Christina here, posting about our adventures auditing our first clinic! A few of us from the barn drove up to the beautiful countryside of Whitehall, MD this morning, the drive was beautiful and the weather couldn’t have been better.
Alexa Derr is a grand prix dressage rider and trainer from Pennsylvania. She’s also the owner of Vue de Lou Dressage . The clinic was based around the use of exercise bands to improve your position while riding.
There were a good number of riders who participated in the clinic, each rode for 30 minutes in a private lesson. The best part of the clinic was that there was such a broad range of riders. Most seemed to be students at the facility who participated along with their trainer Stephanie who organized the clinic. There were a few that trailered in as well. There was an obvious advanced eventing rider, we were in awe watching her ride. She seemed like she was one with the horse and made it looked effortless even though she insisted it was tough!
Other riders included a racehorse exerciser, a couple advanced riders who hadn’t been riding much lately, a beginner student or two, and a few advanced students. The tack ranged as well, some rode in dressage saddles, some in jump saddles and even western! The horses ranged from eventing Thoroughbreds and warmbloods to an adorable roan pony and a 4 year old Shire/Gypsy Vanner cross!
It was really cool to see how Alexa adapted her teaching to suit each rider and discipline. The bands helped everyone, no matter their experience level or their discipline. The bands crossed from your shoulder across your waist and hooked under your heel. The riders all said it was a struggle to keep weight in their heel because the bands were constantly pulling it up. Pushing that weight down into your heel redistributes how you’re using your body and with the adjustments recommended by Alexa, everyone saw a big difference in not only their position but the way the horse moved.
We heard some common tips that all the riders took away as homework. Just about all of the riders pointed their toes out and that was the first thing Alexa jumped on. Your toes should point forward but not just at the ankle, you need to rotate at the hip to point your toe forward. This changed the way that your leg lies against the horse and keeps your lower leg snug against them. This small change was enough to put some horses on the bit and help them move more forward.
Alexa had each rider work for 25 minutes with the bands then 5 minutes without them. She had the riders do a lot of change of direction, transitions, lateral work and focus on bending and working off the rail. The thirty minutes was intense and a lot was accomplished in such a short amount of time. Alexa had a fantastic teaching style, she used a lot of visualization in her explanations. So instead of “put your heels down” she’d say “imagine that you have a 5lb sandbag attached to each of your heels and allow it to stretch your leg down, sinking you deep into the saddle.”
We all learned a lot today and we’re grateful for the opportunity to audit such a unique clinic with a knowledgeable trainer at a beautiful location. We were talking about finding similar low key clinics to maybe participate in next time!