Filippa Valenca - June 09

Filippa gave us a wonderful 4 days of inspirational teaching and riding including a very comprehensive evening demo. What I like most about Filippa is that she is not afraid to point out what is wrong and will do her best to help you put it right. She is not there to show the World how clever she is and only rides the horses to help you, not to "show how well the horse goes with a really good rider" as some clinicians do! She is also not afraid of pushing horse and rider when they need it even if things aren't perfect. In fact, the whole point of a clinic is to work on things that aren't so good, so I like it when things go wrong. For example, I asked her to help Icaro's lateral work with the exercises that she does in hand. It didn't work and Icaro sulked for the rest of the lesson. An exellent lesson in how not to do it! The next lesson we tried slightly different tactics with a good warm up first and it went much better.

Filippa and Joy thought it would be a great idea to do a Pas de Deux for the demo with Filippa on Trinco (Joy's much better behaved "ex" stallion) and me on Icaro. We practiced hard - for at least 10 minutes - with one run through then found some good music which we guessed was about the right length. A couple of run throughs on our feet just before the demo and away to go! I was more focussed on where I was going and what I was doing than I had been for years so didn't really see or hear anything. Amazingly, it all went incredibly well with some loyal supporters "moved to tears"! Naturally others were less impressed and of course that is the report that got most attention on the dreaded gossip pages of the internet. Equally amazingly, the gossips failed to comment on Cantinero's levade work which I thought was fascinating, but then I was actually sitting on him experiencing the fine tuning that makes such an exercise possible. I was trying to think of where else you could see such work... no, can't think of anywhere. Of course you can see the finished product in the various Classical schools but the early training? Of course I am incredibly lucky to have a horse like Cantinero who finds it easy and enjoys it. Unfortunately for the audience, the best place for this work was down the long side with our backs to the gallery so they didn't get the best view, but if they were really keen they could have got out of their seats to watch from a better vantage point. British Reserve prevailed on this occasion ... Gill Ward's Xisto was also part of the demo and behaved beautifully for his first time "on show". He is still only a baby in terms of experience but it enabled Filippa to show the work in hand that she does with young horses and then Gill showed some lovely simple ridden work. He has come a long way in the 8 months she has owned him. Other riders on the course included Anita (Maestro), Philippa (and Crisp), Sue Adams, Andrew Ward, Gill Ratcliffe, Sarah Tindal, Angela (one session in hand with Pooh) and Sarah Fox (1 session).

As you know, I usually make lots of notes but this time just about all of them relate to me me me so rather boring for anyone else but here are a few observations that relate to everyone.

  • 10lbs in the hand with a snaffle or a few ounces in the hand with a double bridle - which is better? We must always try to find an easier way for the horse.
  • Always forward before sideways and always flexion before sideways
  • You need to feel between both reins - when you ask with one rein you need to give with the other, not pull on both reins.
  • If you only ask for forward and lengthening you lose the suppleness (Very much what Anja Beran said)
  • Half pass - like a drunk carrying a bottle - he falls towards the bottle but never falls over or drops the bottle.
  • The aids are brief - do not hold
  • Half pass and shoulder in - profit from making a volte to gain more impulsion and to reposition.
  • Shoulder in and travers on a circle - keep the same position when you go from one to the other - your body stays on the circle line.
  • Find the right balance between angle and flexion then use your set and legs to increase the amplitude of the stride. (lateral work)
  • After half pass, do not try to straighten or hold the horse with the reins, ride forwards into straightness
  • The horse should respond to your seat and back when you reduce (collect) the stride. Find the balance between seat and leg
  • LEAN BACK - ie stay in your back and on your seat. Do not tip forward and perch, especially in transitions and lateral work.

Lastly, for those that may be interested, in levade, the shoulders of the horse do not lift at all, the back end goes down. There is something you don't learn every day!

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