Michael Barisone has been a part of the American Dressage scene from the USDF Junior/Young Rider ranks winning his USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals. But it was with Comanche the white faced KWPN Dutch Warmblood gelding by Naturel, that he rose to true prominence and became international team material. Since 1991 when they finished six overall and qualified as second alternate for the Pan American Games, Barisone and "Chuck" never missed the USET top 12. As a member of the 1998 USET Developing Rider Tour, they were the "clinch" ride that won the Team Gold Medal at the Nations Cup in Hickstead, England. Sadly "Chuck", who had developed serious health problems shortly after he returned to America, did not survive, despite a valiant effort to save him.
Michael and Comanche
Watching Michael and Comanche go through their paces was an eye-opener. The horse was magnificent and performed beautifully, listening to aids that were mostly invisible. The key point I came away with was that, through consistent aids, repetition, and skilled riding, you can teach the horse to respond to the lightest aid.
More Fine Points from the clinic:
When the horse acts up or backs off, stretch up and put the leg on more. When in trouble always use the leg. When the horse lifts his head up and hits the bit, slide the bit left, right, left, right, but don’t move the horse’s head left, right, just the bit. When a horse won’t take the contact on one rein, take on both reins and go forward, then it should take care of itself. Take/give, always give. Do lots of transitions within the gait to get the horse’s attention and focus. Do a little shoulder-in and counter bending to get soft. An open hand is a hard hand. A closed hand is a soft hand. Leave your hands’ connection with the reins firm, but when you soften, you soften with the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Set up everything you do so that it will work. Ride the short side as a straight line. Take time to plot your path, and make the horse stick to it. This is good practice and training for the horse. Keep thumbs up, look up. Keep arms soft and elastic, with constant contact, like draw reins. In the trot, ride forward from the leg. In the canter, ride forward from the leg and seat.
Barisone & Neruda
Close the inside leg, sponge inside rein, sit down, stop with the outer rein. Feel when your seat goes down, down, down, in each canter stride; then when your seat goes down, that is the time to use the outer rein to ask for the transition to trot.
When leg yielding, the inside leg pushes the horse out to the rail, keep both hands to the inside to slow the forehand. The forehand usually speeds up and gets ahead of the haunches in the leg yield, which you don’t want. Sponge the inside rein to keep the horse soft.
In the ten-meter circle, or any circle, the hands move to the inside to guide the forehand around, while the inside leg is on. Sponge the inside rein.
Ride deep into the corner, then straight out of the corner, then ask for the shoulder-in. Inside leg on, move both reins to the inside to move shoulders to the inside. Sponge the inside rein, steady outside rein. Look up to the end of the ring. Keep the inside leg on. Straighten the horse before riding into the corner, keeping your inside leg on so he doesn’t swing haunches in instead of moving forehand back to the rail. Ride deep into the corner. The inside rein should be very soft during the shoulder in. Test him by giving the inside rein, if he falls out he’s not listening to the inside leg.
Half halts are a crock. You teach a green horse to go forward from the leg and to stop from the hand, then all of the sudden, in a half halt, you try to tell him to stop and go at the same time. What is that? When you use the leg, you must allow him to go somewhere.
The Double Bridle
The curb rein goes where snaffle rein usually goes, and snaffle rein goes between next fingers towards the thumb. When you want to flex longitudinally, use the leg first, then the curb (both reins always) by rotating the hands so that the curb comes into effect. Then give. Leg, curb, give, leg, curb, give, leg, curb, give. Eventually the horse will give in his jaw and pole when you apply the leg because he knows what’s coming next, so he “gives from the leg” and you don’t even need to touch the curb.
From the diagonal, aim for the corner, keep inner leg ahead (at girth), outer leg back, reins to inside. In the pirouette ride the neck down with a soft inner rein. Approach in shoulder fore so horse is already bent, outside leg touches with the spur on every stride in pirouette. Move outside rein out to slow pirouette, move outside rein against neck to speed up the pirouette.
If you’re doing four tempies, count 1,2,3,change, 1,2,3,change, 1,2,3,change. If doing three tempies, count 1,2,change, 1,2,change, 1,2,change. Be quick in using the leg.
High Tense Horse
If you’re riding a high horse who lacks focus, never stay in one thing too long. Always keep them guessing. Do lots of transitions within the gait. Don’t stretch too low with reins too long because you can’t trust the horse. If the neck comes up, use your inner leg, vibrate inner rein, flex rein, but always give. Don’t hold the horse’s mouth. Do lots of figures. When the horse is tense, do everything you can to loosen the back. Move the horse in and out like an accordion to loosen back.
Don’t do flying changes in the corner, because the horse will learn to do it on the balance change rather than listening to the aids. When introducing the flying change, ask for a change then don’t ask for a change. When they think you aren’t going to ask for a change, ask for a change. Ask for counter canter; then on the long side, ask for a change to true lead.
Sitting the Trot
Don’t worry about more trot when you’re trying to learn to sit the trot. Build the trot a little at a time as you become more comfortable.
Another video of Michael riding Neruda.
Visit Michael's website
One last note that is not horse-related, but if you like reading mysteries, Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention is coming to Indianapolis this October.
Happy reading and riding!