Since we have a longish break between our next show that is not until March of 2012, Delphi and I are taking this time to focus our efforts on continued, intentional training. Four rides at the Jeff Moore clinic helped us learn to "approach collection."
(When I asked Jeff to help me learn about collection, he gave me this anecdote: at the 1984 Olympics Jeff was there to watch Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich win all the medals, etceteras that they won that year. As he was coming out of the arena after his gold medal grand prix ride on Ahlerich, Dr. Klimke commented "Wow, I think I just approached collection." Jeff's point was that I shouldn't worry too much about judge's remarks on collection, for now.)
Delphi and I have the upcoming Michael Vermaas clinic here at our home base, and will be taking supplemental lessons at Belle Terre Farm with Lurena Bell as well as continuing our lessons with our trainer Karen Brown.
With the idea of "approaching collection" Karen has had me doing exercises to engage Delphi's hindquarter while keeping the forehand light: you put x amount of pressure into the reins (and x becomes less and less as the horse becomes more and more responsive) then use leg reinforced with whip where needed to activate the hindquarters. When the horse gives and the balance changes, the rider gives. Karen pointed out that if you get the horse to commit to it right off the bat at walk, then the other gaits will come easier.
During the warm up for our last lesson yesterday we were working on just that, at the walk. As Delphi became more and more engaged from behind and lighter and lighter in the forehand, I gave with the reins and continued to ask for engagement with my legs and springy seat. Out of the blue and from her own volition Delphi offered piaffe! After just a few steps I let her free walk out of it and made "big fuss." I was happy but wondered if it were repeatable: after a few minutes I asked again and voila, there it was: piaffe! When Karen arrived for the lesson I told her what happened so we schooled it a time or two more formally with the trainer walking alongside with the whip and me asking for the steps from my up-springing seat and our "collection" exercise. It is so fun when your horse offers you such a gift!
Lagniappe. Reiner Klimke's and Ahlerich's gold medal winning ride at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Burbank: