I had audited Natalieís clinics before and always left feeling inspired. Many of the riders had average horses, like me, and were riding beautiful half passes and flying lead changes. Some were even beginning to work on half steps. I couldnít wait to finally get a chance to ride under Natalieís instruction at a local clinic. To make things even better, there was one opening left so I could bring one of my own students to her first clinic.
Before my student and I were going to ride, a friend of mine rode her 5 year old Westphalian mare that had recently recovered from an injury. We had been working together with this mare for about a year with no progress, and we werenít sure what else to do. Within minutes, Natalie had this mare working over her back, off the forehand, and moving like the dressage horse she was bred to be. I couldnít stop smiling and neither could my friend who was riding her!
My student was next. Although her lesson was more basic, she learned enough to feel inspired as well. She had only been riding for about two years, and had her new horse for about a month. Again, within minutes, Natalie had them making perfect 20m circles and moving down and round. They also worked on sitting trot, stretchy circles, and cantering. Overall, my twelve year old student left her first clinic beaming at the success she had and the new things she learned. She later reflected loving how much Natalie challenged her without making her feel like she couldnít do it.
Then it was my turn to ride. The first day we worked on getting my horseís trot a little more forward. We did many lengthenings down the long side as well as across the diagonal. Once my horse was moving forward, we did a little canter work. We did shallow loops at the canter, which I had never tried. Then we worked on canter lengthenings down the long side – what a blast! I was amazed how much I could influence my horseís stride going from lengthenings all the way to collected canter. Next was leg yeilding. I had only ever leg yeilded from the quarter line to the rail. Natalie had us do it from the centerline to the rail. That was very fun, too! I didnít think my horse had it in her to move like that but she did it with ease. I was learning quickly what my student had told me – Natalie challenges us without making us feel like we canít do it. That rang true in my lessons. The second day was more challenging but just as rewarding. We worked on shoulder-in at the trot, with many 10m circles in between to soften and bend. This was tough as I had mainly only done shoulder-in at the walk, but we did it! Again, we worked on lengthenings and other transitions within the gaits. Then Natalie really, really challenged us – sitting trot lengthenings. What a workout! Just when I thought we were lengthened enough, Natalie asked for more and more. I didnít realize I could sit something like that but what a way to find out. We finished with some walk-to-canter and canter-to-walk transitions. I asked her if she thought we could handle a First Level test, the answer being definitely. I was very excited and inspired after that ride. It was a huge confidence booster for me as we were riding Second Level movements and my horse is only three years old. Natalie reassured we were on the right track and I had a great horse to ride. I canít wait to bring her to a show!
By Rachel Quale