Thursday, October 11, 2018

Rolf-Göran Bengtsson goes back to the basics

I had the pleasure to watch Rolf-Göran Bengtssons clinic at Ratsastuskeskus Aino in September. I have not had the time to see any clinics for a while so I was really excited when we hit the road together with my friend Hanna Nyholm.

Anyone who follows showjumping knows that "Roffe" is already a legend and his merits are wide. Even if he is such a wellknown horseman it was nice to see that he still paid a lot of attention to the basic things in riding and also reminding how important it is with good horse management, routines, structure and planning. He was also talking about the importance of the riders both physical and mental training and how important it is to have a good trainer or coach to work with. 

"We do simple boring things but we need them in order to jump bigger."

When riding himself or teaching the other riders he was doing a lot of basic warm-up. He did a lot of transitions in walk, trot and canter and asked the horse to both shorten and extend in all gaits. "This is rideability."

"I ask easy questions to the horse. When I use my leg I want the horse to move forward. I need that when going towards a jump. When we shorten the trot we create a little more energy with the leg and get the horse to carry itself. When the horse has self-carriage it becomes lighter in the front and better balanced. It is important that we can ride the horse faster, slow it down and have control over the horse." 

"The horse needs to be adjustable to the fence since the course designers make such funny ways."


When Roffe asked the riders to ride on a circle he pointed out the importance of the outside aids many times. "The outside rain is very important. It creates the stability needed on the circle."  On the circle he asked the riders to move the horse away from the inside leg. "When we move the horse away from the inside leg, we get a horse that is more supple in its body. Remembering however that when we go to the side we should not loose the movement forward." I also liked how he talked about taking the outside shoulder away from the wall when turning the horse from the fence close to the wall.


When Bengtsson was riding a fantastic stallion the horse was a bit spooky in the beginning. It was so interesting to follow how calm Roffe remained and how confidently he just sat in the saddle. Then he said what I have always believed is true. "Don't push the horse toward what it is afraid of. Slowly walk around it and get the horse used to the scary thing (in this case the dogs that were sitting around that one fence)." A lot of the times we see riders 'making' the horse go toward the scary thing rather than slowly getting the horse acquainted to it. That same week there was a real storm when I had my riding lesson with Thor. We went down to the indoor arena and the doors were flying open, the trees were whooshing outside and the horses were running around next to the arena outside in the field. I felt a bit insecure and stiffened up a bit. Luckily our trainer Tiina Rikkonen was there to support us and I had the image of Bengtsson riding the stallion in my mind. It really helped and not only did I have an alert horse but a very fantastic ride despite the storm. 


During the clinic Bengtsson also checked if the horse was able to lengthen and shorten the neck. Having a supple horse is something that I have always considered important, but Roffe explained why it is also so important when jumping the horse. 

"Lengthening and shortening a horses neck also helps in the jump. When the horse jumps over the fence and is unstable in the mouth, the horse might shorten and lift up the head rather than lengthen the neck which helps in the jumping face. You want to have a connection to the mouth but not the horse leaning on the hand."

Bengtsson also talked about how important is to have a relaxed horse when riding. "Remember to let the horse have a little bit of freedom also and to be able to relax." He then asked us to listen to the stallion he was riding breathing in rhythm to the canter compared to when the horse entered the arena and was very stiff and had a hard time breathing.  

At one point in the clinic Bengtsson let the horse lengthen the stride between the fences. He thought that the horse would make the decisions himself, but the horse was a bit lost for words and almost tripped on its own legs. Bengtsson rode the horse to the line again and the horse was still not totally at ease with the distance. Roffe was later joking that it could have been very dangerous and how much it hurts when you fall off nowadays at a bit older age. It did however create a very dangerous situation and one thing that Bengtsson also pointed at the clinic was how important it is to let the horse think for himself and let them learn to make important decisions. 

During the clinic we also heard that the rider should not look down because you loose your balance. He also said that he usually puts soft poles behind the fence in case that the horse would jump too far off and land on the pole. He also told the riders to walk over the soft pole before jumping the fence so that the horse knows that the pole is there. 

All in all it was a fun evening. I got to see some great riding and spend time with my friends Hanna  Nyholm (a fantastic Equiopath) and Equinurtures Elisabeth Nysten. Thank you Ratsastuskeskus Aino for organizing such a great event. 

Elisabeth also told me about this interesting group on Facebook. It is called Vertikal Balanserad Ridning (VBR), and anyone even remotely interested in the horse and human cooperation and in the riders seat I warmly reommend joining (the site is in Swedish). 

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