In May, fourteen (of the eighteen) ST Instructors from six different countries and four continents came to the Straightness Training Instructor clinic in the UK for an amazing and intensive five days of training, learning and growing together.
From left to right: Christy Morley (UK), Roz Richmond (UK), Miriam Sherman (DE), Carolin Moldenhauer (DE), Dora Hebrock (US), Meg Brauch (US), Zaneta Georgiades (SA), Sandy Nye (AU), Wendy Poore (UK), Rebecca Gilbert (UK) and sitting in front: Rosan Veer (NL), Marijke de Jong (NL), Kim Steutel (NL), Anouk Wienia (NL) and Elaine Coxon (UK).
It was amazing to connect with everyone from all over the globe and together, as the ST Instructor Network, we are much more powerful than as individuals: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!
During the clinic, we worked with five horses belonging to our UK team of instructors: Christy, Roz, Wendy, Rebecca and Elaine brought their horses Safana, Bob, Marley, Milly and Mido to the clinic. All horses also gave their 'Best Aikido' to the ST Instructors from abroad: Dora was paired with Christy's horse Safana (picture), Miriam with Bob, Sandy with Marley, Meg with Milly and Zaneta with Mido.
On the first day, the UK Instructors showed the 'homework' they received at the former clinic and the ST Instructors from abroad could observe and bond with the horse they where paired with.
In the following days we could dip our toes into the Grade 4 and 5 waters, without forgetting the fundaments we built in the former grades:
- In Grade 1, the level of the novice horse and the teaching phase, we are looking for lateral bending in the body, the forward down tendency of head and neck and the stepping under the center of mass of the hind legs (LFS).
- In Grade 2, the elementary level of skill, we are looking to integrate balance, suppleness, shape, tempo, and rhythm in all exercises (BSSTR).
- In Grade 3, the competent level of skill, we strive for connection - bringing the hind legs toward the center of mass - and collection - bringing the center of mass toward the hind legs (CC), at this level we also strive for a higher mental connection between rider and horse.
- In Grade 4, the level of the advanced and athletic horse, we are looking for LFS, BSSTR, CC, and also the addition of 'schwung', which is the swinging of the spine, where the horse moves energetically, with impulsion, expression and in an athletic way, giving his 'Best Aikido' in the advanced movements.
- In Grade 5, the level of excellence and true art, horse and rider are working at the maximum of their potential, nevertheless everything looks effortless and is done with true synchronicity between horse and rider.
Now we all aim to optimize our skills and to maximize our horse's potential, but the key to real beauty, art and excellence lies in mastering the fundamentals.
Only when we have a solid foundation, then we will be able to build a artisitic 'cathedral' that can stand the test of times and doesn't fall as the tower of Babel.
In general, riders who start with ST love to go like a rocket in the beginning, having the rough contours of all exercises visible, but at that moment in time the bottom of the pyramid - the level of grade 1 - is not wide. Then, when something goes 'wrong' in the more advanced exercises, they often need to fully return to the base.
For example: If we can't reach the outside hind leg in walk, then the collection in the canter pirouette will haunt us. If we don't eliminate the vertical imbalance, the horse will never be able to relax in trot and canter. If we keep supporting too much with our legs and hands, our horse will never take responsiblity for the actual behavior.
So when something is missing, you have to go back to the base, because there is something down there that you are supposed to find and to add to your skills and experience, or you need to repair what broke down while on the way up. The base must first be made wider and then you can rebuild the exercises with more quality.
It's a constant and never ending process of widening, broadening and deepening the pyramid, so no worries, we all have to go back more than once:
Sometimes you have to go down to refine your pressure/release technique, the second time to change 2mm in your seat, the third time to restore the forward swinging of the hind legs, the fourth time to repair the relationship with your horse, because you were too ambitious. Another time you need to do nothing, to let the pyramid take root. And sometimes you have to go back twice for the same thing, because the first time you thought you understood, but you didn't really understood it on a deeper level, so you had to go back again. Or we fall down because we took a heavy Gremlin on board, so we have to divorce this Gremlin first, we have to get rid of our limiting beliefs and remove the labels we put on our horse and ourselves and start living in the now, we have to divorce the story about why we cannot have something.
And it's absolutely OK to go back to basics, to tear down a bit of the cathedral, to make a stronger foundation, by looking deeply inside, grinding things out until its really a good foundation - and then progress again. If you take the time it takes to grow this solid foundation, it will take less time and you'll get the best and quickest way to real artistry.
So during the STI clinic there were moments when we were ready for taking the next step, squeezing ourselves into grade 4, but there were also times when we decided to go back to basic, to add a missing link, since nothing is more important as a solid base. Because a wide, broad, rooted pyramid will always provide a solid foundation on which you can rely in case of troubles in the higher regions, it's a base on which you can safely fall back.
On day 2, the central theme was 'didactic' and it was great to see all ST Instructor in the teaching mode and to see everyone teaching with confidence and clarity about the essence of ST.
On day 3 & 4, all instructors worked together in the morning laboratory, to help each other and bring together their talent, knowledge, and experience. Two rider horse combinations - so a total of 10 combinations during the morning- where in the arena and the other instructors where there to give feedback and help out if needed. It was great to share insights with each other, coming to things from a different angle, filling in gaps, it's really supercool to have this powerful 'think tank'.
Besides the labs in the morning and lessons in the afternoon, ST Trainee Instructor Dora Hebrock gave an interesting presentation on day 4 as part of the ST Instructor Program 2017. Dora did a great job and passed for this assignment, well done Dora!
During the 5 day period of total immersion, all ST Instructors were together from the early morning at breakfast untill the late evenings after diner:
On the final day, we put on the -finishing touches so everyone knew how to dot their i's and cross their t's at home to get widen, broaden and deepen the base and to get ready for the next level!
This video gives you a short impression about the lessons, the lab, the presentation, the diners and about the amazing five days of training, learning and growing together:
Really looking forward to connecting with everyone in the Netherlands again in September!
Additional clinic reports
Check out these reports from ST Instructors sharing their insights from the 5-day ST Instructor clinic in the UK:
- Zaneta Georgiades (SA)► https://www.facebook.com/zaneta.georgiades/posts/10154401404531759
- Meg Brauch (US) ► https://www.facebook.com/meg.brauch/posts/10212438828026999
- Dora Hebrock (US) ► https://www.facebook.com/dora.libby/posts/10155331322724962
- Anouk Wienia (NL) ► https://www.facebook.com/anouk.wienia/posts/1894098530864478
- Wendy Poore (UK) ► https://www.facebook.com/WendyPooreUK/posts/529595600497990
- Rebecca Gilbert (UK) ► https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.gilbert.9/posts/10154857813843649
Wanna join an ST clinic too?
We had an amazing time together and the ST Instructors will pass all the new insights, extended knowledge and deepened experiences during their ST lessons, workshops and clinics that they organize around the globe. The team of ST Instructors will be fully focused on helping you to be the best trainer you can be for your horse!
Check out the ST Events Facebook Group for an overview of their ST clinics.