By Rebecca Blister
(Photos by Shirley McMillan)
Edward Gal gave a clinic for 5 lucky riders at the beautiful Gayla Driving Center in Geogetown, Ky on September 18th, 2010 . The wonderful organizers at Team Engaged had given approval for myself and student, Laurie Bauchman, to participate. My tireless instructor, Kay Meredith, agreed to prepare me for the pressure of such a clinic, husband Anthony and Edward Gal worshiping daughter, Natalie, offered to make the trek with us and we had accommodations with Dr Robin Wharton, a long time friend. Plus the clinic sponsors County Saddlery, Succeed, Smart Pak, Back on Track and Hay Gain were going to be on site with some “extras” for the riders.
I have watched the tape we made of the ride multiple times. And fawned endlessly over the absolutely stunning photos taken by Shirley McQuillen of Touchstone Farm. What stands out is the attention to gait quality and transitions with in the gaits. This all sounds simple-which it is-but the devil is in the details. The horse first needs to be warmed up with a low neck over the back with an active hind leg. He must be straight and stay in that outline when you ask to lengthen and shorted the frame. The rider has to balance evenly into both legs shoulders up and square with low, quiet hands. Edward states “Americans ride too backward -you need to give with the reins more when you use the leg-otherwise you send conflicting information. The leg says go and the hand says stop.” That is just the first 15 minutes if all is well there we can move on.
We begin the real work and right away the canter lengt
henings are not forward enough “when you ask-to me-he does not respond , and you need to give more with the hand.” This improves to the right we do a change-which is not forward enough either. He instructs me to ride a little collection in the corner, the forward 2 strides to the change and forward out. “You see, that was better.”
I decided before the clinic to learn instead of performing the things Mojo and I were already proficient at. So instead of tempi changes and pirouettes we asked for help with the dreaded canter zig zag. In front of God and everybody. The auditors seemed nice..and those people that were riding in the WEGS, I was pretty sure they were from other countries so I would never see them again!
So we get clearance after the warm up to start preparation for the half pass by flexing the neck only while still going forward and back maintaining the canter quality . Mojo wants to go haunches in and lose collection going into the corners. So we go on until that improves. Then we go right half pass first-were I ask for too much haunches in and loose canter quality. Edward observes “you ask too much-to be perfect right away. Just go on the diagonal in a shoulder in that will be enough”, and it was. “That was not to bad.” he said. To which I think -was he thinking it was going to be tragic or was it just mediocre?. Can not ponder that for long because I have to go left where typically the haunches trail. Again I am asking for too much angle and losing the gait quality-but now we go diagonal with thinking a bit haunches in while allowing with the outside rein while sitting to the left and maintaining collection with my body position instead of my hands. A little forward and back in the half pass now too while maintaining the principles established in the warm up.
Then to go STRAIGHT first down the center line/quarter line with a big clean forward change instead of immediately to the zig zag. We are allowed to go to the zig zag eventually and it was pretty easy after all the pieces were assembled before.
We can walk and I give Mojo a peppermint. Edward is intrigued by the mints in a wrapper. I tell him they don’t melt in my pockets in the tropical NC summer heat, go through the wash without causing a gooey wad in my breeches and give him minty fresh breath! I promise to send him some. And we pick up the reins-with contact right away and an active hind leg -some short steps to engage with an allowing hand. Back to the canter this time we work on extended canter to the change in the corner where I sometimes can not collect and get a kick out in the change because I have to ask to much. So we GO into the extension and back before the corner and forward 1 stride before the change and back after the change to collect for the corner and center line. This I manage well after the 3rd time. Edward says with a smile “there, that was much better.”
Walk break. Discuss Totalis trip, the heat and the stallion’s first time on the plane. “Everything is so much closer in Europe.” This is true. I think about the 10 hr trip the next day and realize we could have flow to Holland in that time. But now we are back working. At the trot, which is now very easy, forward, supple and light. Half pass side to side with just my weight and a light leg aid. Edward does not ride with a whip and I had heard the first rider’s lesson over the speakers while tacking up to be ride #2. Kind of nice to have someone else take the test before me! SO I was prepared to use my legs and seat more effectively (or not, but I had already formed my mental game plan with the audience). In the end, my horse was better off a lighter leg aid, with less hand but I was expecting more response immediately from both myself and my beloved Mojo.
The following weekend we won the small tour sweepstakes at the Pinehurst Fall Dressage show with 7s and 8s for the half passes. So thank you Edward and Nicole, Team Engaged, Robin, Kay, my home team and Windcroft Farm sponsors: Pennfield Feed, Rocking B Saddle Shop, and Arthrodynamic Technologies (makers of Tandem and Polyglycan).