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Another Accomplished International Teacher & Trainer Shares His Expertise With Us
In September Greater Atlanta had the opportunity to benefit from another committed trainer, teacher, and competitor. Cesar Parra shared freely with riders and horses of many levels his training philosophy and techniques. Although a native of Columbia, South America, and an adult immigrant to the US, he not only demonstrated a sincere desire to impart whatever he could to enrich the training, but also did so with true ability to communicate clearly.
His philosophy included recognition of the total horse and rider. Cesar emphasized the importance of noticing the body language of horse and rider while working on or around the horse. He stressed good manners, smiling (We’ve heard that before!), and even acknowledging the wisdom that some days it’s just best not to get on if you know things “aren’t right”. After getting after a horse for disobedience, he still recommends patting the horse – similar to concluding a disagreement with someone with a handshake. He mentioned that the end of the whip should never know anger. It’s not about arguing, but creating a leadership by a happy rider that develops a happy athletic horse. As other classical trainers, he believes in walking the horse about 15 minutes or so before the work begins, creating a horse that desires to move forward, and focusing on the quality of the gaits instead of movements. “Everything starts in the warm-up and your work at home. Expect your very best – not perfection. Ask, “How can I make it better?” That is the job of the trainer/teacher – not judging. His focus is on what is important – in life, as in training. His thoughts are to think of the journey, the process, and to stay in the correct direction. Other keys in his methodology are to stop when it’s good and to work on the challenging aspects first, so you can reward your horse by using his strengths as a sort of “play”. So you work on what needs improvement and reward with what is easy – thus saving your horse. Also, expose the horse to lots of different things – umbrellas, loud radios, balloons, chickens or whatever necessary to develop a SAFE horse that trusts you. If necessary, do so while the horse is on the lunge. In conclusion, it was evident that Cesar has been open to other forms of sports training methodology, personal improvement and even corporation teamwork philosophy.
The above generalities were simply interjected into the highly specific lessons. At all the levels the relaxation of the horse was maintained. One evidence of the relaxation is the flexibility and equal suppleness (while riding on both hands) of the nuki muscle which runs along the topline of the horse. The relaxation is encouraged by the consistant contact of the rider’s hands. Some common challenges for contact are the inconsistent, the “almost”, or the“pulled in” (which blocks the horse’s movement). It’s impossible for the horse to accept the contact if it is not consistant. – much less develop engagement. He used a longe and later a whip to show the effect of contact and the different levels of dressage (changed form). Other evidence of the relaxed horse is the back that is truly swinging and the rider should not sit the trot until it is clearly swinging. On the other hand, as the horse develops up the levels – especially to passage and piaffe – there is a level of positive “tension” or “collection”. As the rider gathers the horse’s energy to perform difficult movements, he suggested making the horse want to do them, by not permitting it until the rider allows the execution. This makes the horse want to do it, but it is only done when the rider feels it is for optimum quality (like those flying changes that need to be done and then you can quit!).
Different levels of training tips were given. For example, ride the volte on both hands to develop elasticity and balance much more – similar to other classical trainers. Use it between different movements (even flying changes) and in various locations. Practice the square halt at X before dismounting daily and if done well, finish the workout. Ride an intelligent horse with lots of variety – rein changes, ring figures, transitions, etc. to keep them interested. Make sure that the canter has the same speed with the front and back legs. Get the horse to listen to quiet legs – use the whip more if needed. Submission should be immediate – not negotiated. Improve the speed of the transitions within each gait. Find the right tempo for each horse, but keep the horse’s tempo the same. Prepare a flying change by having the horse look to the new inside with both reins several strides before the change- . Lower the horse’s neck a little at the beginning to help develop the mediums. And more were given….
Cesar mentioned that he was sharing what worked for him, not what was right or wrong. He emphasized, “You need to do what works for you. At his stable, anyone can help anyone else (including himself) with reminders while training. When riding Grand Prix, he rarely rides without someone on the ground. The description of the facility was of support, education, and teamwork.
A special thank you is in order for Shannondale Farm for all their many efforts to put on another clinic – not for profit, but for bringing continued international quality instruction to Georgia. They are providing “live” learning experiences (not books or videos) where amateurs and professionals alike can develop or keep their “eye” educated to current standards – without having to go to expensive shows.

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