I found an ad for lessons on a local classified site a few months ago. The instructor had recently been accepted into Philippe Karl’s Ecole de Légèreté (School of Lightness). My mentor when I was a teenager always spoke highly of Phillipe Karl and encouraged me to follow his training system. He rode Apollo once and it was nothing short of amazing. I wish cellphone cameras were a thing back then!
I am wearing a shirt here...
I was hoping to watch this instructor, SD, give a lesson but we never seemed to find a time that worked. So bright and early last Friday morning I decided to go for it and took a lesson.
I can’t remember the last time I was so nervous about something. I was more relaxed at my wedding (although I’d had a few mimosas before my walk down the aisle). I’ve had some really negative/crazy experiences with instructors in the past. I’m not usually willing to take a lesson from someone I’ve never seen teach before. So.... I was borderline hyperventilating as I walked Apollo in from the field.
She arrived as I was lunging Apollo (just in a halter). I don’t love lunging but it’s become my 3 minute pre-flight check for lameness/cheekyness. We introduced ourselves and I tried to briefly tell her our story (but I totally rambled on out of nervousness). Then she asked me to ride around at the walk and trot and do some circles. Off we went. His walk was lovely and he didn’t seem to be feeding off my nerves. His trot was so-so. I was super tense and he started doing his bouncy horse thing that is a pre-crowhop warning. I tried to relax and breathe. He was still bouncing so I pony club kicked him (not very ecole de legerete of me) and then his brain returned.
She walked us through a few exercises and gave me some tips. Her methods are quite different from any other instructor I’ve ridden with. Apollo seemed to respond well. My brain had a hard time. She recommended I cue for halt by first asking with my seat and then if he didn’t stop to slowly raise my hands up. She also wanted me to open up my inside rein way more than I’m used to.
These were a few more of her thoughts/tips:
2) She recommended I circle him when he crowhops rather than getting into a fight with him
3) She thinks he is too fat (true)
4) She wants him to wear shoes as she thinks it will help his movement at the trot (his mom is too poor, sorry…and this was the only thing I thought was really strange)
5) She recommended that when I first hop on I walk him for 5 minutes on a long rein
6) She gave me some in-hand exercises to work on for his flexibility (they are mostly neck flexions)
Overall it was a positive experience. I liked her and I would definitely take a lesson again. She offered to help me work with my young horses too.
I do have some reservations. I want to do some showing in the future. I worry that more non-traditional methods will make that more challenging. Satin isn’t everything but I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. I also have to think about re-sale with my young horses. If they are trained with these more “classical” methods I worry that it could make them less appealing. I feel a bit guilty asking Apollo to learn things that are somewhat contradictive to his previously training. None of these things are major concerns but they are at the back of my mind.
I’m open to opinions if anyone would like to share their thoughts!