Etienne 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, â€œIâ€™m very happy. The horses in Quebec and here are improving. They are engaging the hind end and now I can train them.â€
This tripâ€™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: â€œVolte. 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. Thatâ€™s it. Now forward on the volte. Shoulder-in with the leg. Look to the inside. Push the croup to the outside.â€ Each time Etienne instructed, â€œshoulder-inâ€ 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 heâ€™d say, â€œShoulder-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.â€ (the â€œoutsideâ€ was towards the arena wall.)
One set of exercises was: â€œShoulder-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.â€ 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, â€œWhere your head goes, your body goes. You have more concentrated mass in your head than in any other part of your body.â€ When the rider was doing the counter-shoulder-in and had his head looking to the inside of the arena, things didnâ€™t go smoothly. The riderâ€™s head was looking in one direction and the horseâ€™s in another. When the rider turned his head to the wall of the arena (the same direction as the horseâ€™s head) the movement looked effortless.
Etienne explained: â€œWhen youâ€™re doing the counter-shoulder-in along the wall on the left rein the horseâ€™s shoulders are turned slightly to the wall (to the right). The horseâ€™s head is turned slightly to the wall. Thereâ€™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 riderâ€™s right leg a bit behind the girth. This activates the right hind leg of the horse. With the riderâ€™s head to the right, the riderâ€™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.â€