So, this is a little late. Story of my life it seems like! Anyways, onto part two of the Linda Zang clinic! Because I am writing this late some things might not make a lot of sense. Let me know!
The half pass was a really big “ah-ha” moment, and I am pretty sure that I was not the only one who felt this way. A half pass is really travers on a diagonal line. When you think about that The head, neck, and shoulder should be put on the diagonal line and then you should ride across the arena in the travers. The shoulder must always stay in front of the haunches. Linda explained that half pass is not a sideways movement but a forward one! Big name, upper level riders will come out of the corner with the front end lined up and then power the hind legs so the horse carries them across the arena – instead of the awkward pushing and driving many riders try. Even before you get to the letter the position of the head, neck, and shoulders should be on the line. Use the corners to really develop the flexion properly. Look up at the direction with your eyes, and this will help lift the leading shoulder and not create that behind the leg feeling. She really stressed that winning a test is all about getting a horse into the flexion correctly before the movement or out of the corner, not only in the half pass but in all the figures. I have kept this in mind a lot riding this past week and it has really helped Val’s expression. I also have to really think about keeping my right shoulder back farther in the left half pass so that he stays straight and the hind legs keep driving. My position is where I need to look for problems first, not assume that it is Val’s fault. It is always the riders fault – sometimes I really forget this!
For proper collection the horse should feel like you could ask for a pirouette at any time – this is truly “on the aids”.You want to ride a horse out in front of you so that the transitions occur uphill. There should be space between your body and your hands so that there is area to influence the horses way of going. A rider should open their inside hip and ab area to allow the horse to come forward into the space that exists with their hands in the proper place. According to Linda “straight makes eight” – this straightness needs to exist in all figures, lateral and otherwise. Straightness also refers to a horse being correct between the aids and balanced. The last rider of the day was a Young Rider so she worked on the Prix St. George which was really beneficial for me to see. Linda helped her work on the flying changes for a while too. When a horse pulls a late change it usually means they are dropping the forehand and shoulders. The rider needs to open their hip and allow them to come up and through the change. Think of it like the first stride in the canter that comes up. You have to present the canter. Her visual connection was to think of fencing. That moment of “en guard” is how you want the canter, and the changes, to feel. A change will get a 7 if it is correct without expression, 8 if there is correct ground cover and no sway, and a 9 or 10 if the corners and collection are good before and after. When riding diagonals you have to complete the movement before the marker otherwise it will be an automatic 6. A good example of this is the extended canter in the Prix St. George. The ‘back’ and the flying change need to happen before the corner marker. For the pirouette’s there needs to be one stride of collected/pirouette canter before and after the full or half pirouette for a rider to score anything more than a 6.
On a random note that I took from the clinic, but that I thought was too important and thought-provoking enough to include, when you are riding a circle you are really riding straight! When on a circle you want to use the outside hand down low and have the outside leg on to make the horse straight. When you are riding straight you are actually riding flexion and suppling at all times. It is rather an interesting and intriguing thought that the only time you are not constantly flexing and suppling is when you are on a circle allowing the horse to flow around the soft inside.
Linda also revealed how you can win your test, and it reminded me a lot of what Jimmy Wofford says about winning an event. Linda says to win a test you must have the horse correctly in the flexion before the movement (I said this once already but it was important enough to say again!). She also said that disciplined riding is the only way you will win. You have to be honest and really consequent in your riding. Accuracy and precision can never be given too much weight in your training. Be hard on yourself and don’t let yourself get away with ‘just okay’. You have to use every bit of space in the arena and not let a single moment pass you by. The short side should be where a rider shows off the quality of the gait – that is how a good rider turns 7’s into 8’s. Present the horse because that is really all the judge can critique when you are on the short side. Funnily enough, this was not the first time I had heard this advice! Jason and I had talked about this very thing last summer going into Kentucky and Gladstone.
And now for your random fun fact of the day, the first ever Kur was in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympics and there was a huge debate over whether adding music would inherently ruin the sport making it a spectacle graded on entertainment value and not correct training. Personally, I think the Kur is one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of the sport, and I know a lot of people agree! Linda talked about how she remembered the debate and how she believes it really helped to keep the sport vitalized and going strong today.