A horse riding lesson at Il Paretaio

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For the first several minutes of my private lesson, Giovanni De Marchi asked me to walk Squibb, a grey Andalusian cross, briskly on a long rein to loosen his body and also to use the bending aids of my seat and leave my hands quiet. When the rythm became regular and swinging, I progressed to riding Squibb more into the contact and then progressed to lateral movements along the quarterlines, ensuring that I cued him - minimally - from my core and not by overusing my leg pressure. A lively round of posting trot followed as I continued to utilize arena figures and lateral exercises when Squibb's posture or engagement needed improvement.

To maintain good swing and looseness in the horses' backs, most trotting work at Il Paretaio is done in posting trot, Giovanni explained, including shoulder-in and haunches-in. He believes that many riders make themselves and their horses stiff by overusing the sitting trot. He prefers to see riders use the sitting trot for brief periods throughout each session when the movement is relaxed and engaged. On this note, all of Il Paretaio's instructors emphasize how and why to ride exercises so that, even with extensive dressage schooling, horses do not become robotic or dull.

The instructors show riders how to modify certain lines of travel and tempo during exercises to retain each horse's freshness to keep him alert and responsive. During my canter transitions aboard Tempo, for instance, Giovanni asked me to ride down the center of a 20-meter circle straight toward C and then, right before the rail, execute a canter depart and the turn immediately in the new direction. This exercise keeps both horse and rider sharp and quick. He prompted me during the exercise to cue for the canter from a slight hip movement, and using very little leg pressure. This would create a more smooth canter depart, Giovanni said, preventing my leg from becoming dull.

June 2015, Jec Aristotle Ballou on Dressage Today, Usa magazine
Staff Il Paretaio 2015-11-22