Etienne.jpgEtienne Leroy (a classical trainer from France) just finished three days here working with horses and riders. His last clinic was in June and he announced, “I’m very happy. The horses in Quebec and here are improving. They are engaging the hind end and now I can train them.”

This trip’s schedule included two days in Quebec, three days here, two days near Montreal, then a clinic near Austin, Texas. Last spring Bill took Etienne to visit Allen Pogue. Allen brought in a French translator and the two Frenchmen struck up a friendship.

The backbone of our clinic was: “Volte. Shoulder-in on the volte, shoulder-in only with the leg, not with the hands. Push the croup to the outside. Look to the inside. That’s it. Now forward on the volte. Shoulder-in with the leg. Look to the inside. Push the croup to the outside.” Each time Etienne instructed, “shoulder-in” the rider was helping the horse engage. When the engagement was there, Etienne sent the pair forward on the circle. When the engagement was lost, it was back to the shoulder-in. The work started at the walk and progressed to the trot.

Along the wall he’d say, “Shoulder-in, just with the leg. The croup to the outside. Now forward along the wall. Counter-shoulder-in, just with the leg. Look to the outside.” (the “outside” was towards the arena wall.)

One set of exercises was: “Shoulder-in along the wall, just with the leg, look to the inside. Now counter-shoulder-in, look to the outside, now the centerline in counter-shoulder-in. Now the leg yield.” The horse flowed into the movement.

It was very informative to have a lesson, then watch one. I could clearly see how turning the head to the correct direction helped the horse. This brought back my swimming days. The coach would call out, “Where your head goes, your body goes. You have more concentrated mass in your head than in any other part of your body.” When the rider was doing the counter-shoulder-in and had his head looking to the inside of the arena, things didn’t go smoothly. The rider’s head was looking in one direction and the horse’s in another. When the rider turned his head to the wall of the arena (the same direction as the horse’s head) the movement looked effortless.

Etienne explained: “When you’re doing the counter-shoulder-in along the wall on the left rein the horse’s shoulders are turned slightly to the wall (to the right). The horse’s head is turned slightly to the wall. There’s a slight bend in his body (curving to the right) with the hind end on the track. The horse feels easily what the rider is doing on his back. When the rider turns his head to the right this moves the rider’s right leg a bit behind the girth. This activates the right hind leg of the horse. With the rider’s head to the right, the rider’s shoulders and hips are to the right. This helps the horse curve his body with a right arc. With repetition the rider only needs to turn his head to create the movement. The horse learns very quickly.”