We videotaped the lessons Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The temperature was COLD. The wind howled. It was damp. Sitting still, holding the camera motionless, zooming in on the subject…all very challenging in those weather conditions. When Monday (the final day of the clinic) rolled around no one wanted to look at the video camera, let alone film. It stayed in the house.
Well, wouldn’t you know…the horses were brilliant on Monday! And all I have are my memories, no physical proof! Etienne started the morning with Zelador in the snaffle bridle. I watched this gifted Frenchman as he slowly and quietly molded Zelador’s trot into a piaffe, then into a passage, back into the piaffe, again and again. At first Etienne asked for a step of piaffe, then he praised Zelador and let him move forward. He asked again and over a period of time one step became two steps, three steps….
As they travelled along the south wall (horse’s rump to me) I could see Zelador’s bum rhythmically rising on the right side, then lowering and rising on the left side. The cadence was slow. It never changed. Etienne looked like he was sitting on a chair, no visible movement as Zelador softly bent those hocks of his. Talk about a smooth ride…
When Etienne was done he called to me, “Good, yes?” I replied, “VERY GOOD!!!!”
Two days have passed since I witnessed this ride. And, I too, have recreated the quiet, cadenced piaffe. Zelador totally understands what is being asked of him. He lowers his haunches, just a little (he’s just six years old, still a baby!) and raises his knees. I’m so glad we have mirrors in the arena so I can get a glimpse of our work.
The four day clinic with Etienne Leroy went by quickly. He worked with a variety of horses including two who are not yet under saddle, Zelador and Zeloso who are developing their paces, Blue who is eventing at the Prelim level, Pax who would much prefer to stroll and the twenty-four year old horse Kim Shilton rides.
It’s always educational to watch Etienne with horses. He’s calm, clear, kind and totally at peace. The horses benefit tremendously from his presence. Every time Etienne heads home to France we all notice a huge emptiness on the farm. This quiet soul is definitely missed!