Friday, July 18, 2014

Amazing clinic auditing experience!

Yesterday I finally got the chance to audit a Walter Zettl clinic... they're almost never on Thursdays (my day off--can't really take off work to audit a clinic), but yesterday was my lucky day.  I watched two rides, had to leave to run some errands, and came back to watch the second half of one ride and all of the last ride of the day.

Oh my gosh.  Walter is just amazing.  There was a canopy set up with chairs, so I was sitting within a few feet of him, which made it easy to hear him.  (He uses the microphone and headset things so he doesn't have to shout.)

I'm trying to remember the wonderful instructions he gave that apply to everyone..
1.  Use less aids.  When you use too much, the horse gets confused.  Use minimal aids.
2.  When you give an aid, give the horse a chance to respond.  Give the aid, release, and give the horse moment to respond to it.
3.  You have to ride every second, and you have to adjust your ride constantly because everything changes every step.  Ride each moment as it happens, and ride it the way it needs to be ridden at that moment.
4.  Get the hind end working.  Keep contact with the horse's mouth, ask for flexion and bend, but don't worry about where the head is.  When the horse is pushing from behind and working over his back, the head will go where it's supposed to be.  Focus on the hindquarters.
5.  Trust is good, but control is better.  Be soft, but not so soft the horse is out of control.

One thing he did with everyone was have them trot, ask them to walk, and the moment the horse drops to the walk, trot again, and repeat.  The goal was to get the horse listening and get the rider experimenting with how little they really need to be doing.

Every single horse made dramatic improvement during the ride.  It was absolutely incredible.

Walter is probably the kindest, most patient person I have ever met.  He was unfailingly soft and encouraging and just wonderful.

He won't be doing any more clinics here until September, but hopefully I can get a spot to ride with him.  I've been hearing about Walter as long as I've been riding and I've always kind of thought it would be cool to ride with him, but now "clinic with Walter" has moved to #1 on my list of things I really really really want to do.

If you ever get a chance to ride with Walter or audit one of his clinics, TAKE IT.  It doesn't matter how good or not you are or how good or not your horse is.  He'll help you and your horse improve, and he won't make you feel like you're wasting his time--because he truly doesn't think helping a horse and rider is a waste of time, no matter what you're doing.  Walter is just wonderful.

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