Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rebecca Algar

This past weekend, High Country Working Equitation hosted our first show and clinic. We invited Rebecca Algar from Gainesville, TX to come judge our spring show and then offer a clinic to our riders the following day. She came in on Friday (supposed to be early on Friday but airplanes) and gave four of us a mini clinic that evening. That made for a very long day on Friday for me, but Ashke got to spend it outside in a pen between Cody and CO at Circle Star Arena. He was happy and bouncing between standing quietly with Cody or face fighting with CO.

Rebecca is an accomplished equestrian, who has trained with top trainers all over the world. She has competed in just about every equestrian event there is, including steeple chase, eventing, dressage, reining, western pleasure, cutting and working equitation, just to name a few. And won a ton of Championships. She is a certified International judge for WE and has classical dressage training. She is also a real down to earth person with no pretension - she has opinions, especially about my riding - but is really easy to talk with.

 Northern most part of the arena with the gate, figure 8, three barrels, jump, garrocha, bull, sidepass and jug.

 Center of the arena with the single slalom, part of the double slalom and the bridge.

 The southern end of the arena with the livestock pen, the bridge, the corridor with bell and the beginning of the double slalom.

It was a fairly simple layout, with some technical questions but nothing as difficult as we had seen at Expo. We started by walking the course with her, in part to talk about course walking and in part for her to check distances and lines between obstacles (we set up the course from a diagram she provided) to make sure that it offered a fair test. It was a very straight forward course with a few complications, but not any significant added difficulty (such as carrying the garrocha to work other obstacles). Rebecca suggested that riders needed to walk the course in the same manner they were planning on riding it, to see if the lines would work. Like jumpers do.

The most interesting part was when we came to the double slalom and she walked the pattern. Rebecca walked the pattern in semi circles, crossing between the poles at a diagonal (ice cream cones not hot dogs). This method of doing the double slalom makes a very difficult obstacle easier to visual in that the rider crosses half way between every set of poles. It makes it so much visually easier to get the circles the same size and shape when you use the poles as your guidelines. Rebecca also said that when riding this pattern it allows for three straight strides for the flying change and three is all you need.

From the Lusitano Portal website

This is different from the way Tarrin Warren had us working on the pattern, which was a hot dog shape:

When riding the double slalom, Tarrin wanted the rider to make their circle so that the inside edge was as close to the pole as possible, then ride the straight away to the next half circle. It is very difficult when riding the pattern this way to be able to form your similarly sized circles. And the poles are no help in keeping things symmetrical.

The thing that is most interesting to me is that I was taught to ride the double slalom in the first pattern by Amy Star, a judge for USFWE. I figure I am going to go back to riding it that way (it makes the most sense to me) until there is further clarification. International judge trumps everyone else. I also think that Ashke and I will produce a better and more consistent ride with that pattern.

Working Ashke in circles trying to get used to riding with more contact.

After walking the course and making the course adjustments that Rebecca wanted, we got saddled up. We started warming up our horses in the big arena and Rebecca took turns with each of us, working on flat work. She told me to raise my hands, shorten my reins and move Ashke forward off my leg. I was to keep my legs on all of the time (no bumping like I was shown by Cassandra) so that Ashke didn't startle when I applied a bit more pressure with a leg (he was jumpy). She said it would also provide reassurance to him since he is very sensitive.

We look pretty good here.

When she worked with me there was a lot of "get your hands up", "put your leg on", "lift your head, there is nothing of interest in his right ear", "stop looking down", "stop flapping like a chicken", "leg on at the girth", "do you know where the girth is?". I know that kind of thing can upset other people but all it did was make me laugh and try harder. OMG!! It was hard. I do not normally ride with my leg on, wrapped around him. I do that at the canter out on trail to keep him from going sideways, but typically in the arena I only use my leg to apply an aid. With Rebecca, she wanted my reins short, hands up, hands together (how else am I going to ride with one hand), leg on, head up, body still, and move nothing but the little muscles in my calves to get him to go where and how I wanted. We did the double slalom toward the end with me not moving much and him doing exactly what I wanted from those miniscule calf muscles. I kept him balance and rode a very nice slalom that way.

Working on the double slalom

And then he lost his shit.

In his defense he is not used to the amount of contact she wanted me to maintain with him. It was way more than I am used to and he had an opinion about that. She yelled at me to keep him going forward and finally told me to loose the reins and hand gallop him around the arena to get him unwound. That helped. I think we had just done too much collected work for my out of shape boy. Rebecca said to do it in five minute increments with lots of non-collected work inbetween, until he gets the muscle built up to ride that way. I may have to go back to using the dressage whip and tapping my boot until we get this worked out. I can also do a lot of verbal reinforcement to get him to understand what we need to do to do this correctly.

And the vids:


This was at the end of the ride, when he was really struggling to maintain the amount of collection I was looking for. This was about the time Rebecca told me to gallop him out.



Single slalom, which when rode correctly at a canter is a four tempi stride between poles. Rebecca said it should be ridden in as straight a line as possible with a leg yield between poles rather than half circle around them. I can't even.

That was my last ride for the weekend. I spent Saturday helping with the HCWE Spring Show at Circle Star, taking photos and wrangling the boys who helped. Then Sunday I spent most of my day at the clinic, taking some photos and just listening to Rebecca coach the riders.

Last night I went out and rode for about 30 minutes. Ashke seemed to have taken what we worked on to heart and made a real effort to maintain a steady contact without flailing for the extent of our ride.














I felt him really trying to maintain the contact. He got a little antsy a couple of times during the ride, but I just calmed him and asked again, giving lots of walk breaks in between. He seemed to want to be a grown up WE horse. Rebecca thought that one of the reasons I was having issues with maintaining contact is that the biothane reins are too light. There is no even weight on the end of the shanks of the bit, so the contact is bouncing a little on his mouth anyway. I have already ordered a Spanish bridle and my friend, LM, has a Spanish bit I can try. I plan on setting that up as my dressage bridle and riding in it only when we are working on WE. I am going to put the grazing bit back on the biothane bridle for trail riding, since he can eat in it comfortably. I will either ride him in that or the black bridle with the S-hackamore when we are on trail. 

When I finished my ride and went to unsaddle him, I realized I had not hooked up my breast collar. Nor was it flapping. It was wadded up under the saddle. Talk about rider fail. That could not have been comfortable, but even with that digging into his back he tried for me.


1 comment:

  1. Karen, he looks PHENOMENAL!!!! You can actually *see* him lift his withers during some moments of the videos taken at home! What a transformation. And this is why I love classical dressage, especially for sensitive horses.

    My one recommendation is: bend your elbows a bit more. You want them to be closer to a 90-degree angle when riding in this style. You should still be able to keep your hands at the same height. It will make your hands even quieter, which will help him accept the contact even more consistently. :)

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