Saturday, 3 January 2009

Erik Herbermann Clinic August 2008

One of my most inspirational clinics of 2008 and one that I hope to repeat this year was auditing Erik Herbermann :-) The man is just amazing!! I thought Id copy and paste my notes from the clinic on here for reference. I cant seem to find anyway of uploading a word document to my blog?

Date: Sunday 31.08.08

Venue: Arrow Equestrian

1st lesson

Lady on fairly new warmblood horse. EH talked to her about her position and her general demeanour. He stresses the importance of the ‘Elegance within you’ at first this is something that you ‘put on’ but after time it BECOMES YOU! Ride with elegance and poise.
To improve the lateral work the horse has to be content before it can be truly supple.
To improve the canter – think about how you can ‘HELP YOUR HORSE’ in otherwords preparation, preparation, preparation. Don’t aid for canter out of an unbalanced walk or trot. Set the horse up to succeed. Apply INTELLIGENCE and HEART to your riding. It is not what you do it is HOW you do it – what HEART? What SENSITIVITY? What FEELING?
Remember in lateral work the aids – Halt – Move Over – Light
In otherwords, balance the horse before the movement with a half halt, ask the horse to move over, then lighten your hands to ALLOW the horse to move.

Halting Aid – When using a ‘halting aid’ the horse understands that you the leg means ‘move over’ and not rush forwards. HALT –separate- MOVE OVER –separate- FLOW…….. Don’t give contradictory aids – don’t halt and use the leg at the same time, it makes no sense to the horse.

To rebalance the horse, say from trot:
This was a running theme throughout the day. It elicits a genuine response from the horse and rider when you think ‘walk here’ rather than ‘halt halt’ which can encourage JUST a rein aid. It should be a whole BODY aid from the rider.

You MUST expect an immediate response to your aids. Your aids have to be ‘HOT POTATO AIDS’ or for more sensitive horses ‘WARM POTATO AIDS’ LOL!!! You have to teach your horse to respond enthusiastically to your forward aids. If the horse doesn’t listen to your leg ‘TAP TAP TAP’ with the stick. Do as little as possible but as much as necessary to get an IMMEDIATE response. Classical riding is NOT ‘ootsey cutsie’ but it DOES respect the horse in EVERY SENSE.

If the horse is against the hand, it could be that the rider is to mechanical or the forward and balance of the horse is not in rhythm.

Legs should be of EQUAL VALUE for straight forwards. After a Halt on a rein, BOTH reins soften.

2nd Lesson

Lady with OTTB mare. Horse is very sensitive and I gather they had been working on de-sensitising her to rider movement during the clinic. The mare tensed and held her back whenever the rider moved – the rider ended up barely moving or breathing to keep her calm. EH said while he LIKED the fact that the rider was so quiet, for this horse she had to move around more in order for her to relax. He got the rider swinging her legs from side to side – reaching and patting her neck, twisting and patting her croup. I could tell from the groups reaction at the end of the lesson that the horse was very different to the one at the start of the week.
Think about what you can do to ‘help her’ today NOT what she has done in the past.
Stay away from strain and tension.
Always choose the GAIT, the SCHOOL FIGURE and the EXERCISE – we must ride with a purpose. The horse doesn’t have a purpose – WE must have the purpose!

The seat is the anchor for the reins – when EH rides everything he does is to do with the SEAT!! Halt halt – we need the reins, but they are INCIDENTAL! Halt from the SEAT!!
Show the horse what you want then LEAVE THEM ALONE! If its not right CHANGE IT! Do not suffer, the horse doesn’t know what is right or wrong – The rider should show them honestly and straight forwards.

3rd Lesson

Double lesson – chap on large Grey horse and Lady on PRE horse (I think!)
A lot of this lesson was concerned with creating energy and keeping the balance.

Balance and flow – let the horse find the rhythm. ANIMATE the horse and MONITOR the rhythm. If you control the rhythm you will KILL IT!
Say ‘Balance’ and ‘YOU do it’ to the horse.
Always both reins, BALANCE – FORWARDS – LIGHT – in other words, rebalance your horse using the ‘walk now, Ive changed my mind’, ALLOW forwards and lighten the hand.
Warm Ups – these are IMPORTANT! Don’t just dawdle around. The horse may be on a long rein but it HAS to be walking purposefully and feel fluid.
Energy Scale – the horse should be ‘animated’ to a level 8, regenerate the energy at 7 – don’t let it get to 3 or 4 before you do anything about it!! As you pick up the reins the horse should stay REACHING FORWARDS – only shorten up reins if the horse is reaching. The RIDER intensity must be ‘UP’ and energetic and expect the same from the horse.

Balance is a tiny spot!! Animating and rebalancing should be like Building a mountain under the saddle. Sit on your SEAT not your laurels!!
The rider must trust the horse to keep soft – DON’T keep holding!!

Give him [horse] a place to come to – DON’T hold the rhythm – rebalance and LEAVE HIM ALONE!! Bend / Rhythm – Cause it to BE, then SIT on him [horse] don’t HOLD him.

There was a big change in the Grey in particular at the end of the lesson – I had to smile at Erik as his parting advice was:
‘Often time the difference between success and failure is a tiny veil’

Lesson 4

Lady and PRE Gelding

I gather from the group that the lady has been having problems with ‘attentiveness’ of her horse. He is quite highly strung and lacks concentration on the rider, constantly worrying about what is going on ‘around him’
EH recommended riding on a LONG rein – ‘holding’ these types of horses is unproductive – it creates a higher cycle of anxiety in the horse. They had been working on a small circle on a long rein, making corrections when the horse became distracted and praising and ‘leaving alone’ when he was concentrating. The work with the rider was about not getting emotionally involved and joining in the ‘panic attacks’

When in trot, ride like you are on the buckle (As in using your seat) Make aids LOUD not sharp.
Ignoring is a powerful instrument – Show them [horse] what you want and ignore a great deal LOL!!

Inattentive - Don’t look at what they look at!! Don’t get involved!! Aid, Aid, Aid – change rein often. Don’t get emotional, what is he looking at? ‘I don’t care!’ What is he doing? ‘ I don’t care!! Why is he so silly? Answer: I Don’t CARE!!!! Let the horse have NO purchase on your person – its impersonal.

Nature CANNOT resist our quiet, patient, consistent discipline.

This was EH’s mantra all lesson – quiet – patient – consistent discipline WILL win the day, it CANNOT be resisted, EVENTUALLY the horse will settle (quiet) EVENTUALLY the horse will GET IT (Consistent) EVENTUALLY!! (Patience)

DO NOT HOLD!!! Aid and release – PREVENT NOTHING!! Correct and release.
NO does not exist in horsemanship – show him [horse] what you DO want and not what you don’t.

RIDER – don’t get ‘tight’ when riding. When it starts to get easier – DON’T get sloppy in the mind. Rider should be fully focussed ALWAYS. Give the horse the purpose [exercise] in a way he can accept.

I enjoyed this lesson – was lovely to see how calm and attentive the horse became towards the end. EH was hilarious too! To gain the horses concentration he kept saying, make it interesting for him, LOOK! LOOK! Look at the pretty flowers in the middle of the circle, look at the kittens playing in the circle LOL!! And at the end he got up and danced around the school waving a scarf! And to the riders and horses credit – NEITHER of them looked – they didn’t CARE LOL!!

Lesson 5

This was the same lady from lesson 2 and her other horse a dark bay warmblood.

Again, the importance of a forward flowing warm up, particularly with a stuffier horse. This horse was in stark contrast to her other horse – the rider had to find ways to SENSITISE him to her aids rather than de-sensitise. Back to the HOT POTATOE aids again!

Eric singing ‘I keep on knocking’ LOL!!

Keep nagging is like working like a common labourer and not a CEO – WHY? A CEO knows how to delegate! The responsibility for the horse moving forwards is THE HORSES! Riding in this way, we ride in a WORTHY way – the horse is NOT stupid, and ridden consistently will learn quickly. Rider should be relaxed, any ‘holding’ of any part of us stresses the sensitive horse.

Don’t HOLD / Don’t PREVENT / LET the error happen and ADJUST IT – DO NOT PUNISH – Adjust, show the horse and PRAISE!

Value of changing diagonal without changing rein prevents horse and rider getting SET – it helps promote a LOVE of balance…………….providing you do it by choice!!

An Inattentive rider can ‘dull’ a horse – rider must be MINDFUL and consistent. We must be clear and consistent about our goals and purpose.

If we wish the horse to CONTRIBUTE we MUST have Enthusiasm!! Rider has to be on the ‘ball’ – if anything is OK, we will get any old results

Enthusiastic riding mad a BIG difference! EH was ‘enthusing’ about animating your horse and just his voice and his energy made an impact on the horse! When the rider joined it was AMAZING!! The horse came to life! EH’s comments were – DELEGATE ‘ YOU do it boy! Im just coming along with you!!
“Double ups” are good for creating energy – halt to trot – walk to canter
“Single Ups” better for an unbalanced horse
“Triple Ups” – Excellent for animating established horses – Halt to canter

Really think ELEGANCE – Good Posture is paramount.

AID & LIGHT, AID & LIGHT – Holding builds unnecessary tension. [both horse & rider]
The horse HAS to contribute for beautiful work – ‘squeezing’ work out is ugly!!

Another brilliant lesson to watch – the horse came in as a rather ‘ordinary’ horse. You could see he had nice gaits but he was just ‘going through the motions’ and kind of looked a bit big and heavy and lumbering. Once we had the enthusiasm, well!! He just came alive!! Heightened still by a spectator dropping something and making a BANG LOL!! MY GOD this horse could move! He finished looking like a TOP dressage horse, and because EH insisted on the NO HOLDING, and Aid and Light, the work really was free of tension and was really beautiful – I mean REALLY beautiful! We were all smiles!

Lesson 6
A lady with a very nice PRE Stallion ;)

The combination wanted to work on ‘impulsion’ as the horse can be a little too laid back at times! They did some work on ‘flowing’ particularly in walk as that is the hardest pace to create impulsion naturally.
Again EH stressed the importance of ‘Delegating the task of going forwards to the horse’
Keep an energy level of 8, never let it drop less than 7 – its too late when it gets to 3!!
The ‘Enthusiastic riding’ was touched on again.
Every cell in your body should say ‘Ahhhhhh LETS GO!!!
Don’t let your hands get stagnant – keep your hands ALIVE
Your horse reads your attitude – the rider must be POSITIVE and praise the horse when he gives the correct answer.
The horse says ‘ I LOVE your [the riders] appreciation of my contribution’
Riders seat needs to be LONG then the walk will be LONG. The seat directs and forms the energy that the legs generate.
Inside leg AND outside rein and leg. Both outside aids to receive the energy that the inside leg creates. The outside rein should bend gently around the neck. Don’t take the outside rein AWAY from the neck.

Its amazing how much one knows without knowing – trust your FEEL!
If we want ‘fine’ then we have to approach riding wirh finesses by REFINING our aids.
Don’t bend your horse WITH your leg but AROUND it! It should be a passive post for bending.

You need ‘FORWARDNESS’ for the outside rein to have its ‘framing’ effect. Without forward the outside aids are meaningless.
Bending and Guiding are tweo separate subjects – they may be combined but they are Separate!


Forward – gather – forward builds energy.

Use your aids honestly – and trust the horse to respond correctly.

Again, another very interesting lesson to observe. The faults were minimal, but what an improvement when corrected! Particularly the issues with the outside rein. Great to watch.

Lesson 7

Chap from lesson 3 on a nice chestnut ‘hunter type’

I missed a lot of the lesson (gabbing!) which was a shame as I gather there were a few issues at the start, but they finished in a real good place. EH’s comments were you went from Hell to Heaven in one lesson LOL!!

Again, the work was very much in the balance of the horse and building the energy. With lots of ‘Walk here’ and ‘Oh, Ive changed my mind’

You need Energy in the Piggy Bank before you can Spend!!

Lesson 8
Lady on an Arrow school horse on her first lesson with EH.

Lady was a little crooked so EH worked on this issue and the problems this caused for the horse.

Square in seat and position

Bend versus Guidance – KEEP SEPARATE!!
Don’t get so ‘tight’ relax – Nothing to it – JUST DO IT!!
Forwardness is the key – without it the horse cannot know what the outside rein and leg is for.

Both sides of the horse should have equal value – if the horse is cutting in or out then the horse is not straight between the aids, most probably caused by the rider.
Keep the neck STRAIGHT!! Bend is Bend, Direction is Direction. Keep the horses neck straight on a circle.
Outside leg should always be ‘on’ passively when the inside leg is being used as a support for the horse.


EH showed us the importance of the outside leg. He stood behind you and put his hands either side of our waist. He then aided with the ‘inside’ leg with the ‘outside’ leg as support. Then he aided with BOTH legs, very irritating actually but I could be ‘ignored’ if you switched off! Then came the inside leg aid with the outside leg away from the body – UGH! What a weird feeling! It felt like you were going to fall over! For saying how lightly the supportive ‘outside leg’ was held, I couldn’t believe it made SUCH a difference. Was a good lesson as I have a bad habit of not keeping my outside leg on particularly in lateral work when obviously it is VERY necessary!

Erik also did a ‘contact’ demo with a lunge line for reins. You basically followed Erics ‘contact’ as he moved the line about and then all of a sudden he ‘dropped’ you! People were most surprised how disconcerting this was! Especially as EH said that people do this as a reward for the horse!! Both ‘feels’ were very light and subtle and were very ‘comforting’ but when taken away abruptly it was immediately noticeable! It has made me think more carefully about just how ‘light’ a feel can be and remain effective and how important it is to be consistent.

Lesson 9

Arrow owner & employee double lesson with two nice warmblood types.

In lateral work – Leg Yield and Shoulder in, AID – Light – Aid – Light, releases energy in your horses shoulders. If you hang onto the rein its like shoving the horse through wet cement! Horse must be flowing forwards – PARAMOUNT!

Leg on side of the evading croup – rein on side of evading shoulder for correction.
Reins EQUAL – one active rein, yet other rein needs to be present (passive) to keep the neck straight.

ELEGANCE!!! POSTURE!!! Heavy shoulders, droppable elbows.

Halting – confirm inside rein / Half halt outside rein / soften BOTH reins.
The horse has to be made Active so it is right up to the hand – that way the hand need barely move at all, the contact is truly forward and elastic.
ANIMATE / Halt / Netral (with hand) / FORWARDS!
TRUST the horse in the softening of the contact – address the hindquarters at ALL times! Its never about the front, its about the REAR!
Play it between GO and WOAH without doing either completely – this way the horse will be in balance and ‘on’ th eaids.
Use the corber as a receiver as well as the aids to ‘re-collect’ the horse.
ENERGY and LIGHT is the key – balance your horse on the aids.

Some lovely work again. I have to say Susie (arrow Instructor) is a beautiful rider, she has LOVELY hands.

Lesson 10

Susie and Grey Spanish horse
Just a short lesson as horse is being brought back into work.

Warm up – can be more definite from the start. Always start 5 mins on the buckle, then START WORK!! On the aids from the start – Balance the horse and GO!!

Flying changes ‘just tricks’ it’s the Quality of the Canter that is the KEY!

RIDER – Correctness is NOT stiffness, it is restful – relaxed hips, knees and ankles. Rib Cage elevated, nape of neck into collar. Think “ELEGANCE”
‘REST’ in the deepest part of the saddle – When we tense it causes ‘pinching up’ and we loose the connection with the horse. Riding is 50% legs and seat and 50% legs and seat LOL!!

Use animating aids ‘honestly’ – ie use leg first before stick.

Rushing is easily remedied – you can just rebalance as the horse is ‘calm’
Rattled or worried, is harder as the horse is not open to the rider’s aids. Therefore keep tension out of riding.

For a soft halt – don’t DRIVE into the halt continually – Halt / drive / halt / drive / HALT!! No contradictions, you cant push and stop at the same time!

Feel the rein in your lower back for an effective halt, then NEUTRALISE, not release! Don’t just throw it away!

The halt work was really interesting, something Im going to try myself!

I cannot tell you how FANTASTIC the clinic was – I only wished I could have observed for more days! I really ‘clicked’ with Erik, and although eccentric at times, I didn’t find him eccentric for eccentric’s sake, meaning he was genuine. His passion and enthusiasm is extraordinary! He really does want to see people ‘get it’. He is very observant and he can ‘see’ so much! He doesn’t ‘sugar coat’ his observations! If you did well he says it – without reservation! If you need to make a correction – he tells you – without reservation!! Some of his comments I feel are to genuinely ‘lighten up the atmosphere’ some are said to JOLT you into reality. For example ‘you have to think ‘ELEGANT’ you are many things right now but that aint one of them!!!’ But I have to say that phrases such as ‘ Good Job’ ‘Good for you’ ‘I agree with that decision’ are far more common place.
There was no evidence of BTV yesterday – we may have had a fraction of a second of a ‘curl’ with an immediate ‘FORWARD AND LIGHT’ instruction form EH!
EH encouraged ‘honest’ riding – don’t cover anything up, prevent nothing, allow the mistake to happen and then correct it. Very liberating but quite challenging I should think! He encouraged the rider to ‘Trust the horse’ at every opportunity. Don’t HOLD was the order of the day – that and the rebalancing.

Thoroughly enjoyed the day – worth every penny!!!

What I also like is that Erik records the lessons for everyone – how good is that!!! What an invaluable resource as literally every word out of his mouth is solid gold! Honestly, I was just :-0 as I listened to him spouting out one brilliant adage after another!


Anonymous said...

It just seems wonderful, I really admirer his way of writing, and his profound knowledge of classical dressage. Would love to go to a clinic with him, and wondered if anybody knows if he has a webpage or contact email to know when he will be doing clinics in Europe.

epona said...

It was a fantastic day - and I still read through the notes and learn something! Everything that comes out of that mans mouth is quotable lol! Ic ouldnt write quick enough!!
I cant seem to find a website for him - Arrow Equestrian would be a good place to contact about how to find clinics in your area.

Becky said...

I oberved my first Erik clinic yesterday. The man is a fantastic teacher and such a character. Can't wait until he is back at Arrow!

Anonymous said...

That was a fantastic blog post! Thank you so much for putting it down "on paper" for us to read much later. Lots of hints in there for so many little nuances.

Anonymous said...

I liked this post so much that I've linked it to my blog post, just fyi! Thanks.