After the three-day clinic in Zduchovice 9 riders, from Czech Republic, Turkey, Bulgaria and Poland, have learned valuable tips that applied to a range of horses, from 5 year olds to experienced Grand Prix level, can make a difference.
Below an overall impressions from the riders, well expressed by Katerina Kucerova.
The main lesson learned was confirmed by everyone: to keep the riding simple and revise basics. When reflecting the progress, it was clear that most of the issues riders expressed could be solved with precise flatwork. As an example: the work towards connection by using transitions (trot to canter, canter to trot) reduces tension and made horses more patient. Alternating collection and relaxation had been a successful practice to make the horses listening and, at same time, flexible in their bodies. Jos emphasised that collection must not be confused with slowing down and shortening the horses’ necks, as that is not a solution to obtain control. The key is always an active behind and in jumping we often strive to create the necessary momentum - originating from the active hind legs. "Fighting is not an option, because a horse is always stronger than the rider, therefore the rider has to communicate with the horse rather than pressure it” mentioned Jos several times, especially to riders whose horses tended to rush over the fences. It was suggested to use every inch of the arena, every corner or a circle in between the lines to show the horses how to wait. Precision is the key, rather than over-riding and overdoing exercises. Most importantly with younger and less experienced horses, when teaching a new exercise (a half-pass, for instance), it is better to ask for little improvement every day instead of insisting on perfect realisation at the very first moment. On the third day of the clinic, when riders got the chance to ride a course designed to simulate a competition, Jos recommended to adapt the number of strides in between jumps specifically based on the horses’ natural character and length of the gallop. Adding a stride at the beginning of the course while riding generally energetic and hectic horses established control that lasted till the end of the course, producing a round that met the main objective - to keep the same rhythm. In addition to flatwork, Jos explained that even horses that jump bigger, demanding classes, can benefit from jumping smaller fences on a variation of lines - in other words, making the simple things more difficult. It may not be the height of the obstacles that is problematic, it is in between them. For instance, leaving out a stride in one line, then adding one in the next, to show control after having a forward distance is a good test to verify whether the horse listens to the rider.