In the November 2009 issue of Dressage Today, instructor Raul de Leon gives advice and exercises to help other instructors teach dressage to students. He includes starting a student on the longe line and developing communication with the horse. This video shows de Leon teaching Erin Bleakney on Veillantif, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Vladimir Sadov.
Video by Vladimir Polchaninoff
Here is a transcript of what de Leon is saying in the video:
Now, let's see if you can take your thighs in the same position they are right up next to the horse. Take them away from the horse. That's it. And, now, try not to large your waist too much and your stomach. Very, very good.
Rotate your toes in a little bit, and pick your legs up. Exactly. Let's do that one more time. Right. Great. Straighten your lower back--not so far back this time--and, then, bring it back more. Right now, your hip bones are a little ahead of your seat bones. Try to bring your hipbones right above the seat bones. Very good. Very relaxed. That way, you feel that the horse is an extension of your lower back. And walk on.
So, basically, the look and the feel that we're actually after is a very natural feel, a very workmanlike position where you give the impression that you belong on the back of a horse. The horse is an extension of your body.
And, we have some simple rules on the line. Your nose should be in line with his nose as he bends. So the middle of your chest is lined up with the middle of his neck. Your hips are parallel to his hips. Your shoulders are parallel to his shoulders. So, on a circle to the left, because the left hind leg is on a shorter track than the right hind leg, your left hip is a little bit ahead--very slightly ahead--of your right hip. And because his outside shoulder is tracking a longer distance than the left shoulder, your right shoulder is a little ahead of your left shoulder. Good.
Relax your neck a little bit. Be sure that the right side of your neck stretches a little bit as you want the right side of his neck to stretch.
Now, go to working trot. Sitting is a difference between the lengthen and working trot. Working trot is a longer stride. We want to see that the left hind leg touches the ground where the left front leg just hit. We want to see parallel cannon bones. We want to see that the horse is looking in the direction of travel, as is the rider. Very good. Very good. Now, let's see if we can do a little strong trot. Yes, same rhythm--not a medium trot just showing his willingness to lengthen, then try maintaining the same rhythm. Yeah. Stays nicely on the bit. Good. Very good.
And, now, spiral in without losing the rhythm to the 10-meter mark--10-meter sit--a little bit tilting your head to the right. You need to relax a little bit the muscles on the right side of your neck. Very nice. That's the natural way the leg comes in front by making a smaller circle. Good. Making it smaller. Don't let him get too far behind the vertical. Good. Now, see if we can make a nice halt. Very good. That was excellent.
Now, we walk on the circle, and we are going to work on a very smooth transition from the walk, the lengthen walk to collected canter. We want to show that your outside leg is not going to come forward. It's already in place in the outside-leg position, which is 3 or 4 inches behind the normal position. Now, the outside leg announces the lead and keeps the haunches from falling out; the inside leg executes the transition; the inside hip moves very slightly. And, be sure that your right seat bone stays in the saddle and that you don't throw away the contact with the right rein (the outside rein) and that you have a soft contact on the inside rein. And collected canter. Yeah. And, make little half halts. Make your neck more relaxed; try to lower your left earlobe; your thumbs up, relax your neck, a little lower to the left rein; keep your outside leg and whoa. Good. OK, enough.
Raul de Leon moved to the United States from Cuba in the 1960s. He and former student Olympic eventing gold medalist Tad Coffin served as co-directors of the Westmoreland Davis Equestrian Institute at Morven Park in Leesburg, Va., from 1984 to 1990. He has taught instructors' clinics co-sponsored by the FEI and the International Olympic Committee in seven countries. In 2008, the American Riding Instructors Association awarded him the Master Instructor award. He is based on Long Island, N.Y.
To read the article, "Teaching Dressage," see the November 2009 issue of Dressage Today. To order back issues, call 301-977-3900.