For those of you that have not visited Pumpkin Farm, it is a lovely new facility. Great facilities for visiting horses and their owners. Large longing sheds and a full sized indoor with good footing for the horses.
I am familiar with Henk from many, many years ago when he had just arrived in North America from Holland. Nancy Benton, Susan Hilpert and others had him down from Canada to teach. I was impressed then, and after this weekend, I'm still impressed. These are just a few of my observations.
Saturday was a first ride with Henk for Blair and Ramzes SF. Blair has been riding for us since September. She has been riding Zach for the last couple of months. It was a real pleasure to see Zach relax through his back into the work. Blair is used to starting and riding our young horses, so has slightly changed her seat more forward to be light on the youngsters backs. Henk pointed out that this was good for youngsters but not as effective on the mature horses such as Ravel and Ramzes. Henk suggested that Blair shift her seat slightly back in the saddle and the results were immediately visible. Zach moved more thoroughly through his back with more active legs. One more new tool for Blair's tool box.
Henk stresses that aid should be suble but achieve a reaction. If you ask and the horse does not respond, ask yourself if it's because the horse does not understand, finds the movement difficult, or is resistant. Each might require a different action from you as the rider. If the horse is just being lazy or resistant, you ask again, with the third time the 'charm'. If you have to ask a third time, it's a quick, sharp aid that demands a response. But no nagging.
Henk also had the horse and rider take breaks, loose rein walk, when things has been going well. With a younger horse, he said if the ride is going well, don't fall in to the trap of thinking, 'let's do a little more, maybe something more difficult'. He said stop, let the horse enjoy the good ride and be eager to come back to work the next day.
This was Zach's response when he came out to work on Sunday. He was focused and seemed to remember the lessons from the day before. He was soft and elastic working better through his back. His movements were bigger and more active. When he became a little resistant on one side of his jaw, Henk had Blair very softly and subtly play the bit with her fingers.
Another thing Henk emphasized was how to correctly use your seat, not as a driving aid. I'll leave that one for Blair to explain.
Blair and the boys will be at the next Henk clinic in June.