Hi, “Hips to hands! Hips to hands! Let the horse carry you. Your leg is on the horse. Do you want it to do something? I don’t see anything happening. If you put your leg on the horse it must respond immediately!” That was Penny teaching me as I rode a seven-year-old in her arena in Essen, Belgium. “Bill, make your arms as soft as you want the mare’s mouth to be.”

GenevaJuly2008_015.jpgBill took care of all the details surrounding a ten day trip to Europe this past month. Talk about a Busman’s Holiday. Bill and I were in the thick of it! After four days with Penny Zavitz-Rockx we journeyed from Brussels to Paris on an ordinary train, then from Paris to Geneva on the train that goes 300 kilometres per hour. When I looked out the window it was a blur when I glanced at objects close by. Things came into focus when I looked way off in the distance. Bill has a PhD in Physics and I think that the focus of the trip was THE TRAIN.

In Geneva I snuck in two “dressage” rides on two different jumpers. Talk about not listening to my legs!

It was a joy to return home and see all our critters. Ciara McKnight was in charge of the four horses, the four Vizslas and a few extra Vizslas that we were babysitting. She did a magnificent job.

In Belgium Bill had filmed my fourth ride on the seven-year-old and the ride which followed. That particular ride was a special treat. It was on a sixteen-year-old gelding that was ninth last year at the European Championships in the Grand Prix. The first year he went Grand Prix he was eight-years-old and he placed second in that prestigious event. What a horse! Penny wanted me to ride him so that I would understand that the commands for the Grand Prix horse and the youngster are the same: legs on means go forward. One of Penny’s working students from Israel asked me what it was like to ride that horse. I had to think about it for a second and answered, “It was incredibly easy.” Penny had us canter, canter/walk transitions, piaffe and passage. Although I’d had trouble sitting the young horse’s trot, the passage on the Grand Prix horse was delightfully smooth. Penny directed me around the arena (felt like at least three times…was probably less) doing the passage. Sitting there I was impressed with the controlled power underneath me and the absolute softness in the rein contact. The horse totally understood how to be relaxed in his entire body. I couldn’t feel any resistance anywhere. If I touched a rein, he chewed.

I viewed the film at home with only two Vizslas sitting on my lap, then headed to the barn. Both Lusitanos enjoyed the walk work with me feeling, “Hips to hands. Let the horse carry you.” Then the sweeties were asked to “chew”. Zelador does this almost all of the time, thanks to the careful preparation with work in-hand done by Etienne. Zeloso (who had limited time with Etienne because of an injury) thought “chewing” required FOOD. After two days of riding he figured out that he could chew while being ridden at the walk and trot.

Although Bill got video footage of our riding, he didn’t take any photos of the horses. But, he did do some shooting around Geneva. On the far side of the lake there’s a plain and a steep mountain/hill. This is the premier spot in the world for hang gliding. We went to the site and were surrounded by cows and hang gliders, a mixture of the old world with the new.