It was the biggest and best dressage event ever hosted in BC. Anky was a huge success as a Clinician and Educator. Her depth of knowledge balanced with a wry self effacing wit made everyone comfortable.
The dressage world knows Anky. Her highlights include the world record for the most Olympic medals won by any equestrian athlete, the only rider with three successive Olympic wins in the same event, numerous medals at the World Equestrian Games, and the sole rider to have competed at every WEG since they began in 1990.
The three day Clinic attracted many horse/rider combinations and a huge number of spectators, all thirsty for learning. The message delivered was classical, systematic and consistent.
Anky's approach is a simplified system of training. She is able to reduce multiple aids to a select few.
Leg for forward, reins for back. Steady hands. Stay focussed on the movement.
If it doesn't feel right, do something about it, don't just hope.
A big part of her system is speed control. She explained “if you have speed control
and the horse is on your aids, then all the movements become easier. She stressed that she doesn't like
the term "half halt" because it often results in "half of nothing" or the horse "half listening". After the first day,
no rider would admit to ever doing half halts and this was greeted with hoots of laughter from the auditors. Truth be known, "speed control" requires half halts. It is simply a more productive way of thinking about it. She also is not fond of the counter canter, stating that horses become so skilled at it, they no longer see the point of learning the flying change. Her take is that horses should learn the flying change long before the counter canter is perfected.
In the warming up, she asked that the horses go really forward and the riders get off their back both in trot and canter. Acknowledging the possibilities of being bucked off, she laughed “it wouldn’t be the first time”. Then as the horses were warmed up, she often asked for quicker smaller steps for improved balance and engagement.
With her approach, you could really see the horses become looser with more elastic gaits. When asked for the “competition frame”, an honest connection and steadiness of the frame could be achieved. She also stressed speed control and positioning within the pirouettes and passage stressing the ability to speed up and slow down
without affecting the balance.
Anky is a stickler for corners, stressing that the correctly ridden corner sets up the next movement. In response to rider observations about the multiple aids they gave to ride corners, she responded "keep it simple, just ride into the corner and then turn.” She also suggested that we be inventive, using the whole arena for training otherwise the horse gets bored. Practise lines on the quarter lines or second track not the diagonal
because it helps you feel if they are straight.
The concept of "low and deep" was put into perspective when Anky discussed the difficulties of certain horses that are blocked or don't reach for the contact. In those cases, the rider takes contact, asks for forward until the horse gives the feeling that he really wants to stretch out and stay over the back. When the back is up and they accept the contact, then the rider gives. It was instructive to watch this technique work with horses who needed it, but an appreciation was gained for the knowledge and abilities necessary to apply it. More often than asking for "low and deep" Anky pursued an uphill balance allowing an engaged hind leg.
It was interesting to see how Anky defined rider problems and offered simple, effective solutions. The audience could see the changes and it was exciting.
When it came to the Grand Prix movements like Piaffe and Passage, Anky said don't over think” it, just make sure that the horse is sharp on the aids and if he needs a little help, use a little “tick tick” with the leg, or the voice, but always keep everything in a forward way of going.
Thunderbird Showpark is a world class venue. The footing, tents, jumbotron and food were proof positive of its reputation.
Congratulations to Scott Hayes Productions for having the vision and courage to make this happen!