There is so much great information! To clarify, Arthur Kottas shares so much great information. I don't know if I'll be able to convey very much of it. Every lesson was packed full of invaluable knowledge.
Tonight I'll start with the good news for me. As you know if you've been reading at all Rogo and I have lost a lot of time in our riding and training. Most recently he was lame on an off for quite some time, making it impossible to progress in our training. Also, he's my first warm blood, my first time training a horse through the levels in dressage, and I've only come back to riding in my fifties after thirty years of not riding. It isn't easy for an old gal like me to learn to train a big moving warm blood! Anyway Rogo's been sound since last spring, and it's been wonderful.
Because I didn't want Arthur to be appalled at our performance, I noted on the schedule that we were level 1. Well I couldn't have been happier, euphoric really, when Arthur immediately, in our first lesson, took me to task: "you can't stay in level two forever. I want you at level three when I return in the spring - walk, trot, canter shoulder in, haunches in, half pass and flying changes. In my opinion you and Rogo have the talent to do that.".
Of course I didn't feel bad about being scolded for still being in level two. I hadn't even thought he'd consider our gaits and movements good enough to call level two let alone good enough to plan to move up in the spring.
So that was the good part. The not so good part was that at times I find it difficult to process and respond to new coaching, especially new coaching that's pushing my limits and coming from someone who intimidates the hell out of me with their knowledge. Who in the world knows more about teaching classical dressage than Arthur Kottas? No one? That would be my answer.
That he's there in person, in our arena, in our little back water of Nova Scotia, Canada, giving me lessons, is almost beyond my comprehension.
He arrived for our four day clinic after giving three previous back to back clinics in North America, flew back to Vienna on Tuesday arriving Wednesday, went to Sweden Thursday, on to Belgium, England and back to North America. The man is 70 and his last lesson of ten private lessons a day, on the fourth day was the most vibrant and information packed of them all. So... it isn't really on for me to tell him I'm tired :).
Back to processing and responding to coaching - I recognize that my somewhat 'frozen' mental state is as much an area that I have to learn to deal with as the physical aspects of riding, and I'm determined to learn it. The lessons are fantastic and I made break throughs I couldn't imagine, but to me, at my level, they are intense. They wouldn't be to an experienced rider. (And I was beyond exhausted which didn't help - riding in a clinic which you're organizing / hosting and has a lot of riders and auditors is always a challenge, but... see previous note about being tired. Cry me a river, eh?).
As I wrote the above I saw something - he's treating me like a decent rider. I've watched him teach. He doesn't push people who can't do it. Hmmm. He actually said this to me, but it didn't sink in until now: "do you think I don't know what you can do?". God. I cringe thinking about it.
As a side note, Arthur is very good about gauging the amount of information you can absorb. He takes breaks from teaching and talks to the auditors in detail, so they get lots of good information too, and the rider has time to absorb what he's saying. This (absorbing, processing, calmly responding to information) is my issue completely. I own it and I'm going to become good at it.
So this is my first insight - it isn't new or earth shattering but I have a new clarity about it. When a gifted teacher gives me their attention, and I'm not just talking about international clinicians, they are truly giving me a gift and it is incumbent upon me to appreciate that gift by doing everything in my power to make it worth their while.
It would be easier for teachers to coast somewhat and let students coast. How exhausting and depleting it would be to be completely engaged with each individual rider, intensely, all day. They deserve the respect and complete focus of each student trying their best and committing to improve.
Arthur is a wonderful teacher and if you want to improve I highly recommend him.
Here is one area where I made a break through in my lessons. It is ridiculously simple, yet no one had done it for me before. He asked me to do a half pass. We'd done our fist ever half pass at his clinic in May but I hadn't done it since and didn't really know the movement. I tried to do it, he told me to put my leg back further, I thought I did, he said I didn't, confusion ensued (see above mental awareness notes). He placed my leg where it should be - what? Back that far? My leg didn't easily stretch back that far. I'd never put my leg back that far. But...you may recall... I've always had difficulty with lateral work.
Anyway, in the moment, it was a bit of a mini train wreck. I didn't really process it at the time and didn't do a very good half pass. I talked it over with my teacher and a trusted friend later and that's really when I realized I hadn't put my leg back (far enough) when he told me to. I rode Rogo on my own and tried it - he scooted his hind quarters over. Oh. My. God. It took us many months to get a simple leg yield back when we were learning that, something most horses get the basics of very quickly. I was able to do lateral work on Savanah and Dan, but they are smaller than 17 hand, long, big boned Rogo.
In order to get my leg on the same place on his body as it would be on Savanah's body I have to move it back farther. Of course. You may be rolling your eyes? Well, I know it sounds simple, but it is quite subtle. The difference in position isn't a lot, I've had great teachers who didn't push this, but the difference in reaction when you hit the move sideways sweet spot was, I'd venture to say, dramatic.
It's made such a difference that we've gone from being a flop at a walk half pass to doing a decent canter half pass in a matter of a few days.
That's all my writing energy for tonight. Sorry I didn't have more profound lessons to share. I doubt I can convey those lessons anyway, but I'll try to outline more in the coming days. Thanks for reading!