One could say I’m addicted to learning and attending masterclasses. Another 3am start to a rainy Friday morning on my way down to Sydney International Airport ready to depart on my early morning flight to Christchurch with Air New Zealand. I was excited to be attending Equidays, especially to sit in listening to Kyra Kyrklund. What an opportunity!
I visited Equidays briefly on the Saturday afternoon following on from my own morning horse activities, Kyra had a 45-minute demonstration in the main arena. I thought this was a great opportunity for a sneak peek with the masterclass the following day.
In the short demo Kyra focused on the rider position and balance, which I find absolutely fascinating, I feel this is one subject that is left untouched. Ensuring the riders were sitting even in the saddle. Not slouching to one side, forwards or backwards. It’s amazing to see how much the body influences the horse and their movement. Getting the riders to turn their heads to the outside and ride a smaller circle, using their body, influencing the horses body to ride the smaller circle. It sounds like a simple exercise, but it was rather effective with the riders on the day. This was only a very short insight on what we would be installed for on Sundays masterclass.
With a few ideas in my mind from Saturdays demonstration, I woke to a beautiful sunny, crystal clear Sunday morning in Christchurch. Equidays opened the gates early for all the keen Kyra fans eagerly awaiting a morning of learning.
The morning kicked off with the first rider, Kyra following on from the short session on the Saturday about the rider’s body position and balance. If you are learning to one side the horse is going to want to fall to that side to support the riders weight. Kyra made an interesting training suggestion, all the riders who rode on the day were asked to use a monkey grip. Which she pointed out what a great training tool this can be for the rider. With the rider using it with their inside hand, allowing them to keep a still, steady and soft contact with the horse. Whilst having the outside hand controlling the tempo of the horse, remember to pat the horse with the outside hand. For two reasons, one, allowing the rider to relax the outside rein aid and two, rewarding the horse.
Whilst the focus of the first rider was about body position, this might not seem fascinating to all riders. But Kyra gave some important tips:
Head down only focuses on the front of the horse
Don’t stare at the horse’s neck, learn to look around
Repetition is the mother of learning – Which I couldn’t agree more.
With the second horse now entering the arena, the rider previously mentioned to Kyra that she really wants to ride a good shoulder in! Didn’t my note taking go crazy with this horse. First up, Kyra worked through the leg yielding, in walk down the long side. Changing the bend into renvers and keeping the hinds on the wall.
When you reach the end of the long side, move the hind leg with small steps and turn on the fore. Kyra expressed to the audience how valuable the turn on the fore really is to our training. Several trainers and riders do not use this as a training tool with their own training as it can be difficult, which she also told the audience this is probably why you do not see it in many dressage tests these days.
Moving on from this exercise along the wall, it was time to put it to the test down the centre line. Walk down the centre line, leg yield, turn on the fore. As Kyra lightly mentioned “he is not a supermarket trolley, you do not need to push all the way”
By taking the horse through these exercises you learn to take the hind in and put the hind back. Having that control. Kyra quiet clearly pointed out to the audience shoulder in you take the front in not keep the hind leg out. She made a comment with the position of shoulder in is if you wanted to take your horse off the wall to do a circle. Then travers is when you ride a circle but you think not to finish it. Sounds simple doesn’t it. She also mentioned that using the walk as a large half halt, make the horse listen and think.
The third horse rode into the arena, Kyra is on point with keeping the theme of the rider’s position. This time it was all about the rhythm and tempo. Learning to slow down the tempo with your body and not from the rein aids.
While the rider was trotting around in rising trot, Kyra got her to think of slowing her rise down. This helps the horse bring back in the trot. She then went on the explain when you are sitting trot, think of slowing down the bounce to get the smaller trot strides.
Kyra had a great exercise for the crowd, she had us all stand up straight and see if we could get out knee up high around our belly buttons. I admit this was a little difficult! Then she asked us to round out backs and see how we could get our knees up. If you’re not standing up now and trying this I’ll let you in on a secret. It is A LOT easier! She pointed out how the horse needs to be round across the back for the hind legs to come up and through, riders who have their horse round across the back are making it very difficult for themselves.
I honestly enjoyed every minute of Kyra’s masterclass, she left the crowd eager to learn more. You can tell why she is one of the best trainers.
Here are my main training tips from Kyra’s masterclass at Equidays in Christchurch.
- Leg yield not rein yield
- Horse needs to be round over the back for the hind legs to come up and through
- Repetition is the mother of learning
- Think of shoulder in “do I want to do a circle”
- Think of travers “do I want to finish my circle”
- Bump slowly in sitting trot to bring the horse back.
Thank you Equidays NZ for bringing Kyra so close to Aussie shores for us to be able to attend such an inspirational and educational masterclass.