Uniendo Criadores Alrededor Del Pais
Acton, Ca – June 20th 2015. It was a splendid day with something for everybody. If you were interested in the fundamentals of the German approach to in-hand dressage, Dave Johnston and Dr. Carole Francis-Swayze’s presentation of the HSH (Hand Saddle Hand) method with Soñador was your cup of tea. If, however, you wanted to see more advanced work from a Spanish point of view, Avi Cohen’s colorful performance with Uranio was just what you hoped for. There was even American cowboy thrown in to complement the European thrust.
Carole started things off by presenting some background on Soñador and the theory behind the HSH method. The thrust of HSH is to prepare the unbacked two-to-four-year-old horse for dressage movements with a rider. A majority of the work is bitless and done at the walk. It focuses on the development of the mind of the young horse by making him conscious of his hind-leg placement in response to requests from the handler.
After the introductory remarks, event attendees headed off to the roundpen where Carole demonstrated double-line lunging with Soñador. Developed by Monty Roberts, double line lunging familiarizes the young horse with input coming from both sides of his body as would be the case under a rider. Double line lunging also facilitates the development of proper bend in the young horse by guarding against the haunches being thrown out as can happen when using a single line. Carole explained how it complements HSH work by facilitating walk/canter/walk transitions which are a precursor to canter pirouettes on the lines.
The demo then shifted to yielding work in hand which has become a regular part of Soñador’s training. Cowboy Joel Sheridan has perfected this approach to habituate young horses to move away from pressure of the rider’s leg. Carole demonstrated this response on the ground by pressing her hand into Soñador’s flank, causing him to yield his hindquarters away from her around the forehand. The dressage term for this is “turn on the forehand.” However, it is more than just preparation for dressage; it is a tool to ingrain an obedient response from the stallion.
Carole finished up the roundpen work by reviewing the equipment with which Soñador was outfitted to demonstrate the Stahlecker method.
Attendees then headed out to an arena to watch Dave and Soñador show off the crux of the HSH approach. This included basic hind-leg crossing patterns such as travers, 1/2 pass and working pirouette along with shoulder in. Also included were square halts to make the young horse conscious of his hind-leg placement. All of these movements form the foundation for a young horse’s understanding of dressage. Also fundamental are exercises which differentiate the walk. These exercises practice collected, medium, and extended walks, all of which have the effect of lengthening and shortening the horse’s frame to develop longitudinal suppleness. Presentation of the HSH work was concluded when Dave demonstrated “shaukel.” or “swing” with Soñador. Shaukel is a series of short, rhythmic steps whilst walking forward then backwards several times in a row. It is preparation for piaffe.
Avi Cohen and Uriano rounded out the day’s activities by presenting the flashy result of methodical in-hand work Spanish style. The two performed piaffe, Spanish walk, and pesade among other movements whilst long reining. The real crowd-pleaser came when Avi gave all of us a chance to practice long reining ourselves with Uriano. It became readily apparent through our association with the stallion that he is rear indeed, blessed with great willingness and patience. Some of us got to ride him, which was a real treat. Avi finished up his portion of the day’s clinic by riding Uriano himself, showing off the stallion’s particular flair.