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The Delights of Being a Clinician ~ Spain and Portugal

Over the years Paul and I have enjoyed giving many clinics and the abilities of horse and rider that we train varies greatly. While we are generally sought after for clinics in the U.S.A, primarily in the North East, South Carolina and in Florida, we tremendously enjoy giving clinics abroad despite the difficulties of the language barrier.

As many of you know we work with FEI coach Greta Kemmer in Switzerland from time to time. Thankfully Greta helps us out with the joys of trying to speak German by providing some translation on our behalf. This has made our FEI4ontheFloor clinics, held in Bedford, NY and Lausanne, Switzerland, a great deal of fun. She translates for us in Switzerland and we translate for her in the U.S.A..We have been hosted at two elite yards in Germany over the past several years, and for those occasions a professional translator has been provided. This however has not worked so well. The translator was not familiar with horses at all! So when we used 'terminology equus' he floundered and we were left to charades. On occasion the only way to communicate was for us to mount the horse and show the rider what we meant. We do not usually ride horses in clinics, but in this situation it was the best way to get the message across to the client.

So in September 2017 when we were invited to Portugal and Spain to give two clinics, we were a bit nervous as neither of us speak either Portuguese or Spanish. We booked a TAP flight to Lisbon and arrived at dawn just as the sun was rising. As everyone that knows me knows, I love to travel. With some excitement we headed out of Lisbon, across the wide span Vasco Da Gama bridge and down South to the Algarve, where my parents have a property, to visit with them and enjoy some family time. That was awesome!

We had a lot to complete on this trip. Clinics to give, family time to enjoy, some training for ourselves with an Olympic rider, and some horse shopping to do for clients.

The weather on the Iberian front had been dry for several months.  On our arrival at the Seville location the arena was outside, in the glaring sun. The sandy arena was dusty. As a clinician a dusty arena makes the job so hard. Between our coughing and spluttering, inability to see the details of what the rider is doing, the coughing of the horse, it makes for a miserable experience. But. The job must be done and although I did have to sit on the side of the arena instead of walking around on the inside of the arena from time to time, to catch my breath, we pushed on. There was nothing to be done about the dust and given the drought there was not much we could complain about ~ water use was restricted.

The ability of the riders presented was very good and the horses for the most part, very talented. The hosts were just amazing ~ giving us 15 minute breaks between rides and an opportunity to sit quietly with them and enjoy a cold beverage and a snack when wanted. The shade of the gazebo was a welcome break indeed. As the day progressed and the intensity of the sun was at its highest, we broke for lunch. The food was fantastic and the hosts kindly granted us access to their massive verandah to at the house, where we could see for miles across the countryside while we devoured the feast they had prepared. After lunch we were invited to take a siesta in a lovely bedroom, with spa robes provided so we could shower and relax on the bed with the shutters closed. We both caught some shut eye. Power naps do work!

After our very welcome break we headed back out to the ring. The sun's glare was starting to diminish and shadows crossed the end of the arena. The bougainvillea perked up as the temperatures started to drop, and new riders were already active in the ring. These riders were more advanced. Horses piaffed and passaged about with ease, and the focus for our late afternoon and evening rides was very much on increasing cadence and improving transitions between movements.

The horses, mostly Andalusians with a sprinkling of Lusitanos and warmbloods, were very fit. The ANCCE horses held a lot of tension in general and we worked to improve the rider's abilities to loosen the horse's across the back. The breed is designed to be butt high, and this can be a challenge if the basic work has been rushed. We took several riders back to lower level work before bringing them back to the advanced moves and this focus drastically improved the degree of negative tension in the horse. When training dressage you do want some amount of 'good' tension for the advanced moves, because there has to be a certain amount of 'hold' to maintain correct rhythm laterally in the highest level trot moves and for the pirouette. But the negative tension that negates relaxation altogether must be dismissed.

The warmbloods definitely suffered more with the weather. The riders were beautifully appointed and there was no modern convenience such as ice-filled vests. Everyone just got on with the job.

For translation we were thrilled to have two English riders who spoke very good Spanish. They both rode in the clinic at the beginning of the days and devoted themselves for the duration of two days to helping us communicate with the other riders. As many of you know, Paul and I have a unique teaching style as we work together ( and hopefully in harmony), so it was great to each have our own person to translate our input immediately.

At the conclusion of our event in Seville, there was a grand party. Everyone that had ridden showed up and it was wonderful to be able to relax and chat everything horse. Horse people the world over are the same. We deal with the same issues, worry about the same things and just love our horses. We have been invited back and we look forward to it!

Next we were back to Portugal and a lot of driving to do in our little Ibiza rental. The little car that could and did take us all over the country. More on that next blog!


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