From 1 to 5 September 2017 fourteen ST Instructors from the Netherlands, UK, Germany, US, Brazil and South Africa came to the Netherlands for the second ST Instructor Clinic of this year.
This video gives you a short impression of the clinic and below the video you can read more extensive reports with valuable tips and insights, written by several ST Instructors.
Report Dora Hebrock (United States)
▶︎ "At day 1 of the ST Instructor Clinic, all 10 horse-rider combinations started at liberty. I had the great pleasure of being allowed to learn with Anouk Wienia's horse Casanova, who is a gentle soul, and very good teacher. Our session was about getting to know each other, "filling the bank account" by setting him up for success and rewarding that, and then asking him to step up a bit.
▶︎ In the morning of the second day, Marijke and Zaneta did a demo of Marijke's recent lab work (very cool stuff!), then some of the active participants had lessons with Marijke. In the afternoon they taught the other instructors and had their teaching evaluated by everybody else.
It was very inspiring to see that just like every person has their unique way of working with a horse, they also have their own style of teaching. Everybody went home with some good tips on how to improve their work and/or teaching.
▶︎ We started the third day with "free lab" sessions in the morning without Marijke's supervision, in order to build on yesterday's findings. Then we had lessons with Marijke or another instructor in the afternoon.
This day was a lot about only giving once the horse yields, not before, as yielding before the horse does, teaches the horse not to respond. Marijke also talked about yin and yang energy, and the appropriate use and importance of each, because only both bring balance.
The highlights of the day were Christy Morley working a dual liberty with El Blanco and Toronto, Marianne Lee and Juliana Dorneles having a liberty session with Maestro, and Kim Steutel and myself having a groundwork session with Romanesque.
▶︎ At day 4, almost all lessons were done in the riding pillar. Carolin Moldenhauer and her mare Floh had a very powerful liberty session, where Marijke talked about having a 51 to 49% relationship with the horse, meaning we should only use 2% of telling style and 98% of partnership in order to have an open minded, self-thinking, responsible partner.
The riding lessons were all quite different, ranging from improving canter transitions to suppling up the horse to keeping one's hands alive and active at all times, neither too giving nor too rigid, always feeling what the horse needs at any given time, also getting the bend from activating the hind legs rather than producing it with the reins. It was a very insightful and productive day.
▶︎ The last clinic day was a step up from day 4, more multiple liberty with Christy Morley, Prince Elmelund and Romanesque, and lots of canter under saddle all round. It was about being an active rider rather than being a passenger, and to get the horse into LFS, connection and collection by being proactive rather than waiting for it to happen.
It was sad to have to part with everyone at the end of the day, it's been a fabulous experience I hope to repeat many more times. Thank you to all the instructors for being the amazing people you are - it is wonderful to watch so many skilled horsewomen and -men, as everyone brings their own unique style with them!
Thank you Anouk Wienia ST Instructor for your trust and generosity in allowing me to learn from and with your wise schoolmaster Casanova, and thank you Marijke de Jong for your dedication and enthusiasm!"
Report Zaneta Georgiades (South Africa)
"Home sweet home ❤️❤️❤️after an amazing trip with my love to attend a Straightness Training Instructor clinic in the Netherlands!
As usual, I've come back with boat loads of learning, insights and new 'feels' to give to my horses as well as great memories of spending time with the group of people that met up there!
I can't wait to bring the concepts of multiple liberty and riding with two sticks to my horses as well as the hundreds of other tips and 2mm details that Marijke gave us to deepen, widen and broaden our Liberty and Riding pillars!
Thank you to everyone for being so supportive when I was ill, all the friendly messages and smiling faces really gave me a BIG 'warm bath of energy' hehehe! 😉 I'm sorry I didn't get to see you all throughout the 5 days but I really enjoyed the time we did get to spend together!
And of course a HUGE thank you to the ST team of Marijke, Marc, Hugo and Rosan for coordinating this clinic! Marijke, the lessons were epic - somehow always presenting what I needed to learn at exactly the right time, THANK YOU!!!!! 💛💛💛
In terms of tips... dive into your Liberty laboratory, it really brings out the magic in the rest of the pillars. You and your horse develop a 'feel' for each other, a dialogue, and higher mental states. I really experienced this on a whole new level in the multiple liberty, especially with Marijke's team of horses who are by NO means 'push button' or 'trick' ponies! They know inner picture and inner feeling of the most refined and clear kind, so they expect you to bring your A game into the arena! It's not a fluffy, vague, pleading or patronising kind of conversation. Nor is it a bossy, telling, forcing kind of conversation. It is crystal clear, no-nonsense, 'best Aikido' stuff and at its core, it values the spirit and expression of the horse completely. The same idea carries over into the two stick riding, where the focus is really on connecting with the horse through your inner picture, inner feeling and seat - building towards the 'centaur' feeling. Then when the reins are held, it is with much more awareness and used with a better understanding of the essence.
On top of this, I had even more light bulb moments concerning true throughness, exploring the full range of the horse's movement, the various half halts (and using them in an artful way to get the 'arrow in the bow' feeling), 'wind in the sails', etc, etc, etc (pages and pages of notes ).
Like I said, I can't wait to go play with my horses with these concepts and judging by the looks on their faces, they are pretty eager to play to! "
Report Miriam Sherman (Germany)
"Back from our wonderful Instructor clinic in Holland
There was a lot of learning and growing going on in every aspect and it was great to spend time again with Marijke de Jong and my fellow colleagues to chat about horses and having a good time over a glass of wine at dinner. Super cool to have met Marianne Lee and Juliana Dorneles from Brasil finally
The main focus in this clinic was Liberty and Riding. Some riders polished their skills in riding to find the true yielding in front, which comes from behind. Others practiced transitions as walk-canter-walk and we even had some flying changes and canter pirouettes.
I teamed up with Carolin Moldenhauer and her lovely mare Floh over the 5 days and I explored for the very first time stick riding. This concept is meant to bring the horse into a higher mental state, where it starts to think about the actual behavior like 'how fast, how many steps, which direction', which also goes hand in hand with Liberty on the ground.
Working at Liberty brought again clearness of how important it is to reward the slightest try to keep the horse motivated, gain trust and to bring it into searching or best into a figuring out state. Interesting to see the different horse characters and the different approaches, because every horse is unique and there is never a 'one fits all approach'.
Stick riding was very interesting for me because it will bring not just the rider, but also the horse into another level of communication, feeling and being aware of each other, where riding without visible aids and melting into a centaur will be possible.
After the five days, I was able to integrate the first taught isolated exercises. I could set the direction, to stop where ever, back-up, go on a circle and even addressed a tiny bit the feel of haunches-in on the circle. It was an amazing feeling to be able to ride without the use of reins and how Floh started to resonate on my inner picture and feeling.
It just opened another window to a whole new world for me and I look very much forward to exploring it. Floh did a great job and a big thank you to Carolin Moldenhauer for letting me work with your lovely Floh "
Report Anouk Wienia (Netherlands)
After attending already quite a few clinics with Marijke de Jong, I know very well how the learning process works for me as a person. Preparing myself and two horses to be away from home for five days is influencing my inner calmness and already a week before we actually leave, my head is filled with numerous thoughts and things to do.
So when we finally arrive at the clinic location, no matter how hard I try to be my calm and centred self, both myself and my horses are less relaxed and at ease as we are at home.
Meeting the whole group of lovely fellow instructors is sooo extremely wonderful but…..having all these very skilled eyes following our work in the lessons closely also makes me feel a bit insecure.
But I am aware and have experienced that although I can feel a bit overwhelmed during the lessons and maybe not find the exact feeling or result I am searching for, I do trust the process. I know that in the weeks after the lessons the ‘coins will drop’ and while reflecting, re-reading notes, re-watching the recordings of the lessons and working my horses at home I will find it.The 2 mm details that bring our work to the next level.
It’s been two weeks now since the ST Instructor’s clinic in the Netherlands. The main focus was on the Liberty pillar. Developing the very refined way of communicating with our horses through the use of our inner picture and inner feeling leads our horses to a whole new dimension of interacting with their human. It encourages a horse to develop a so-called ‘figuring out’ state of mind where a pure dialogue between horse and human reveals.
Although I developed the Liberty work with my horses, Casanova and Berber, already well, I dived into the Liberty ‘lab' at the clinic with my new horse Ulifia (Jet). She’s with me for ten months now but we had only recently added some ‘preparing-Liberty’ exercises to her training. Jet is a former competition horse in dressage and jumping and she had no experience with Liberty work. For me as well as for Jet, we had to get out of our comfort zone. Some really important learning points for me where:
* We need to have a clear plan and know exactly what we want from our horse to be effective and to make sure the horse is also putting an effort in figuring out what you want.
* ‘Capture’ every slightest better effort to keep the motivation high. It was amazing to see the improvement in Jet in the second lesson compared to the first one. She was so much more connected and ‘on the spot’ giving answers to my questions.
* The backup can help to develop a better ‘magnetic draw’ between me and the horse. I noticed a tendency in all my horses to drift slightly away from me through the turns and knew it was me, not being consistent and precise in teaching them how close I’d like them to stay with me. Some important work to do in my ‘lab’ at home.
* Don’t fill your horse's gap (probably it will get bigger). An example; It’s so easy for us to move our own body closer to the horse when he or she steps aside when you ask for a halt. But that’s ‘filling the gap’. Better choose to ask the horse to take the right position and use the three R’s (Release-Reward-Relax) to reinforce this behaviour. Soon it will be a useful habit as the horse starts to think about it.
*If the basics are not well established, multiple liberty will become chaos and show you the holes in the foundation. This is an insight I experienced in a ‘trial and error’ session in my lab at home which brought me back to the basics with all my four-legged friends.
So you see, an awesome amount of homework to work out and that’s without all the input I got in the next lessons focusing on the riding. And so much more to discover about riding with two sticks. More analysing and studying to do and probably more pictures and insights will follow from that!"
Report Rosan Veer (Netherlands)
"I’m so thrilled about the lessons I received from Marijke de Jong during the 5-day ST Instructor clinic!!
With Ciaran, we started in the first lesson on refining our liberty work – oh wow what a fantastic best-aikido state he gave me there!
All other lessons, we focused on riding.
We did some work in walk and trot, but we gave special attention to the canter work.
The canter is really, really difficult for Ciaran, and although it’s far from perfect, we are improving and I very much enjoy this process. We worked specifically on the canter departures, and I was blown away feeling his enormous strength and potential to really take the weight with his hind legs right before take-off – so much power in there!
It will still take lots of time before we can canter beautiful, balanced circles, but it’s the journey that’s the best part anyway
This time, also Midas came with us to the clinic and with him, I received some lovely guidance from my fellow instructors. Wendy showed me how to improve his longeing work and gave me some great help to improve the half-pass. Elaine gave me super tips and advice for the liberty work. Thank you so much Wendy and Elaine, your help is very much appreciated!
Here are some of my highlights:
Don’t fill the gaps for the horse – so he has the opportunity to fill these gaps himself and grow to a higher level.
Reward not the exercise, but the effort.
There is a small but important difference between responding to pressure and answering to pressure. Responding to pressure is just doing what is asked, answering to pressure is more in a dialogue, like ‘yes, I know what you mean’.
Believe for 100% that it will happen! "
Kim Steutel (Netherlands)
Report Carolin Moldenhauer (Germany)
Main focus of this clinic was on ST at liberty and riding with sticks for the simple reason to get our horses in the highest mental state possible, where they are not only willing to meet our requests, but also taking responsibility for the actual behavior, so they put even more effort in it than requested.
Everyone started with Liberty on the first day and then developed further towards the other pillars and especially the Riding pillar, but in all lessons, the mental connection and thinking of the actual behavior of the horse was one of the biggest topics. In Riding, we also were able to see all powerful ST concepts coming together with beautiful results.
I stuck to Liberty for the whole 5 days with my lovely Floh to figure out this mental connection thing and energetic dancing of our soap bubbles. ❤️
For me it was really a mental, emotional and physical challenge to figure everything out from the inside out:
Mentally - to be a less 'pushy' student myself for Marijke, absorb everything and start feeling and understanding it from the inside out to really get this puzzle together in my head, when, why and how to use what approach to keep and intensify our mental connection
Emotionally - Trust the process that we can do it and find our missing pieces knowing that confusion comes before the breakthrough (hopefully)
Physically - to feel and keep the energetic connection from center to center without luring my horse to filling her gaps
Here are some of my main insights:
Give your horses small tasks and reassure that they are on the right track with a lot of RRR
Take care not to compensate the holes
Have a scientific plan and artful flexibility
Feel your horse and trigger the draw and mental connection by asking energetic questions
Use telling style more as a guiding style (asking questions)
Change your approach when the horse steps up
Unity in the body > feel and work the whole body
In Riding, shape your horse from behind into your hand
A higher mental connection gives beauty, lightness and softness to the physical connection
And a plenty more ... Still digesting and figuring things out in my own lab at home! ❤️"
Report Ju Dorneles (Brazil)
"On the first day at the instructor clinic in the Netherlands, we all started with liberty lab, to get our horses to a higher mental state, to check the connection and to get them really interested in giving their best aikido.
We were 10 combos being squeezed by Marijke de Jong, learning all day long, practicing and watching all the classes.
I was so lucky to have this big black beauty as my partner: Ciaran ❤️ (my new horse love). He is Rosan Veer's horse. He is very well trained, we had lots of fun together!
It has been so fantastic to be among the other instructors, each one with her experience, adding things to the others, sharing and creating awareness.
On the third day, each combo had a session with multiple eyes of the other instructors and one session in the afternoon with the guidance of Marijke. It has been a lot to watch, comment, adjust and to get 2mm improvement. Actually, each session has so many lessons in and that I am trying to open as much as I can.
My horse partner (Ciaran) and my instructor partner (Rosan Veer) are giving me their best to let me reach the feeling of the seat, legs, reins, inner picture inner feeling in groundwork and riding.
All Ciarans good vibes were given to me to feel half pass in trot in groundwork; and he also gave me the feel of the curb reins to help the collection in HI on the circle. That's a challenge, my tendency was to try to hold the horse in the position, but doing that all we can have is a horse that leans on the reins; not the self-carriage... so lots of patterns in myself to change. It's been a great learning experience.
Also, as some participants had never worked with Marijke's horses before, she invited us to do something with her professor horses. Me and Marianne Lee got some liberty fun with Maestro."
Thanks for taking the time to read these reports and please let us know if the tips and insights are helpful to you!