Melanie had them go out on the rail walking on a loose rein and ran the riders through a series of stretches. Dropping stirrups, one hand reaching up over their heads (ride long and tall), arms out to the side, lifting one leg off the saddle, then both legs off to help feel their seat bones. Next was some walk-halt transitions, trying to do 5 steps walk, halt, 3 steps walk, halt etc..... Melanie really wanted the horses paying attention to their riders, again focusing on centering the horse. She had them do the same thing in their trot and canter work as well.
During the 45 minutes that the group spent of flat work I noticed a majority of them either picked up the wrong diagonal or the wrong lead many times. One girl, maybe 13ish?, (who was obviously incredibly nervous and over-horsed) never picked up the correct diagonal, and never checked it. Her trainer was standing at the rail and would whisper to her as she rode by, and eventually Melanie started telling her to change. Melanie also had to announce to the whole group that making sure you have the correct canter lead was more important than getting it at a certain spot. In my mind, if you are jumping 2'6" and shelling out $400 to ride with an Olympic gold medalist and World Cup winner you should be able to get the right diagonal and leads. It really surprised me how something that is so basic seemed to be so overlooked. /Rant over/
|So deceptively simple|
|Sorry for the crappy phone pics|
During this exercise two girls fell off, one twice at the same fence, and I counted three instances of crying (one fall related). Melanie was getting slightly frustrated, but was still kind and encouraging to the riders. She was happy if they took a circle to collect their horse, or if they asked to come back and do something over. Her main focus with this exercise was to get the job done, ie the transitions, then smooth it out. "Do as much as necessary, but as little as possible." I really liked watching this part, and wished I could have seen the more advanced group do it. You could really see how some of the riders thought out their rides and how the horses had to think through it too. A few riders really got it, while most had trouble getting the canter to the second jump in the lines. One woman in particular had some very nice rounds and make it look super easy. I would highly recommend watching or riding in one of Melanie's clinics if you ever have the opportunity!