Imagine yourself in front of a 17 feet tall white gentle giant, and your mentor asking you to long line to learn fine-tuning and lightness- are you kidding me? I am 5.4, looking up in his soft eyes thinking ‘there is no way’…
Then you realize how powerful the aids of the hand and a gentle touch on the correct spot of the horses’ body can actually be- it is like a whole new world opening in your mind.
“More forward! Ride onto the bit! Bring the legs under! More Power! - was always the way I was taught. Having large Trakheners, Oldenburger and Hanoverians, that was the best I learned, and it got me to a certain level where I then was stuck. Yes, we fiddled about a little in M and beginning S (look up the German system for dressage, but practically some basic flying changes here and there, some traver etc.); there I was stuck; that was it. For years, I did not figure out why; I figured it was my limitation as rider and trainer- until I learned through Iliane and Rupert about the old masters. Yes, I had heard about Steinbrecht, but being in a jumping barn and business making of turning young horses over quickly for the owner- hearing about it was about all we did.
Only two years ago, was the first time I ever learned to long line and besides watching the Spanish Riding School and their Lipizzaner performing it, see in- hand work in action. I lunged before, but not really to build muscle, it was more to condition and ‘get the energy’ out. This style of work was very different in the sense, before folks told you what to do, even mainly what not to do, but this structure actually gave you explanations to the why, how, what, and when.
It is based on the teachings of the old masters. It is NOT a well-kept secret only for the talented and elite, but a structure based on the understanding of the outcome a rider would like and the need for our horse to understand and stay healthy and happy at the same time. The key to the magic kingdom of developing riders and horses to the highest level of their potential. There is much more to say about this, but for now, let us get back to the “gentle giant” waiting so patiently in the arena to mentor horseman into a higher level of communication and connection.
Stepping slowly behind and beside the horse, taking the reins just like riding and placing the body in a position as simply being removed from the saddle and placed parallel to the horses’ body. Seeing him beside and in front of me, he reminded me of an aircraft carrier, powerful, huge, and I thought most likely almost impossible to move where we wanted him to go and the way we wanted him to move.
But this highly trained gelding reacted immediately to a one-finger tap on the croup and added to the communication by gently listening to every half halt on the bit with most sensitivity. No, not an aircraft carrier at all, but like butter on a warm toast, spreading elegantly to exactly the area where you need it to go to make the perfect breakfast snack. His elastic moves, his enormous body showing elegant flexibility that a rider from on top is never aware of- a true art, and enjoyable by the people on the ground. When do you ever get the pleasure of seeing your horse react and show their brilliance? Absolutely stunning and mind-blowing experience.
Working with a team makes it even more enjoyable, precise, and valuable for horse and trainers; He taught the team to half pass, leading to beautiful pirouettes and so much more- an incredibly addictive experience. But beware, not only your horse needs to be in shape. In addition, it brings the horseman closer to the horse, not just physically, but the relationship, the communication gets fine-tuned to a whole new level. Aids are more defined, better understood and it is fantastic for the horse’s and rider’s body and brain. In handwork is often the stepchild of the training equation but should be refreshed in every true horseman’s mind and included in training manuals and schedules frequently.
I feel truly blessed to have schoolmasters teach me, experts mentor- and yes, I have good coaches, but the true teachers here are the horses. EVERY single four-legged equine can teach you a lifetime of lessons. This white gentle giant worked his way in my heart with his challenges for me, his patience, and eventually with a true very private and personal conversation through our session.