BY JAMA LEIGH RIZZI
It’s no secret that Anne Kursinski is a legend in the equestrian world, so I was tickled pink to audit her December 16th clinic at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.
I learned so much as the four groups of eight riders focused on effective communication with their horses under the watchful eye of Anne. “Your aids should be invisible,” Anne said as the first group of riders began posting the trot without their stirrups. Flat work consisted of a variety of circles, then lengthening and shortening the canter. “The first thing I do when I get on a horse is get them off my leg,” Anne said. She continued by asking the students, “is your horse listening to you?”
Students had to be very aware of spacing in the dome during the flat warm-up, being careful to stay on pace using their eyes to guide them. “The point of the flatwork is connection,” Anne said as she called out to students who all had name tags pinned to their saddle pads. “Straight into the bit,” she would remind them, “Keep the connection.”
Next up, a single jump was set off the diagonal where students were asked to count at least eight strides out starting with 1,2,3 and so on with a halt in a straight line after jump. Anne required many students to tie their reins in a short knot and hold the reins like a driving rein. “Get out of the saddle, ride with a soft seat,” Anne directed. “A horse has to be in front of your leg,” Anne reminded the riders. She continued on by saying, “A knot in your reins and dropping your stirrups is an indication of where you should be; maintain that position!”
A 10-jump course was set up with steady lines, bending lines, rollbacks and turns. The riders continued to count out loud to work on their pace and smoothness. Anne wanted to see automatic releases while riders maintained a driving rein and soft seat. “You are an athlete,” she said, “can you get out of the saddle?’ When riders weren’t hitting the marks Anne stopped them and had them start from the beginning. “Through consistent riding the horse will get better,” Anne noted. “You must have a plan with any horse and execute it.”
“There’s always a challenge with riding, can I be better? Can I get the horses more obedient to the aids?’ Coursework continued with Anne reminding the riders, “You’ve got to have a speedometer in your mind.”
At the end of the clinic, Anne asked riders what they felt they learned over the two days. Anne felt she had only scratched the surface with them, but every group experienced significant breakthroughs with their horses. She was encouraging yet direct in her instructions, and the auditors and I learned just from listening and watching. “Horses are simple.” Anne reminded her students as she graciously thanked them for coming to her clinic. As an amateur rider, I understand riding takes a lot of hard work, grit and tenacity to keep growing. Everyone who was lucky to participate in Anne’s clinic came away with a better understanding of the sport.
Jama Leigh Rizzi resides in Los Angeles. She rides at Cellar Door Farm at Bell Canyon.