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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reinsmanship In Photos: Cadence and Extension

I've been spending a lot of time recently focused on cadence and reinsmanship.  Never did I expect it would be so hard to find a horse with superlative cadence.  This led me to many, many pictures of false extension as well.  I get really quite upset by these photos of top trainers in international competitions with world class horses exhibiting incorrect cadence and extension in the horses and poor posture and support in the whip.

"Isn't anyone else concerned with this?!?" I plead.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Or just nit picking.  Then along comes a barely 21 year old girl driving her lovely pony in the Welsh countryside.  And my hope is restored.

Meet Emily Ham and Jack [Crossfield Glory], a Section C Welsh stud. I know Ms. Ham and Jack only through the wonders of the internet, so it seems fair that I make full disclosure that I am operating on two possible theories of truth.  The first being that Ms. Ham has studied very astutely in her brief career on the box seat to be the best whip she can possibly be and that the Crossfield Stud has spent years developing a breeding program that has produced more than one superfly pony.  The other theory is that both Ms. Ham and Jack are freaks of nature, bestowed, by the Gods, with talent and ability found in less than 3% of the population, to thwart the rest of us.  Make your own assumptions...

Reinsmanship: Cadence And Extension by Emily Ham and Crossfield Glory
The only thing wrong with this photo is the lack of sunshine. [ Unless you live or have lived on the British Isles, and if so, you find nothing wrong because the more desirable 'not raining' is in effect.]  Pony: superlative frame, round, soft, cadence near enough perfect, hind end engagement beautiful.  Whip: posture impeccable, contact as soft as a breeze from heaven.  Ms. Ham is employing the altogether more effective style of one handed driving.  I'm old school and am glad this young woman is, too. One handed driving means more consistent contact for the horse, less over-steer and interference from the whip.
Ah...the sun!  Here Jack displays wonderful cadence in rhythm and length of stride, despite being a tad short of working trot.  I am going to guess that Ms. Ham is asking for a little less forward and a little more engagement.  But what is important to note is how she is doing that.  Her hands are not buried in her lap, her elbows aren't behind her tipped forward shoulder blades.  She is rocking back on her seat bones and lifting her hands.  The effect of this is to check the speed, lift the pony off the forehand and engage the hind quarters for more impulsion.  This is what I mean when I say the transition must be made from back to front.  If Ms. Ham lengthened the reins, Jack's forehand would extend and not his hind quarters.
Here is another remarkable example of back to front driving: Bend To The Left.  Jack is stepping into the bend with his near hind leg.  You can see his bend as his near hip has come closer to his near shoulder [also reflected in the wheels of the carriage: near wheels closer, off wheels farther apart.  Even the carriage is bending. So. Exciting.]  Wait, there's more!  He also has perfect support from his whip.  Ms. Ham's shoulders indicate the path of the bend: her left shoulder points to the center of the circle, her outside shoulder follows the circumference of the arc.  Sublime.  If I have ever told you to "use your shoulders", "bend the horse by turning the corner with him" This. Is. What. I. Mean.  Thank you, Ms. Ham.
This is extension.  Notice the symmetry of hind quarters: Jack's and Ms. Ham's- they are both rocked back on their bums.  This is a perfect photo to show how the horse's movement is mirrored in the whip. If Ms. Ham was tipped forward, off her seat bones, Jack's movement would be all front end and he would loose hind end engagement. [I know, I do it all the time with my horses, it is a battle I must fight to correct.]   Luckily for Jack, he has Ms. Ham and we have a standard of perfection: correct movement from behind creating breath taking movement on the front.  Balanced extension. [The red ribbons are first place in the UK.]

When I complimented Ms. Ham on her driving, she answered by saying she was lucky to have such an amazing pony.  Grace and humility.  Freak of Nature?  I think: Not. There is nothing not to love about this gifted young woman and her pony.  This is the standard we should all endeavor to achieve.

Lastly, thank you to Ann Ham for the photos, and for her continued belief and support of her daughter and Jack's career as an example to us all.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

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