forward. The hands should normally be in front of the pommel. If you hold your hands too wide or too low, this will be impossible to do easily. Your hands should be held near each other.

So my challenge to you is to play with shortening your reins and think carefully about what he horse feels on his mouth; remember the bit at the end of your reins lies on his bare gums. He should not know you are shortening your reins. Those of you in the house, get some narrow belts or twine or reins if you have them, and have someone else hold one end, or tie them to the back of a chair. Now see if you can shorten the reins without the other person feeling it or having the reins get looser or tighter as you do it.

As I was looking for a video to share I was surprised to find people telling you to shorten the reins the way I tell you NOT to – and you can see in the videos how the contact gets tighter and looser as they do it.

This one explains it the way I think you should shorten your reins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUCvR0gIR5E.

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Dressage4Kids Tips

Meghan Benge Photography.

If you have your boots at home, check these things out. Look at the wear on the inside of your boots. Are both boots the same? Is the wear on the inside or does the wear go into the seam on the back, which tells you that you probably ride with your leg turned out too much? It means your toes are out, but that most often starts at your hips. If that’s the case, start some hip opening exercises.

A quick thought for those riding

OK – today’s subject is s big one – half halts! But in a nutshell. Half halts are a prompt call to attention and rebalancing or reorganizing. Before you can do a half halt you must have a prompt go from the leg – as in, you say go more with your leg and the next stride is bigger or faster. And you say whoa with your hand/back/weight and the next stride is shorter or slower. Without that quick response you will not have a half halt (I wish that was all there is to it, but first check that out). Then can you make exactly one step bigger/faster and one step slower/shorter. Check that out today and then we’ll add to this.

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Dressage4Kids Tips

Here is one of my favorite teaching tools off the horse. Your ability to follow the motion of your horse’s head and neck and to separate your arms from whatever your body is doing is extremely important. You can do this with a bridle as I did here or just with lead ropes or even twine. The “horse” (me in the photo) holds the reins on one end and the rider hold the reins in the normal fashion – as if she were riding with elbows bent and very slightly in front of her waist. The “horse” moves the reins forward and back both together and then each independently. If the rider has that teeny, tiny pull that enables her to keep the rein from ever becoming loose, but never tight, just taut, she can keep the same feel throughout. Then the rider walks in place, trots, and canters while the “horse” keeps moving the reins back and forth a bit. We do this on the trampoline for even more difficulty, but it can certainly be done on solid ground. Keep a soft fist. You will find it nearly impossible to do with a tight, hard fist.

A quick thought for those riding

Those of you lucky enough to be riding – first try the exercise above on the ground. Now get on your horse and just walk with long, not loose reins – can you stay with the horse’s mouth with exactly the same pressure throughout the stride? Does your rein get looser and tighter? Can you maintain exactly the same amount of pressure on both reins, so the bit is exactly centered in the horse’s mouth? It doesn’t matter at this moment where your horse’s head is. Just see if you can become part of him without ANY communication with him. Your arm and hand are an extension of his mouth and neck (and back). Some of you may find it very difficult to “do nothing” not fussing with the bit in some way.

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Dressage4Kids News

Thank you, D4K family, for being patient concerning our upcoming activities. We will keep you posted as decisions are made. In the meantime, stay well and let’s all help each other get through this challenging time.

We have already cancelled the first three TEAM clinics of 2020. I know we must be careful keeping each other safe and healthy, but that many of you are still able to ride your horse in your back yard or are at a stable where you can keep six feet away from all humans at the stable. Best of all we can still hug our horses. One of the parts I’m sad about is that many of you were looking forward to getting some instruction. So I thought I would regularly send out some very simple ideas of things that riders of all levels could check on in their own riding. Nothing deep in theory — just little check-ups that any rider can do that will improve your riding.

  1. In one way the easiest, but we know bad habits are hard to break and this is a VERY bad habit for many. Keep your head up at all times. Have anyone watch you (they don’t need to know anything about riding). Can you have your head up and your eyes up no matter what you are doing (picking up your reins, transitions, looking at the spot you want to reach in a leg-yield or a half pass)? We know this has a big effect on your upper body and your ability to develop a strong back.
  2. Keep a soft fist – if your fist is tight your arm will be tight and it will be extremely difficult to keep an elastic arm and to follow the motion of the horse’s neck. Your rein is stabilized by your thumb and top finger and your other fingers should be able to open and close slightly to speak to your horse – to give an aid. Remember the idea of holding a child’s hand? Don’t let the child run out in traffic (with an open hand) but he’ll be screaming if you squish his hand too tightly.

I would love to hear from you with other suggestions I can share with everyone. Those of you who have used my goal sheets know my favorite questions: “What have you worked on all year that you should have fixed by now? Why haven’t you fixed it?” Share with me what that is and go out and fix it.

Stay well and happy riding.

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