Today I ventured back to my old neighbourhood near Old North Rd to have a lesson with Ramón Guerrero, a classical trainer and co-founder of the Royal School of Equestrian Art in southern Spain. I took Toby the Pony with me to learn how to do classical long rein properly (I have never had a lesson in this before).
So, we turn up with our long rein ‘gear’ which was a kiwi ingenuity do-dah of two sets of reins joined together to make a long rein…thankfully, Ramón was very understanding of my explanation that you cannot buy a classical long rein in New Zealand. ‘What do we have here?,’ he must have been thinking.
Ramón, who is now 70 years old by the way (and looking in great health!) watched us at first to see what we knew. Well, let’s just say, that turned out to be very little when it comes to the long rein methods! First of all, I was standing on the wrong side of the horse. So, I was advised to switch to the outside and use the inside rein to turn Toby on a circle.
Toby was not going forward into the bit which meant that I had very little maneuverability of direction. So, he had to get a bit more forward and taking the contact. We did some exercises to help this, a sort of lunging with the horse between the long reins, so that the outside rein went around his hind. Then another version of the double lunging with the outside rein crossing over the wither, which is not as efficient for the flexion, but with the main aim of getting more forward movement.
Apparently, I am to be ‘the commander’, so I’ve been a little too relaxed about our training. Toby was told to get to work, which is exactly what I was expecting from Ramón. To my surprise though, the trot work is where he will build the strength for piaffe. I thought that the canter is harder work for the horse, but with Toby electing to canter over trot, it seems that this is the easier way for him to get out of using his back. We are going to do the exercises from now in trot.
Our beginners piaffe was called a ‘shuffle’ by Ramón. I had figured that I would get some good honest truth, and well, I could hardly be offended by that…we’ve never been taught anything about this! So, we are going back to the drawing board until he has more strength in his back to be able to lift up as a diagonal piaffe that can move forward, rather than shuffling on the spot.
To Toby’s credit, Ramón did see the potential and said that he looked like a mini-Lipizzaner. I know that Toby has the heart of a Lipizzaner even if he is a good old kiwi stationbred! He definitely thinks he’s special. Unfortunately, Toby didn’t know about all the hard work that Lipizzaner’s do to look so special. Well, he might have a clue now!
We did a kind of shoulder-in lunging technique that Toby needs to do until he can hold his back in place for the piaffe. Luckily, he’s a quick learner. Now, for the gruelling schedule of daily practice. Classical training is very demanding. Ramón told me that to get to Grand Prix in the long rein he schooled his horse every day for two years. Okay maybe five days a week for us…I’m not sure we are headed for Grand Prix!
I also learned that Ramón is very fascinated by snow and skiing…perhaps I could teach him something??