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The Pessoa Clinic: 'D' for suppling and flatwork, and an 'A+' for jumping.

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Rodrigo Pessoa clinic at Sonoma Horse Park


The Rodrigo Pessoa clinic held at the beautiful Sonoma Horse Park in Petaluma, Ca. was, in a sense, predictable.

Mr. Pessoa was great. His main idea with the most advanced group of horses and riders on Monday, August 1st was...predictably for American riders, 'Back to Basics' (at least, with the groundwork).

Back to basics, back to basics, back to basics. Till you are 'blue in the face'. Always back to basics.

Back to basics is the common, constant and consistent thread in most of all the American performance horse discipline clinics that are taught by the best riders and instructors in the world.

The idea is this: if the flat work is not there, don't go on to the jumping. Or in dressage, don't go on to the more difficult movements until you have mastered the basic ones.

Focus on your foundation. If the foundation is strong and sound, the rest will follow in a correct and predictable way.

In particular for Rodrigo, shoulder-in and lengthening of the stride. These are not difficult, upper level movements or concepts, as he repeatedly pointed out with emphasis. These are the most basic concepts, movements, for any riding horse to have. And, shoulder-in, is the foundation for dressage, and the most important suppling movement. Anyone who considers themselves a rider, of any discipline, should not only have a strong understanding of this movement, but also school it regularly, for suppling and strengthening.

The other common, constant and consistent idea is: be kind, compassionate and considerate to your equine partner.

The issues, mistakes and problems are not your horses, but yours. Own up to it, and make it your responsibility, as the rider, to fix it.

In contrast to the suppling work, the jumping displayed by this group was breathtaking!

Rodrigo had set up a combination of 7 fences. 4 trot poles up to 2 cross rails, then a bounce to three one stride verticals and oxers.

Magnificent control and technique displayed by all the horses and riders. Again, even Rodrigo himself was not only pleasantly surprised with the jumping skills and technique, but also quite impressed, especially after the shaky (very shaky) first hour of warmup and suppling work.

It was clear that these horses and riders had plenty of talent over fences. Spectacular, really. There was little for Mr. Pessoa to fix. A very small correction here and there, but, again, very impressive jumping skills and technique, by each and every horse and rider.

Overall, I think the riders for the advanced session on Monday received a 'D' for suppling and flatwork, and an 'A+' for jumping.