George Williams Clinic Jan. 8, Conroe, TX

As part of USDF’s every-other-year Junior/YR FEI Clinic, George Williams came to Region 9 last weekend. 

A partial bio from Horsesdaily.com: 

George made his mark in the world of international dressage with his popular partner, the Westfalen mare, Rocher. Together, the pair racked up wins both nationally and internationally, including back-to-back victories at Dressage at Devon – winning both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle in both 2002, 2003 and 2005, making them the only pair to win Devon three times. In 2003, George rode Rocher to the U.S. Dressage Federation Grand Prix Horse and Grand Prix Freestyle Horse of the Year titles. That same year, Rocher was also the Chronicle of the Horse Dressage Horse of the Year. And, in 2005, George and Rocher were the USEF Collecting Gaits National Dressage Champions.

It was freezing cold. Actually it did not feel THAT cold if you were up and walking around in the sun – but sitting still, under a covered arena, and I could not feel my feet, despite the fact I was wearing an undershirt, fleece shirt, long-sleeved quilted jacket and a down vest on top of that, fleece hat, and had a fleece horse cooler draped across my lap!

I only stayed half a day – it was a 1.5 hour drive from home and started at 7 a.m., and I needed to get home and ride my own horses, clean stalls, etc! 

Sometimes, the best instructors can seem to be doing almost nothing at all, and you sit there almost bored, when suddenly you realize the horse in front of you has somehow transformed during the last last 30 minutes or so.  Such was the case of George Williams. And, once again, it was hammered home to me that is really is all about the basics.

My hands were too frozen to take a ton of notes, but there were some gems that were totally new to me.

He schooled the first young rider (the youngest of the bunch on a too-cute-to-be-legal cremello Welsh Cob) on how to feel where here horse’s legs were so she could time her aids to ask him to move his hind leg forward more effectively. When the inside stomach moves away from your leg, the inside hind is in the air and in the optimum position for you to ask for a longer stride. Using this information the rider was able to influence her horse’s gaits to create a much longer stride – completely transforming her pony’s way of going.

Other gems, in no particular order:

  • The outside rein/aid is responsible for longitudinal suppleness, while the inside aids are responsible for lateral suppleness. You must have inside lateral suppleness before you can have the outside longitudinal suppleness so the inside and outside aids work together to get the horse through.

This was a big help for me – my third level horse is quite supple laterally, but not as supple longitudinally. I tried this out her this week and was able to achieve better latitudinal suppleness!

  • The working trot and the working canter should cover the same amount of ground. To illustrate, at some point during each lesson, he had the rider count the trot strides and the canter strides on a 20m circle, and then would have them ‘adjust’ as needed. Most started out the same right out of the gate! 24 strides in a 20 meter circle was about the average.

This was a totally new concept to me! I have not had time to ‘check’ my own horses yet, but I definitely will!

  • Massage the reins on the right and massage the reins on the left to produce straightness.
  • A corner is a “transition” from a bending line to a straight line and back to a bending line, and should be ridden as such.
  • When riding a 10m circle, turn on the first half of the circle and then ask the horse to enlarge the circle on the second half, to counteract the tendency of most horses to try and ‘fall in’ on the second half of the circle.

 This gem was a ‘lightbulb’ moment for me. Sometimes I have a tough time riding 10m canter circles, and as soon as I heard this I knew it was the solution to my troubles!  I put it to the test tonight and it’s a keeper!

  • To canter well, the horse must be in front of your inside leg, listening to your half halt and listening to your outside leg.  If you can easily leg yield out on a circle, the horse is in front of your leg.
  • The correct canter aid sequence is inside leg to outside rein, then half halt, then outside leg and inside seatbone asking for the canter. If your canter does not happen, you need to figure out which aid your horse is ignoring – or, if he’s behind your leg.

I wish I hadn’t been so cold and had taken more notes – but just the things I did learn made it worth the trip for me.

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