Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dr. Thomas Ritter Clinic

Watt's Way arena in Chapel Hill was the picturesque setting for the Dr. Thomas Ritter classical riding clinic. Dr. Ritter began by asking me about my horse, then asking "What is most difficult to do with this horse?" My answer was that in making changes of bend, transitions, and otherwise knitting together exercises within a test, it is hard to keep Delphi relaxed, rhythmic, and on the aids. Dr. Ritter responded that it is very common in horses to become un-balanced when having to make changes: of bend, in transitions, or any change. To help keep the suppleness while changing the bend, Dr. Ritter had me ride along the rail in walk (say on the right rein), bend Delphi to the left (toward the rail) and bring her shoulder out toward the rail and her haunches in away from the rail (kind of a counter shoulder in), then keeping the shoulders where they are, change the bend (to the right in this example), and bring the haunches back out to the rail to align the horse then ride straight ahead.

Watt's arena:
Another well deserved pat on the forehead:

Dr. Ritter gave us an exercise where you halt on the rail, then execute full pass around a square with a walking turn around the forehand at each corner of the square. From the left rein, halt before C on the short side at the first corner of the (imaginary) square, as though you've drawn a box around C. From the halt on the rail, full pass away from the rail (to the left in this example) on the first line of the square, being sure to keep the hindleg crossing in front (not behind), and causing the haunches to move at the same time and rate as the shoulders so that the horse stays parallel. Halt at the next corner of the square, then make a walking turn on the forehand (away from the rider's right leg) until you are perpendicular to the next line of the square (at this point you'll be facing toward the short side of C). Full pass again (to the left) to the next corner, make another halt and walking turn on the forehand, then full pass again to the rail where you'll now strike off on the opposite rein from when you started.

Riding full pass around the square as Dr. Ritter shows Delphi the whip:

Using weight aids in full pass:

Dr. Ritter also had me practice riding one particular leg within a gait, say the left fore, right fore, left hind, or right hind, at a time. He had me experiment with sitting more on my thighs, then with more weight in my seatbone, then with more weight into a particular stirrup, on each footfall of a particular leg within a particular gait. By practicing what combinations create the best suppleness and connection, you can bring out the best aid for riding each particular horse within each particular gait while being aware of each particular leg and how the rider's leg, seat, and weight aids affect the entire picture.

Riding the right hindleg: