From Endurance to Dressage
Horse Expo Clinics (Part 1)
I already mentioned that I went to Horse Expo Pomona on Saturday. Aside from the shopping, which wasn't as good as it usually is, Taz's Mom (TM) and I sat through several interesting clinics. Two of them were really good; the third ... not so much.
Bozanich and his riders
I make it a point to refrain from criticizing any individuals here on my blog. In fact, if I don't have anything nice to say, I usually won't blog about the experience, or I'll do my best to protect everyone's identity and keep everything anonymous. I think I am about to break that rule, but I'll try to do so with a minimum of criticism.
The first clinician we stopped to watch was John Bozanich, a reputable saddle maker. TM owns one of his older saddles and finds it quite comfortable. She has had some trouble getting the underside padding re-done which has caused her some frustration. She also questions the value of a saddle that needs the underside padding replaced so frequently.
Bozanich, often referred to simply as BOZ, is a charismatic fellow, but his ideas are quite polar from what is taught in classical dressage. His catch phrase is, We ride on our feet, not on our seat. In his saddle design, the stirrups are placed far forward so that when the rider stands, his legs are underneath him. Here is a photo of a typical Boz saddle that I borrowed from his website.
His clinic was entitled, "18 Ways to Change a Lead - You Can Do Them All." It sounded quite interesting so we decided to hear him out. From the first words of his introduction, I was skeptical about his style of riding. He explained that there are two general schools of thought about the trot to canter transition. The first, and most commonly held belief, is that the canter should be done while sitting and begins from the hind end. He feels that this puts the rider's weight on the weakest part of the horse's back and actually encourages the horse to hollow. In his method, the rider stands up which has the effect of freeing up the horse's back enabling him to round naturally. He feels that the scooping action of classical dressage encourages the horse to hollow even more. He also says the horse begins the canter with a foreleg and not from the rear legs.
I never quite understood his explanation of how this all comes together as his instructions to the the riders were simply post him into the canter! It appeared as though the riders were leaning forward and standing, and then they squeezed the horse to canter but not by placing the inside leg at the girth and the outside leg behind. From what I could tell by watching, it seemed as if the horses simply "ran" into the canter. I think the riders were cueing the horses to canter based on whether they were on the "up" of the rising phase of posting trot. Since the outside leg is forward at the rising trot, I think this is when they cued for the canter.
Bozanich had his riders show a variety of trot to canter transitions that included rollbacks and spins, and while most of the horses could pick up either the right or left lead canter as directed, there was no collection of any kind, and the riders did it all while "standing."
Much of his teaching puzzled me. Of course. I think that one of the issues that he is trying to address is that many western saddles put the rider in a chair seat which makes it difficult to get your legs underneath you when you rise. His saddle design seems to exaggerate the chair seat though, and I am not sure how you could stand up and get out of the saddle without kind of hunching over, which was how most of the riders appeared to be riding. Sorry about the lack of photos. It was dark under the covered arena and my iphone wasn't up to the challenge.
In any case, the Bozanich method of changing a lead, or simply picking up the correct lead, seemed very odd to me. I think I'll stick with the image of lifting into the canter like you see on the first picture of the little canter diagram above. But hey, to each his own. If the Bozanich riders get results riding his way, more power to them.
More on the other two clinicians as the week rolls on ...
2/5/2013 10:15:55 am
Yeah ... I couldn't quite get his message ... didn't really work for me.
2/5/2013 05:08:48 am
I do not disagree that standing can be good for the horse's back. I would not sit on Harley's back at the canter when he was green until he was warmed up. I do remember that a half-seat helped him round and sitting in a traditional dressage seat made him hollow (when he was green and inexperienced). I also share the clinician's opinion that your feet should be under you at all times, but I do not see how his saddle compliments this philosophy. Ironically, I find it very easy to lighten my seat or stand in my dressage saddle at a moments notice.
2/5/2013 05:09:37 am
2/5/2013 10:19:13 am
I agree that to lighten our seat can be a very good thing for our horses. That's not what he was saying. His message was to ALWAYS stand and NEVER sit (essentially - ride with your feet not your seat ...). The horses that came to the demo were not green. Like I said - to each his own. Although, I would rather a rider stand than crank his weight into a horse's loins and sore him. :0)
2/6/2013 08:01:46 am
I've never really ridden western either, but it certainly wasn't a traditional western seat.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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