Thursday, December 25, 2014

Clinic with Shaun Mandy - simplicity gets results!

A couple of weekends ago I took my 6 yr old, Chadwick, to a clinic with Shaun Mandy. I found out about Shaun through his new blog on Horse and Hound, and saw that although he is based in Denmark with Hasse Hoffman, he comes over to England regularly to teach clinics.

I don't shy away from using different trainers, I find it so helpful to have new eyes on me occasionally and its up to me what methods and tips I take or leave. One of the best things about having my own yard is that I'm able to use different trainers without upsetting anyone, and I love that independence. Every rider has their own system, even if it is based heavily on their main trainer's methods, they will always do some things a bit differently. I think its important to be open to new ideas so an individual system can be developed, and equip riders with more tools in their toolbox to use with different horses.

I went to Shaun with the intention of fixing me and Chad's main problem, which is moving sideways off the leg without grabbing the bit and running. I finished the weekend gaining a hell of a lot more help than I had imagined! True to a classical training system, Chad and I started on Saturday by working on correct bend around a circle in a correct, regular rhythm and tempo, and finished on Sunday with the best flying changes and half passes Chad has ever done.

As soon as I started trotting, he told me to slow the rhythm right down. I am so used to pushing Chad forwards forwards forwards to get him active and using his back in order to prevent him sucking back behind the bridle, so it was different to let him trot along without me pushing all the time. We focused on true bend around the circle using inside leg to outside rein, staying away from my bad habit of using my inside rein too much, then something remarkable started happening. He started to take the bit forwards and started to swing through his body. Because I had slowed him down, he had time to relax his body and let my leg into his ribcage to create the bend, and he came into his own balance which enabled him to move through to the contact.

Once we maintained a swinging, through trot on the circle, we went down the long side in "shoulder-out" (like a leg-yield along the wall off your outside leg) and leg-yield from the centreline to the wall.  This is similar to what we did at Leonie Bramall's in Germany. I find the shoulder-out helps engage the outside hind which helps to push around circles and keep the bend around the inside leg. By combining this with the leg-yield off the other leg from the centreline to the track, I was unlocking both sides of his rib cage. I had to make an extra effort to not pull my inside rein to achieve the bend, and ask for it with my leg and seat instead. By forcing myself to use my leg more, it stopped me from pulling too much, and surprise surprise, Chad eventually stopped grabbing my reins and running away from the bending, and started to push with his hind legs.

From this achievement, we were able to move into shoulder-ins and half-passes, again without the inside rein and therefore being able to use my inside leg for the bend and have him push from behind. It was a completely systematic development in 2 sessions from simple bend on a circle, into the higher degree of bend and collection in the half-passes which were rhythmical and supple.

Chad chilling in our new solarium after working hard
all weekend
The same applied to the canter, where we started work with the flying changes. I confessed to be rubbish at trying to teach horses a change, but after Shaun teaching me his way, I think those days are over! I did a few walk-canter-walk transitions down the long sides off the wall to test the reactiveness and aids, then Shaun hopped on Chad to test how much he knew about the change, and after a handful of them, I got back on and they felt so easy!

The next day when I rode my 5 year old, Bertina, I tried out my newfound technique. I've only dabbled in them with her because I've been wanting to get a better quality of canter, but she got 2 changes each way straight off!

Now two weeks on from the clinic, all the horses are going super since implementing Shaun's system and mindset towards training. He is back on the 3rd and 4th of January so I can't wait to learn more from him!

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