Friday, May 27, 2011

California Dreamin'

I just spent a week in Lake County, CA with an old friend who is very interested in participating in Western Dressage. We spent our first day watching Jack Brainard teach a WD clinic. This was disappointing because it was so cold that we couldn't really get where we could hear everything Jack was saying, and the format of the clinic was sort of watch me, now you  give it a try, but not a lot of detail. Of course we missed the first day, and it rained Sunday. My friend had separated ribs and would have been miserable in cold and rain, so we didn't get back, so I can't say much about what was taught at the clinic except that Lynne and I kept remarking that Jack really needed to take some time to help the rider of an Arabian that was trapped behind such short contact that it was bucking every time it was asked to go forward. The rider had a good seat and didn't seem disturbed by the giant kicking out, but he also didn't give the horse an inch more rein. Much to our delight after lunch Jack sent the pair into the round pen and made the young man ride the horse without touching the reins. In short order the horse, free at last to use it's head and neck, gave up the displays and began to work through all the transitions with no resistance.

I did have a chance to talk with Jack after the clinic was over. He was very gracious, but also very firm that this organization was for western riders and western horses. I got the impression that he was worried that it would be taken over by people who put dressage first, western second, with no real training in any of the western disciplines or the vaquero traditions.  I can understand his concern.  Personally I have great interest in biomechanics, what was California Reining when I started my professional career, and how dressage can be used to make more athletic horse, but I haven't trained a reiner or a western cow horse, so even though I've been asked by western trainers to help them with their horses and teach them how to apply dressage, I don't quite fit.

This left a big question. How many western trainers have the depth of understanding of  the biomechanics of how dressage works to teach "western dressage?"  How many dressage instructors have western backgrounds?  Understanding the biomechanics is important, because work done wrong can cause serious damage to the joints of the horse. Understanding western work is crucial because of the goal to work on the curb alone.

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