HC Equestrian student Michelle talks about her first lesson with Ellen…
As a horse-loving and horse-owning adult who is always trying to better her riding for the benefit of the challenge and the workout, I jumped at the chance to take a lesson with guest instructor, Ellen Eckstein. Everything I’d ever heard about Ellen encouraged me to take the chance if it ever came – “She will change your riding” was the sentiment I’d heard from all my fellow HC Equestrians who had ever trained with Ellen. I had initially signed up to take a lesson on another horse I’ve been riding in lessons for the last 6 months or so with HCE – a big moving, 7-year-old Hanoverian with fabulous training and beautiful gaits. When I found out that he may be unavailable during the week that Ellen would be doing her HCE lessons, I regretfully emailed Ali to cancel. Her reply was one that I had not expected … Do my lesson with Ellen on Firefly. “Firefly!?” I said to myself. “But he will only have about 30-45 days of under saddle work! How can I do that!?”
Firefly is my 4-year-old Anglo Arab that I purchased as a long 2-year-old during my search for a eventing prospect. I knew I wanted a horse I could bring along myself with the help of some fantastic trainers. Our training has been going well but I never thought I’d be taking a lesson on him after less than 60 days under saddle. Ali encouraged me to use my own horse for the lesson and I can’t thank her enough. He is not the first horse I’ve started under saddle but is the first I’ve started using dressage principles and the first I’ve personally brought along this far.
Ellen’s lesson expanded my toolbox in ways that I could not have expected. I honestly had no idea what to expect going in. She focused on teaching him what the bit truly means and refining my cues to get the response that I’m looking for. Ellen was in the arena with us during the lesson, helping from the ground – a strategy that I really value when starting a young horse. Coupling my rein aids with her encouragement from the ground to augment my aids, Firefly quickly picked up on what I was asking for. After just 15 minutes, he was traveling forward better even without doing a lot of work on the actual act of going forward.
Ellen’s philosophy, particularly with a young horse, is to teach more of a “come with me” approach, giving a young horse direction, instead of “we’re going forward now”, using body language and cues. I’ve had a few more rides on Firefly since our lesson and I really feel like our lesson with Ellen led us to a breakthrough. Firefly, being part Arab, loves a good puzzle and seems to be enjoying the challenges I’ve put before him. Every ride yields better balance and movement. Ellen is due back to HCE at the end of August and I can’t wait to ride with her again! I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to get some insight on my young horse from her. It’s a long road ahead for Firefly and I (we have big dreams!), but I know that Ellen has made it at least little bit easier.
HC Equestian hosts clinics with Ellen Eckstein in addition to the summer guest instructor sessons. Go here to learn more about Ellen.