A Sideways Look At Classical Dressage - why EDL?
Welcome back! Thanks for taking the time to read my blog posts. In the craziness of the current CV19 pandemic, I hope that you are doing OK.
The lock down has actually meant a little rush on trimming for me (I'm an Equine Podiatrist). I have tried to trim all my laminitics and the ones that can't be postponed in the last week so that I can take this week off. Which means I haven't had chance to ride, but I have done a little in-hand work. Of course, there is also the 'should I ride' dilemma - do I risk the chance of going splat and putting extra strain on our already stretched emergency services, or do I say no riding for the lock down period? Well, given that Alice has a history of laminitis and spring tends to be the danger time for laminitics, and also bearing in mind that Alice is solid as a rock I have put a new canister in my air jacket and decided to ride in walk only and only in the areas that she knows very well and feels confident in. I am a massive chicken anyway and always hop off if I get an inkling of potential splatting!
Anyway, on to the subject at hand. Why did I decide to learn the methods of Philippe Karl and his École de Légèreté? Well it started with Barny Horse. He's a 15.2 labra-cob with metabolic issues. As with many metabolic horses, Barny is obsessed with food. He can't get enough. And unfortunately for him he is an EXTREMELY good doer so he gets fat just looking at grass. Barny suffers with chronic low-grade laminitis and is really heavily on the forehand, so someone suggested I try him with dressage. I thought this to be extremely daunting as I had no experience of dressage and can't tell a piaffe from a passage, but around the same time I happened to meet Tamasine Smith of leadchanges.net
Tamasine works as a dog behaviourist these days, but she has had a long career working as a horse trainer and is a long-time student of EDL. She has organised clinics with Veronika Buhn both here and in South Africa. Tamasine explained to me how riding in the EDL way puts emphasis on raising the horses balance bar (head and neck) and then rather than just dropping the head to slop along, actually ask for what I would learn is a neck extension. To put this in a very simplified way, this helps the horse to more effectively manage weight distribution when carrying a rider, and combined with flexions increases the strength and flexibility required. I came to understand that just mooching along the lanes with a loose rein actually was doing my horse more harm than good because effectively I was riding him in a hollow position and putting more weight on the forehand - if we want to ride a horse, in essence putting even more weight on the front end because of where we sit once we place the saddle on the horse, then we owe it to the horse to ride him or her in the best way possible to keep them fit and healthy. I had a lot to learn if I wanted to keep my horses fit, healthy and strong. I took a massive hop, skip and jump way out of my comfort zone, borrowed a lorry and took Barny to our very first clinic with Vroni. Sadly, after I realised I could no longer keep riding astride I was unable to ride Barny regularly. He has a very short back and I have a large bottom so finding a side saddle to fit us both is proving very difficult. To my mind there is a direct correlation between Barny's back health and ridden work. The physio reports show that he is much healthier when being ridden. So my mission over the next year or two is to shrink my bottom and his belly, then win the lottery so I can commission a side saddle to fit us both!
While Barny and I were working on EDL ridden work I noticed that he actually was the opposite of most peoples' cob decriptions - very light in the mouth and off the leg, and quite sensitive. Barny hates getting it wrong and gets very cross with me when I'm not clear enough! For now, we're having to resign ourselves to doing flexions in hand and walking hacks. We have found a lovely big hill near our new yard, so our ambition is to be able to walk up there without needing a lay down halfway!