By Jennifer Klitzke
June 5-6, 2011 marked my fourth trip with Gift of Freedom to Proctor, MN for the B.L.E.S.S. Your Walking Horse Clinic with Bucky Sparks. And yes, clinic participant Barb Nunke said it best, “The sun really does shine in Proctor!” No parkas, rain suits, or knives to cut through the thick Proctor fog this year.
For me, the 2011 BLESS Clinic was all about breaking through the mystery about contact. How do I ride a head-shaking horse with contact? Do my hands move with the motion? Do I keep the reins slack so that I don’t bump the horse’s mouth with each nod?
Not interrupting the head-nod was the main reason I switched to an Imus Comfort Bit, but a curb and a snaffle function differently. A curb bit has leverage and poll pressure that a snaffle does not, and for dressage, a snaffle is essential in training the lateral movements, and it is the only legal bit in showing at the lower levels.
While I love how free Makana moves in the Imus Bit without contact, Bucky helped us ride forward into a light (not loose) contact without stopping. This was simply breakthrough for us! A training level frame we get, and now Bucky has helped us capture impulsion into the outside rein for a first level dressage frame.
We began the exercise at a flatwalk on a 20 meter circle with a shoulder-fore position. As Bucky’s German schoolmaster would say, “You need to ride shoulder-fore for the rest of your life.” Shoulder-fore can be ridden on a circle and a straight line where the horse is slightly bent to the inside. You should see the inside eye of the horse, and the horse should bend slightly through the poll, neck, rib cage, and spine. The outside rein helps keep the horse from overbending the neck and popping the outside shoulder.
On our second day, Bucky helped us school second and third-level movements as shoulder-in, hauches-in, traver, and renver. He helped bring awareness to the rib cage. Whenever Makana was stiff on the inside rein, it was because she was stiff in the rib cage. Once we established bend through the rib cage by applying inside leg at the girth and outside slightly back to hold the haunches from falling out, Makana became soft and round and light on the inside rein through these exercises. Once we learn these movements fluently at a walk, they can be ridden at a flatwalk.
According to Bucky the shoulder-in and haunches-in are three-track movements and the traver and renver are four-track movements. All four exercises help establish balance, suppleness and softness, a more upright frame, and contact.
For more about Bucky Sparks, visit www.blessyourhorse.com.