I still owe you the photos from our wonderful course with Marius Schneider, 22.-23.04.2017!!!
First of all thank you so much Marius for coming to us ❤ I know you have more requests for courses than you have weekends, so I really really appreciate you giving us your time and enabling more and more people to experience the academic art of riding.
We will do our homework and are looking forward to October!
Second, I’d like to thank all participants, with horse and as listeners, as you are the heart of these courses ❤ It is a big step to admit you don’t know everything and to be open to learn! You have a big advantage over those that don’t take the effort to travel, try to understand, rethink their approach, want to improve. Our horses motivate us to go beyond our comfort zone and find other ways and new and better versions of ourselves.
So what happened on this course? What I find most outstanding about Marius’ way of teaching is his consequent insistence on correct basic work. The basis for all dressage work is a good communication with the horse, which we build up during groundwork and lunging. Can we lead the horse from different positions, stop him easily, does he focus on us? Which groundwork position does the horse prefer, where do we have the best connection? And what are our own strengths? How do we actually teach a horse, and what exactly are the different aids and how and when do we apply them?
During the groundwork education, we have to take care that our body aids and micro signals do not contradict our secondary aids and macro signals. Horses are experts in reading micro signals, whereas we humans focus more on macro signals, which can lead to a miscommunication. During the exercises, it is important to come to the point quickly and then give the horse a break when he did well. This way we keep the horse motivated and in a thinking frame.
Marius wants his students to understand the essence of the exercises. Why are we doing it? What is the effect of a certain exercise on the horse’s body? Quite often, we loose focus on the line on which to perform an exercise. For example, the horse does not stay on the diagonal during half pass. Marius then focuses on the correct line the rider has to walk or ride and less on the hind legs. If we take the horse’s shoulders with us in half pass, then we only have to add a little bit of hind leg, and voila. Marius’ solutions to the problems we were having usually were very simple and we could easily implement them. Quite often during this course I heard “Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?” That is actually a valid question and also why I love to be Marius’ student. In almost every lesson, I experience aha-moments and find it incredible, how simple changes lead to so much improvement.
In the academic art of riding, we strive for more and more refined aids and a better balance. Right from the start, the horse is give responsibility for his own movement and we don’t force the horse into a certain frame with side reins during lunging or heavy contact on the reins during riding. Several times, Marius repeated: “I don’t have fun pulling my horses in the mouth!” In his experience, horses don’t know what we want when we pull on the reins and they usually go against the pressure. Thus, educating the aids is of utmost importance. Our aids should help the horse to understand what we expect of him. Right from the start, our aids should be a light as possible and we search for every responds from the horse that goes in the right direction. Usually, we need to do much less than we think! If we are soft, the horses will comply just as softly. So it was a pleasure to see reins lengthening during this clinic and legs and seats becoming more and more relaxed. The horses answered with a better forward, softer bending and a more relaxed mind.
The seat is the primary aid in the academic art of riding. Thus, the education has to start with ourselves. We learn to follow the horse’s movement and learn to have calm hands and legs, calm in the sense that they follow the movement and the swinging. For example, a calm hand is not one that is still but one that allows for the nodding movement of the horse’s head and neck. A calm seat allows the three dimensional swinging of the horse’s back, and a calm leg gives aids only when needed and allows the chest to swing from side to side, to contract during the forward and to expand during collection. With our seat and hands we learn to feel more into the horse instead of commanding the horse what to do. We become aware of asymmetries and imbalances and learn what the reasons of certain symptoms are. Where does the horse fall out of our seat, and why? What can we do to improve it? In which moments do we give aids? Do we know at all times when each of the horse’s legs leaves the ground, in every gait? As humans we like to solve all issues with our hands. In the academic, we learn that what we feel in our hands is the past, which we cannot change anymore. Instead, we work on the causes and not the symptoms. Most likely, we have to work the hind quarters or move the shoulders so that the swinging can go through the whole spine and reach our hands. Can we achieve a correct stellning with our hand, direct the shoulders between the reins, influence the hind quarters with our lower leg?
When we have educated our seat and aids, we start to invite the horse to follow our seat, to follow our point of weight, which we place more forward for the forward down and more backwards for collection. We change between contraction and relaxation of the frame, on the circle and during the lateral exercises on the straight line. We check collection with forward and forward with collection. If the horse does not show an engaged forward after collection, most likely the horse was not collected but simply slow. The horse shall step in the point of weight with both hind legs and elevate his chest, shoulders, neck and head, and develop more shoulder freedom. As riders, we guide this development and allow the horse to find self-carriage. By working on balance, suppleness and shape, we gradually also improve tempo, rhythm and swinging. We give the horse time to sort his legs and to respond to our aids, and in the beginning a lot of the education happens in walk. Can we do all lateral movements and the pirouette in walk, we do the same in trot and later in canter. Many riders feels that they haven’t properly worked their horses if they didn’t ride all the gaits during a lesson. In the academic, we educate the horse step by step and thus build understanding and confidence. Each step is preceded by something the horse already knows and connects to a system of logical exercises. Nevertheless, it is mostly us humans who have to learn. If we do it right and have the exercises in our body, then the horses follow us effortlessly. Then, every day, what we ask of the horse makes sense to them and we will increase the trust between us day by day. If we give our best to them, they will give their best to us.
Lastly, my personal experience with this course. Just before the course, I had the chance to be a working student for Bent Branderup in Denmark. I learned so much and was so happy to show it to Marius during the course! Weto has become more round and got a much better forward of the hind legs, which is a good basis now for the collection work that is in front of us. One of my homework from the last course with Marius was to start using the curb bit more and to ride one handed. If you only use one hand to hold the reins, the bending has to come more from your seat than from the reins. Moreover, I feel a lot better when I take the reins in one hand, more relaxed in my upper body and seat and I also focus more on the seat aids. Just two years ago I could not have imagined to collect my horse only from the seat, with hanging reins! The reward for trusting in the ways of the old masters is just awesome. How can one describe harmony other than the absence of any resistance? When a little change of seat is enough to bring the horse into a shoulder-in or from relaxation to collection, then it feels like the melting of two bodies and to minds. My other homework was to school the trot further in all lateral movements, so I was happy to show that Weto’s trot has improved, too. Furthermore, I really enjoyed to see the improvement of my fellow riders and the advise that Marius gave all of us concerning the education of our horses. I am so thrilled to be a part of this wonderful academic family!
A big thanks also to the management of Stajnia Olender and our stable workers, who did their best accommodate us and make us feel comfortable. And of course to Paweł Siwek for the amazing photos, because of you we can remember 🙂
I hope to see you all again soon! Our next course will take place 22.-23 July 2017, with Carina Dörfler. You are all very welcome to join!
Thank you so much for this write up of the clinic. My favourite sentence from your article is ” If we do it right and have the exercises in our body, then the horses follow us effortlessly.” It’s so, so true! I look forward to learning more about the Academic Art of Riding in order to continue my never-ending journey in Equestrianism.
Thank you for reading 🙂 I feel that often in my lessons, Bent or Marius help me with a tiny detail and things fall into place.