Dressageclinic.com is pleased to present this video of Stephen Clarke, a tremendous coach who is extremely sought after in the dressage world. Currently, Stephen holds the position of most senior dressage judge in the world. He is known as a fair evaluator with balanced and consistent assessments, which has earned him the esteemed Judge General role. He continues to enjoy departing his wisdom to numerous top riders in the industry.
Today’s lesson is focused on gaining immediate reactions from our young horses using light aids.
Judith, a competent and dedicated rider, is blessed with training this honest coming 14 year-old Hanoverian named Rusty who offers his whole heart to the work.
Stephen, who has coached Judith earlier, is clear with his work for Judith today: the priority is to ‘be deadly consistent’ in remaining still in the body and having the horse react to a light aid. He reminds Judith to be still and ‘sit like a church mouse’ and let him react and do the work.
“What you need to think,” he says, “is you need to train him so a little old lady could ride him.” He wants the horse feather-light to the aids. Stephen reinforces this by his observation of the para-riders who have little bodily strength yet have horses that instantly respond to their light, subtle cues.
Stephen looks for the horse to respond with a change of energy within the gait and not race forward thereby losing his balance and rhythm.
Moving in between trot and canter work, Stephen requests slight modifications of Judith: to work light on his back by riding in rising trot so not to push the horse with the seat. This allows Judith to remain focused on the priority: having Rusty react to light aids.
They end with practicing turning on the forehand and having him rewarded for his first reaction. “Make a game of it,” says Stephen.
Stephen comments to the owner from the sidelines: “he’s lucky he’s with you two because a lot of people would take advantage of this horse.” He recognizes the beautiful temperament of Rusty and reminds us to take our time as many ask for too much too soon from these young, big-hearted horses.
It is a pleasure to have a piece of Stephen’s precious time. His warm and sunny demeanour fills the lesson with lightness and diffuses any difficult messages with a warm comment and clear instruction on how to improve the progress of horse and rider.
Stephen’s kind spirit is a pleasure to witness and we look forward to watching him continue to mentor a vast assembly of riders and their horses straight to the top.