Sunday, April 19, 2015

Laura Hermanson Dressage Clinic

 Before the western clinic, I rode in Laura's dressage clinic. This time, too, I rode Anna, and I was still getting used to her as I had only ridden her one time before that. Laura started by checking everyone's bridles to make sure the nosebands and flashes were correctly tightened. Then she talked about the proper way a horse(or mule) should flex. She always flexes her mules slightly to both the inside and then the outside before a transition. After everyone had tried this, Laura talked about roundness. When a horse or mule becomes round, it's back should come out and the neck should bend. Laura flexed every mules(and the one horse's) back by gently pressing on the haunches so that each rider could feel what it feels like when an equine becomes round.

The group. I am third from the left.
 Next, we worked on getting our equine's in a forward, steady rhythm. We did this by using poles. We started with walk poles. Heading around the arena, we rode in a free walk, but just before we had to shorten our reins and push our equine forward if needed. I had to push Anna forward several times, because I had trouble keeping her in front of my leg.

Getting Anna to stretch down at the walk(free walk).

 After doing it at the walk, everyone tried the exercise over trot poles. It was a sharp turn to get to the poles, so we had to make sure to keep the correct rhythm around the turn and over the poles. The first few time, I made it over the poles but not in a very good rhythm. The last time heading over the poles, I kicked Anna forward. This time, she really reached forward, keeping a good rhythm over the poles and on the straight line after it as well. Laura said that that was the rhythm I need to have all the time.
More free walking

Over the walk poles

During the break time, a saddle fitter taught about fitting both western and English saddles, particularly focusing on mules. Mules have straighter backs than horses, and their ribs start out narrow then widen out, so they are built much differently than horses. Consequently, saddles are much harder to fit. It is hard to fit English saddles made for Thoroughbreds, or western saddles made for stock horses. To fit English saddles, the fitter uses special half pads with three pockets on each side. She inserts foam pads into the pockets to adjust the saddles fit and fill in the empty spaces between the saddle and the horses back. Thus doesn't fix a too big saddle, but it helps a saddle to be custom fitted to a horse or mule. I don't think any saddle you would by online would fit perfectly without some minor adjusting. She also flocks saddles to help the fit as well.

Over the trot poles. Straight-arming though

 In the afternoon, we worked on pats of Dressage Training Level Test 3, the test ridden at Bishop Mule Days, the mule world show(look Mule Days up). We practiced a serpentine loop, which is a loop that goes from H to X to K. The judge looks for a change of bend in this loop. The first few times I didn't quite get to X, and I used to much outside rein rather than inside leg, but the last time I tried it I got a fairly nice bend.

 Connie then decided that I should rest Anna for the day because I Anna would have to work a lot over the weekend at the western clinic(1, 2).


  1. very fun! i kinda love that you're working on dressage principles in a western saddle on mules. very different from the 'typical' riding lesson - but an excellent experience all the same!

    1. Yeah it is cool! The saddle may be different(and the mount in this case) but the principles are the same. In fact Laura teaches western lessons as well, using dressage principles such as forward, rhythm , suppleness, and so forth. I was a great and fun experience!


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