We started in the classroom for the morning and heard the story of how the Game of Contact came about. As you probably know Linda left her dressage background on a back burner once she found Parelli, knowing she would get back to it one day. 15 years later she decided she was ready to tackle dressage again and Pat knew the Master for her to study with was Walter Zettel. Just the title of his DVD said it all - A matter of trust!
What she found during the first two years of working with Walter, and her Pilates instructor, was that; it was hard, and no one could really explain exactly what contact was. Apart from the Dressage Stipulations saying it should be elastic. But how?
Even Master Dressage instructors couldn't explain exactly 'what to do' to get that elastic feel, and a soft contact. When Linda figured it out one day it was after a lesson with Walter on Remmer (who reminds me so much of Garbo), where Walter was telling her to get more impulsion yet Remmer wasn't going forward, so she used the crop, and he kicked out (exactly what Garbo does to crops and spurs) - and she finished the lesson feeling 'mean'.
Boy do I know how that feels. Casting my mind back today to my many dressage lessons pre- Parelli where Garbo was just not interested in going forward. He would pull me forward as you can see here.
Plus his stride was short, and not up over his back. In this lesson I had taken off the flash noseband because I couldn't bear the idea of having to strap his mouth shut. My instructor thought I was nuts. So all my - 'why do I have to do that? - surely I can get him to do this without force and so he's happy?' questions were answered today. Horses and humans can enjoy contact without stress and fear. Yah-friggin-hoo!
We don't have to pull, or brace, and neither does the horse, and even better news, if we are studying Level 3 or 4 we can start this NOW. OMG.
So after some simulations of resting hands, and strong elbows, we broke for lunch and then all met out at the Sugarloaf Equestrian Centre.
The riders got to start with simulations (in true Parelli style - muck up on each other first before you subject your horse to yourself) on teaching the horse that the reins and bit don't mean stop!!! Of course that's what Garbo does, and most horses, pick up the reins or take contact means stop.
Linda had the breakthrough after her upsetting lesson mentioned above. She decided to start with freestyle reins and ask Remmer to go forward without using her legs, just a 'smile with all 4 cheeks'. Then when he was moving forward, she would gradually take up the reins and contact, and he'd slow or stop. So she turned him to 11 or 1 o'clock and as soon as he moved one foot, she released the contact. It only took 30 minutes for Remmer to be moving forward with this amazing trot, with a nice contact, rundown back, and tracking up. Without using legs or whip. !!
In the classroom this morning we saw lots of before and after videos of horses that only had a few sessions of this and complete improvement. Amazing. Sick of me saying Amazing yet?
Ok so next the riders and Linda simulated the horse trying to evade or fight the contact (above, behind, head flicking whatever), and for the rider to stay with resting hands, but hinge the shoulders to maintain the contact, no matter what the horse did, then as soon as he takes it nicely, release.
With resting hands, no matter what the horse does with his head, your contact remains the same, soft and consistent. It was amazing how when people didn't have resting hands that the human horse simulator commented on how harsh it felt, and blocking.
So the humans played this for a good 30 minutes before they got on their horses. Actually Linda did a demo first, on Chris Colebridge's lovely horse. She made it look super easy, but as she keeps telling us, it is!! You just have to get your forearm to relax, and to hinge from the shoulders, have strong elbows, and then worry about your position more once you have contact. That's another set of body training and mind training - belly button in, pelvis tilted, ribcage together, armpits down. Lol.
Just after this the horse relaxed forward and stretched into the bit.
Then the riders (all but one whose horse had other extrovert ideas) got to have a go. It was so interesting seeing them progress so quickly. Gives me hope!!
This is Steady Eddie - the simulator which we are apparently going to get to have a go on, and Linda says we can build one at home lol... *George*..... to work on our position.
Oh - and the best bit - we are getting an email after the course with notes and the stages - and what to do in each - there are 4 stages. Confidence, stretching, frame and collection. Very exciting.
I'll be back tomorrow with more...