Sunday 19th May was day 4, the final of the spectacular opening and 1st Birthday celebrations of Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld and Kylie Burton’s Masterclasses will be remembered as an opportunity to be immersed in the concept - Destination Equestrian - which aims to facilitate education, personal development, fun and friendship.
Left: Kylie Burton and Marley Duncan
The sparkling Melbourne Autumnal sunshine made for perfect conditions for the final day which was set aside for two Masterclasses given by one of Victoria’s favourite dressage personalities - Saddleworld sponsored rider Kylie Burton. She worked with two of Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld’s favourites – Amy Cleland and Ashley Pace. Amy is more focussed on showjumping and Ashley a dedicated dressage nut and two young riders from the Broadford Pony club who took part and gave the audience a range of training situations that addressed the everyday issues that most trainers face, at all levels of dressage.
Kylie Burton needs little introduction, as she is a very talentedand successful competition rider and trainer having achieved many notable wins with her Warmblood mare Flowervale Ferroza (pictured right), by the superstar stallion Olympic Ferro.
As a Young Rider, Kylie won the prestigious Aachen Challenge (conducted as part of the Saddleworld Dressage Festival) and her prize was a trip to Germany, which gave her the opportunity to do some training in Europe. Her journey to top level has presented many challenges and Kylie feels that she can relate to the issues faced by non professional riders who do not work in the horse industry and therefore need to juggle their riding and training around a job or family commitments.
Kylie has almost finished an Engineering degree and can hardly wait to see this chapter of her life successfully closed with some new doors opening.
Today Kylie worked with two riders from the Broadford Pony Club and Mustad Lowden Saddleworld sponsored riders Amy Cleland and Ashley Pace who we met on Friday when they worked with Eventing superstar Megan Jones.
The first session was with Ella Denton (left) representing the Broadford Pony Club. Ella’s instruction was very appropriate as her difficulties and challenges were the same that almost every rider experiences with at least one or two horses in their careers.
Ella’s horse has loose and free movement, but has contact issues and lacks the secure connection to the bridle, which provides the rider with the steadiness that is necessary to perform the work correctly and in a submissive and harmonious way.
Ella’s bay evaded the contact by hollowing his back and this gave him a number of evasive options. Ella found it difficult to correct his resistances and Kylie brought the main focus back to the German Training Scale. She asked Ella to check that her horse was straight, travelling on her line and accepting control of the speed. “The horse must respond to GO and STOP!” Kylie explained the priorities for training horses progressively.
“Keep his neck straight, as this will help you to control his shoulders. Ensure that you have enough contact, so that he knows you are there!” advised Kylie.
“Your horse is hot and over-reacts, so you must check that you can use your leg without getting an over-reaction. You need to get to a point that there is a little delay (as is the case with lazy horses) so that you have time to plan and prepare.”
“The rider must be able to take and give with the inside rein, moving the bit in the horse’s mouth, being VERY careful not to allow the head to swing from side to side. This may require that you take a little more outside rein, perhaps moving the outside rein a little away from the neck.”
“Use the trot to walk transition. Trot then come back to walk and repeat this as a way of getting the horse more on the aids. Shorter reins Ella and remember that the inside rein takes and gives, so that you do not get stuck with him hollowing his back and putting his head up and against the reins.
Ella found it difficult to get her horse to flex equally on both reins and Kylie said, “Bring his outside ear towards you.”
I felt that this was an excellent way to describe the feeling that is needed in the outside rein and it was very appropriate for the issues that Ella was experiencing.
“Plan your line, Ella. Make sure that you prepare to ensure that you give yourself the best chance of having him respond correctly to your seat and reins. Your outside leg supports the outside rein and if he wants to bend too much, take and give the outside rein to control the degree of bend, your reins us not wobble.”
Kylie suggested that Ella work her horse off the wall (on the ¾ line) to ensure that he is not relying on the wall and is therefore responding to the aids. Kylie said, “when you are riding on a circle, you need to feel like you are moving the outside shoulder on the circle line, you may need a little vibration on the outside rein, to remind him that you are there and he needs to listen. If he becomes inattentive you can give the inside rein a little shake, while keeping a connection to the outside rein.”
“Good Ella, give him a little pat on the inside neck now.” instructed Kylie. “Remember, if we have straightness, line and speed, the horse will eventually come around.”
Ella finished her lesson on a positive note and seems set to be able to work with some new concepts, which should help to tap into effective training which will lead to a more harmonious relationship with her horse.
During the break I caught up with the Project Hope team (and bought a few raffle tickets). Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld very generously made the ticket fee for each of the 4 days a gold coin donation to Project Hope and they raised hundreds of dollars which of course goes to a cause that is close to us all – horse welfare and rescue.
Pictured above – the hardworking Project Hope team from left - Mark Dean, Sue Kirkegard
and Peter Langbehn with Ashley Pace (mounted) Kylie Burton and Dan O’Dwyer.
I was very impressed with this lesson and I believe that many of the riders in the audience will relate to Ella’s difficulties caused by her horse’s lack of acceptance to the bit, running one minute and a lack of response to the leg the next. Kylie’s lesson addressed the need to improve the rider’s posture, security of the seat, which in turn affects the independence of the hands. Ella made progress and she is sure to have got some helpful pointers from Kylie Burton.
Amy Cleland was next to go and today and she rode her talented 5 YO bay mare Dreamtime Tallulah. With Amy’s careful guidance, Tallulah shows great potential as a showjumper, having been stamped with the quality of her versatile sire Dreamtime Valentino who has produced numerous show ring stars, dressage horses and showjumpers. The principal of Dreamtime Stud Julie Conti will be thrilled with Amy’s achievements.
Left: Amy Cleland and Kylie Burton
Amy’s proud grandparents Fran and Reg Cleland were in the audience to offer their support. Kylie quickly identified that Amy had to “negotiate” the scary spots in the arena and suggested that it was not wise to try to force a spooky horse up to a worrying object. Better to choose a line that you feel the horse will accept or have them look away until the resistance subsides. Kylie said, “Riders often push their horse towards the spooky object and kick hard, adding more pressure which tends to result in serious resistance which makes for even more problems. Kylie said that she found that in this situation using LESS leg helped to diffuse the tension and getting the horse listening to the rein aids, one aid at a time, often helps.
Kylie asked, “How does she feel Amy?” “She feels a bit tense today.” was Amy’s response.
“Use soft aids Amy,] (right riding Dreamtime Talullah) use the leg and seat first. Horses are not really intelligent so we need to be clear when asking something of them – particularly if they are tense and distracted and when they are in this state, it is important not to ask too much!”
“Halt, try to stay in the halt, but indicate the immobility with your seat and do not use too much rein. Horses will run through the aids or not respond to the halt, because they are not listening.”
“When you have her attention, you can “play” with the reins to encourage her to soften. Squeeze the reins - one side and the other BUT - this must NOT result in the horse moving it’s head from side to side – it should only be done as alternating pressure on the bit, to encourage the horse to listen and accept the rider’s influence to become softer and rounder.”
“With a HOT horse (such as Amy’s) we must always make sure that the brakes are working and this influence should mainly come from the seat. Employ little squeezes in the rein to make sure that you have control, but be sure that you then allow, do not just hang on. Now make sure that she will stay on YOUR line.
“Amy with your mare, we want to see her become loose and floppy in the neck as this will indicate a state that will allow you to influence her and if she gets stuck, think about elasticity in your hands – take and allow, even if nothing happens, repeat the exercise, you have nothing to lose!”
“Make sure she is on the aids and you can ride her out to the track (and not fall in) and also have her stay still in the halt. Give a little squeeze in the rein and lean back slightly to support this. Stay in halt and just use your body to maintain immobility. Use your seat, then use the rein, again the seat and then again the rein, even if you have to do this 20 times til she responds. That is OK; do not give her anything to hang on to. She is young and it takes time to establish this early part of the training. Try not to block when she blocks – she is stronger than you and will always win if it comes to a battle of strength.” Kylie explained and added. “This mare has an opinion … and you have to work WITH her.”
Kylie’s lessons were repetitive, by design. But this is necessary to create the familiarity that gives both horse and rider confidence and changes the learning pathways that are the way we establish a more desirable way of going – this is the basis of the training. Kylie made her points clear, and gave excellent examples for the younger riders who can get confused because they think it should happen quickly or without the problems that often result, when two inexperienced partners are trying new things.
By the end of her half hour lesson, Amy’s horse was more relaxed and we got a glimpse of her beautiful movement and real talent for the higher levels.
After a break, Ashley Pace introduced her talented 9 YO mare by Don Ramiro, to the afternoon crowd. Ashley told Kylie that “Tequila Sunrise” has led a very sheltered life and was just beginning her competition career and was now training at Elementary level. The mare was a little concerned about the crowd and Ashley had to consider this and ride with tact and some compromise.
Kylie quickly identified that the attractive chestnut was inclined to run through the rider’s hands and not respond to the brakes. “In my training sessions, I like to overcorrect and get more of a reaction than is required. This is how we train the horse to be responsive and quick to react. Trot to walk, walk to trot and repeat this in succession to make sure that she responds to less … and is listening to the half halts.”
Left: Ashley Pace and Tequila Sunrise, the 9 YO Dom Ramiro mare.
Kylie said, “I stole my next hint from Emile Faurie (UK dressage star) who was in Victoria in 2012 and again in 2014 as the guest riding judge at Dressage with the Stars. He suggests using small circles to help balance the horse in downward transitions. In the canter she gets a little lost, so turn in as you come back to the trot.” Kylie suggested.
“See the muscle in her neck, when it starts to bulge you know that she is using her neck and not resisting. If the horse gets stuck in the transitions, this turning exercise will unlock the resistance. You must be careful not to allow just the neck to bend as we will lose the connection out through the horse’s outside shoulder.” Kylie encouraged.
Right: Kylie asks Ashley to exagerate the bend when changing the pace to help balance the transitions.
“If she is not bending through the body, her hind leg will not be landing on the same track as the front legs and this means that she is not straight.” Kylie warned.
Following on from the small circle exercise, Kylie asked Ashley for a little turn as she asks for the canter and said that this will lessen any resistance. “Be sure to carry the inside hand at the same level as the outside hand as this fault can encourage contact problems.” Kylie reminded Ashley.
As Ashley worked through Kylie’s exercises the mare shortened her frame and showed a better balance into the bridle – I felt sure that Ashley will have felt a big difference and will work to achieve this feel in the coming training sessions.
Another short break and Broadford Pony Club member Marley Duncan entered the ring on her imposing 7YO Friesian/Andalusian cross gelding (pictured left), who showed the movement and uphill tendancy that is so prized in dressage horses.
Kylie offered the same message … but for different reasons than the horses she saw earlier in her Masterclass day. She said, “Marley, go for an over-reaction in training.” With this horse, Kylie wanted a sharper response with more energy and told Marley that this was all about getting a reaction to the half halt.
“Marley, you must check the straightness and then check the brakes. Make sure that he stays on the same line when he comes to the halt, as he swings his quarters and then you have lost control. Stay on a line and when (if) he starts to go crooked, be prepared to go on straight. Straightness and not the halt is the most important priority.”
“Shorten his steps in the walk but not enough to bring him back to the halt. This is a good exercise to change the horse’s centre of gravity and helps you to collect his paces and make him more responsive. Ride for reaction – keep him thinking!” said Kylie.
“This is a simple exercise, but very effective and prepares the horse for control and obedience on the centre line. Now we are going to check the “go” button –some horses have a considerable delay and this will hinder your progress. Try to surprise him a little, give him a sharp kick to surprise him and GET a quick reaction.”
“With lazy horses, they back off or slow down as soon as you “take your foot off the accelerator” and this is not acceptable. You need to ride to achieve a sharper response in order to keep him in balance. Ask for more, so that you do not have to keep nagging.” Kylie encouraged Marley.
“If our horse gets into a “dinky” canter, it can indicate that the horse is not truly forward or through and is perhaps pretending with uncommitted steps. We have to avoid letting him “die” when we apply a half halt to adjust the canter strides.”
Kylie’s lesson with Marley was very much about getting a quicker response and showing her how to create the energy, which allowed the horse to work in a very good frame with nicely elevated steps. The difference was clear and Marley is sure to have gained some valuable hints, which will give her the confidence to ask for a little more.
This lesson very clearly demonstrated the influence of the rider and a commitment to asking for the horse to be responsive and in correct balance and posture.
Kylie gave her riders many of her personal success tips and I am sure that they will all work to improve their feel and knowledge of this fascinating and elusive sport – dressage.
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