Monday, March 28, 2016

Alfredo Hernandez, Day 1: "Oh, you CAN ride!"

How many of you would like to learn how to piaffe and passage? C'mon, fess up. You know you would, and so would I. Which is why I jumped at the chance to ride in a clinic with Alfredo Hernandez last weekend - his specialty is training these movements! Obviously I don't have any horses ready to go at a level where pi/pa are required, but Megan assured me that it didn't matter, and encouraged me to sign up anyway. Hubby decided that he wanted to ride too (taking lessons from another man can be, er, enlightening, as he put it), so we wrote a rather large check and planned for the clinic.

The beginning of my first lesson was quite embarrassing. Alfredo asked what level we were riding, I said Training just moving up to First. He said he'd watch us warm up for a few minutes, so I started walking Taran around on a loose rein. Naturally, he went to full-on giraffe mode while I futilely asked him to pay attention and consider walking long and low. Alfredo called us over, and then proceeded to ask me basic questions like which rein was the inside rein and how did I ask for bend. Talk about feeling like a noob. He had me shorten my reins WAY up, take my inside hand out about a foot from his neck to ask for bend, and off we went.

The main themes of the first day were:

  • SHORTER REINS. Seriously. I felt like my reins were about 6 inches long but after looking at the video, they were fine. My regular trainer is on me all the time about shorter reins, and I think I get the idea of just how short they really need to be now!
  • Don't give up the contact. Alfredo had me put the reins where I wanted them and then push Taran up into it. As he put it, imagine you are side reins, the horse has to give to you, not the other way around. I am definitely guilty of throwing the contact away, and it's also something my trainer calls me on a lot. I had a lot more contact than I usually have... not sure how I feel about that, although I was able to lighten up as the weekend went on and Taran got with the program more. 
  • Slow down. I need this tattooed on Taran's ears. Fast is not forward. I KNOW this, but I don't always ride this. Sloooooowwwww dooooooowwwwwwwwnnnnn.
  • Don't quit too soon. Another thing my trainer says to me all the time. Wait till you have it, then wait a few steps more until you're SURE you have it. Then walk and reward. I have a bad habit of going "hey look we are together!" and then I throw the contact away and/or quit riding. Not terribly effective.
  • Round and deep. This was a theme all weekend. At times I felt like we were too deep (that is, BTV), but again, looking at the video he's really just deep in his neck. Keeping his neck down is something we've been working on, so maybe this is just the slightly more extreme version of what I've been asking for at home? 
More rounder. More deeper. And to the left, too!

After trotting for a short time and following Alfredo's instructions ("More bend! MORE! Inside LEG! Deeper! Yes, beautiful!"), he called for a walk break and mumbled something like, "Oh, you actually CAN ride" before moving on to change directions. I felt like I'd made up a little bit for our awful start, since I was able to put Taran together with his instructions. We actually talked a little bit about that, and I said that I ride much better when I have someone telling me what to do. He said that I need to be more demanding of my horse, and hold myself accountable for every transition, every turn, every step. And he's right.

Taran objects to how hard this was. I objected too, by whining about how out-of-shape I am.

We also discussed rider fitness. He said that I was really quite strong (!?!?!) but that I need to up my cardio if I want to progress. This is something I've been thinking about recently, so I need to figure out a program to improve. 

We look fancy and engaged, but maybe a bit stuffed and tense? Thoughts? (Yes, I need to get my shoulders back. Dammit.)

I was super excited about my first lesson - we made some major breakthroughs and although he said exactly the same things my regular trainer says, he was just more demanding and in turn I rode better. I also had a lot to think about in terms of my riding and how Taran goes when I change it up. No pi/pa, but we still had two days to go! 

30 comments:

  1. Yes, but what about HUSBAND? Hahaha! My husband also says that learning from another guy is enlightening. So do my super tall/short waisted friends. I think maybe it has something to do with the average balance point of men v women? Plus the other, ahem, obvious anatomical differences.

    Taran looks a little tight in his back, but that isn't abnormal when learning to go in a tighter frame. I can't wait to see the next few days! Eeee!

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    1. This lesson sounds pretty amazing! Also yes we want to read about your husbands ride too!

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    2. Heh, I'll blog about him too. Alfredo loved the "dancing elephant"!

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  2. Sounds like a fantastic first day - you both look super! So much of what you said needs to be recorded and played in my ears, every ride.

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    1. I KNOW. It's not like any of this stuff is new, but maybe when it's yelled with a Spanish accent, it sticks more?

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  3. Man, I'm having a hard time picturing a lesson with someone more demanding than your normal trainer (who's demanding in a nice way and the best, in case she reads this). Perhaps I am not cut out for dressage! ;)

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    1. Heh, I think my regular trainer and I have gotten a bit too used to each other. Alfredo is demanding in a whole different way, and it really worked well for me. :)

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  4. I'm so excited to read about the next few days! And horses pick the wrong times to make liars out of us. Also, how was Husband's lesson?? Did he end up taking more than one? Piaffing Percheron? Hehe!

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    1. Sheesh, I'll get to him eventually. ;)

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  5. He's coming to our barn for a clinic this weekend. I'm looking forward to auditing and can't wait to hear more about your rides!

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    1. OOOH so awesome! I can't wait to hear about your experiences!

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  6. YAY! We talked a lot about this but I figured I'd reiterate it just for kicks. Alfredo is super demanding, which is great and I love to see how far he can really push the horses, you get to truly see where the horse is at in their training. But doing that every day is probably more detrimental than helpful for a lot of horses. Still, I always get a lot out of his lessons, whether I'm riding, watching, or having my students ride with him!

    He's such a character too, always entertaining!

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    1. I agree, he's very demanding but I also felt that he knew right where the line was. He definitely wanted me to be stronger, better, faster, and Taran too. It was good to be pushed and to see what the next level would be, and to realize that I need to up my riding if I want to make progress. And yes, he's VERY entertaining!

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  7. Sounds like an awesome first lesson, can't wait to hear more!

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    1. It was a great way to get things going!

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  8. Such a great opportunity. Can't wait to hear about the rest of the clinic. I think you guys look very fancy in that left bend picture.

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    1. Taran definitely reached a whole new level of fanceh.

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  9. What a killer opportunity!! I can't wait to read more!

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    1. It was a great opportunity, and if he's anywhere near you I highly recommend auditing if not riding with him!

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  10. still so jealous you got to ride with him!!! can't wait to read the rest! also i definitely feel reassured when a clinician echos what i hear from my regular trainer.

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    1. I wish my regular trainer could have been there, because she would have been facepalming the entire time. I guess I just needed the same thing yelled louder and with a fancy accent!

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  11. Wow, so cool! Can't wait to hear more :)

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  12. I heard he was pretty demanding!

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    1. He is, but in a good way for me. I got so much out of riding with him!

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  13. It sounds like we had similar lessons this weekend. I had to shorten my reins a ton this weekend as well and "create a barrier" to tell my horse where I wanted him, and then ride up into that without throwing him away as soon as it got nice. Now I'm really curious about the next two days!

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    1. It's so tempting to just stop riding and enjoy it when they're going well, isn't it??

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  14. I haven't watched him teach yet, but it definitely sounds like not a good fit for a certain bay princess. Thus, I will immensely enjoy your recaps. :-)

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    1. Alfredo definitely pushes right up to the line, but even with the highly strung horses he knew when to pressure and when to step back. He's very very very good about rewarding the horse for a job done right - and demanding of the rider to make it right.

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  15. Sometimes, it just takes hearing it from more than your normal one person (i.e. Your Lovely Trainer). I know that sometimes a piece of advice just doesn't stick until it comes from another person. ;-) And then it's like my brain reengages and "OH... RIGHT! I know this!" ;-)

    You do look a bit stiff in that last picture, but as someone else mentioned, that's part of both of you working on a tighter frame. ;-) Otherwise, you look great and I'm so happy the first day went like this! *hugs*

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