Thank you to Nancy Clarke for this wonderful piece that details the experience of riding with Dominique in a clinic!
A Clinic with Dominique Barbier, author of Dressage For The New Age
by Nancy Clarke
It is hard to miss the mustache and ponytail, but the most unusual thing about Dominique Barbier, and about his clinics, is the extraordinary rapport that he establishes with each horse within minutes of introduction. His philosophy is completely about the horse. About the horse as teacher, about the horse wanting to know his place, about the horse wanting to have a partner. This emphasis on the horse means that the emphasis is not on what we do to the horse, it is about what we do with the horse without pushing, pulling, or special gadgets. It is not a formulaic approach.
The three day format of the clinics has a particular progression: day one is to learn about the horse, day two is to learn how to be with the horse, day three is to dance with the horse. Each of the three days is divided into two sessions: in the morning Dominique works with each of the horses, up to eight of them, individually longing and working them in hand before riding them. In the afternoon, the student works with the horse, longing, work in hand and riding.
The longing and work in hand are the cornerstones of the program. The longing technique is different: the longe line is run through the bit ring and attached to the girth on the same side. Only one side rein is used, adjusted so that the horse is going on the bit and in balance. The horse discovers for himself the on the bit balance. Dominique sends the horse really forward at the click of the tongue, backed up with a crack of the longe whip is case the point was missed. From the very start the idea of the rider being #1 and the horse #2 is established. For horses that thought they could run the show, meeting Dominique comes as a surprise. When they realize they do not have to be in charge and can go back to being the horse, they relax.
Work in hand follows longing. It is done in four track shoulder-in position with angle and head height appropriate to the horse. Its goal is the suppling of the shoulders and hips. And also continues the #1 vs #2 positioning as the rider may walk into the horse’s space but not the reverse. Horses stiff under saddle are shown to be stiff in hand as well. The work in hand explains the shoulder- in concept to the horse, without the rider’s interference.
The Longing/Work in Hand is central to the training process as it allows the horse to learn about being on the bit without rider interference, and it begins each session’s work. Beyond the obvious training value, it changes the nature of the horse/rider relationship. It is more intimate and permits the rider to truly see the horse, how he moves, where he is stiff, how he is that day. Dominique rides every horse that comes to his clinics and with this basis he knows what he will find when he mounts. Watching horses and riders over the three days you can see them developing balance and confidence faster than one would think possible. From the 3 yr old Thoroughbred at his first clinic to the quarter horse switching from western pleasure to the combined training and dressage horses, the changes are real, and the technique is straightforward enough to be taken home without worry.
Watching Dominique ride is an education in lightness. He uses his own saddle when he rides, and it works with all the horses. He carries two whips. The horse is be on the bit from the first stride and walking forward from his loosened back, not legs.. The same click used in longing is used under saddle and means the same thing, forward now. A tap of the whip reminds if needed. Pushing legs are not allowed; it is the horse’s job to go forward, the rider to provide direction through visualization, knowing what he wants and staying focused. Shoulder-in and haunches-in are the key movements for all the horses. He asks the horse to stay light and in balance. And he works with the horse as he finds him that day, no matter what the level.
Dominique does not talk as he rides, he is busy listening to the horse. In between rides, anyone is free to ask any question. He does not lecture but rather conveys a desire to have the students listen to their horses and really feel the horse beneath them. His is not an easily defined formula of aids. It is rather a way of being with the horse that presupposes respect and communication, balance and trust. The Student will be told to put the little fingers on the saddle and keep them there to prevent floating hands that are unsteady, and to shorten the rein and keep the horse on the bit. As there is no pushing, so is there no pulling. The upper body should be back and the back loose. By the third day the flow is amazing as both horse and rider realize how little it takes to dance smoothly together.
On the middle day of the clinic, there is a lunch break followed by the afternoon session when the student receives a private lesson. Questions following each ride are encouraged. The clinic is friendly and informal, as is Dominique. He is remarkably accessible and wants to answer questions rather than give a lecture. His 25 year equine background is broad, encompassing jumpers and eventing as well as dressage. He studied in France, England, and with the great Nuno Oliveira in Portugal. His clinics are not limited to dressage riders. He sees his work as a foundation for all disciplines because it emphasizes balance and lightness in the horse.
If possible, it is useful to have read Dominique Barbier’s book Dressage for the New Age or seen his videos (available in the ESDCTA library) before coming to a clinic to get a feel for the depth of his philosophy regarding training horses. The book is available at the clinics.
The only equipment used in the clinic is a longe line, side reins, longe whip, two dressage whips, a snaffle bit (Baucher preferred), and protective boots or wraps. All levels, breeds and disciplines are welcome.
Join us for Symposium in October and experience a clinic with Dominique for yourself. Sign up here – auditors are always welcome!
Once again we are gathering together to celebrate the magic that comes from dancing in lightness with our horses! Come and join, June 7, 8 and 9, 2019 at Barbier Farm in Healdsburg, CA.
It doesn’t matter if you have been coming for years or if this is your first time, you are always welcome! And if you do not have a horse of your own to bring, consider auditing or contact Debra for a lesson on one of our magnificent school horses. Riding is space is limited, don’t delay!
AUDITORS – $75 PER DAY OR $180 FOR ALL THREE DAYS
As horsemen and women a saddle is one of the most important tools we have to work with. A proper fitting saddle is a great asset for both horse and rider, while an improper fit or balance not only inhibits correct riding, it can lead to injury. The saddle industry brings in millions of dollars in saddle fitting and there are now countless options for flocking, panels, and blocks for your knee and thigh. It can feel overwhelming to find the correct fit with so many options. Here we have broken down the DBarbier saddle design to illustrate the real essential criteria when looking for one of your own.
THE LOST ART OF FLOCKING
Dominique fashioned his own saddle design after the original tree used by Mestre Oliveira, a design that is 400 years old. While training mules in the French military (a story for another day), Dominique delivered horses to the Republican Guard in Paris, where he met the man who would one day become the head of Forestier saddlery. With a tree-maker (arconier in French) in the factory itself- the only saddlemaker to design his own tree and not buy mass-produced trees- the Barbier custom-crafted saddle was born.
With a bit of ingenuity and a little help from the modern age, he has been able to update the materials from wool taken from army socks to advanced padding with the same material used to pad satellites (yes, you read that right. We are waiting for our NASA endorsement) that does not shrink with age. That means no “re-flocking necessary.” Today’s saddles feature leather cut by laser for the cleanest lines and computer-designed balance to ensure accuracy for each saddle.
WHAT IS PROPER BALANCE IN A SADDLE?
A saddle tree’s purpose is to help a rider find their position. Let us return to Dressage for the New Age for a moment; a rider’s center of gravity is below their navel, while a horse’s center of gravity is between the knees of the rider. Your saddle should, in theory, bring the two centers of gravity as close together as possible. If you cut your saddle into three equal segments, the lowest part of your seat should be in the front third while your leg hangs underneath you, thanks to your stirrup bars sitting underneath your hip.
Most models today place the balance in the second third, further towards the back, while keeping stirrup bars forward to prevent breakage, forcing riders to either sit in a “chair” seat, or to perch on their horse’s backs. With the knee and thigh blocks, riders legs are forced into “correct” position, though they have no knee mobility, which contracts riders’ bodies, and therefore their horses’ bodies on top of it.
Comfort for your horse is also vitally important. They are, after all, carrying us. Aside from being in correct position with our center of gravity as close to their own as possible, we want to think of how the saddle fits the horse. True to form, Dominique kept things very simple in his design, with the “flexible” tree, available in narrow (for the high-withered horses), medium and wide, a wide gullet for the horses’ back comfort, and the same padding used for the rider’s seat for the horse’s back. The lack of metal in the front allows for extra freedom of the shoulder. By using a single-panel design and foregoing knee blocks (removable blocks are available for the new Working Equitation design), he maintained closer contact to the horse. The end result? Unparalleled comfort for horse and rider.
Each saddle is handcrafted and made to your specifications using highly-durable, beautiful Bison leather, making each one a work of art in of itself. Functional can be fashionable, too! Our newly released Deluxe in chocolate has been a hit with crowds, and the hand-tooled seats of the working equitation model in chocolate and camel are so beautiful you *almost* don’t want to sit on top of them.
When you buy a saddle, you are investing in your horse and in yourself. It is important to make the right choice. Dominique is happy to answer questions personally about his saddles and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, +1707.480.5598.
You are invited to join Debra and Dominique on the trip of a lifetime in Brasil for the Lusitano International Expo, as well as a whirlwind tour of the very best breeding farms, where you will have the chance to see and even sit on high quality horses under the instruction of Debra and Dominique before choosing one of your very own. They have imported approximately 200 Lusitanos to date, and chosen the top farms to visit. The Barbiers’ talent in matching horse and rider is unparalleled and they take full advantage of their close connections with the breeders around the country to find you the best possible fit.
This is our 18th year in the making, and with the current favorable dollar exchange, prices are incredibly low. It is the best time to come and experience the Brasilian culture and hospitality as well as diving head first into the world of the majestic Lusitano.
Don’t delay, as spots for this trip are in high demand! Click here to make your deposit.
For committed buyers, we have special pricing – $1500 of your trip fee will be applied to the Barbier Farms commission, which is 15% of the purchase or $5,000 (whichever is higher). All transportation, importing, and vet checks are arranged for you.
Package includes private coach transportation in Brasil, all hotels, breakfast each day, and some meals while visiting farms. It does not include meals during the Expo, nor does it include international airfare. Please contact us for pricing and options at email@example.com.
The Brazil trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity to rapidly expand every aspect of your understanding of horses in a truly unforgettable and mesmerizing place. Perhaps if you are as fortunate as I was you will also experience the sheer beauty of bringing home an equine being that was always meant to be part of you. – Lauren Schultz, Healdsburg, CA
The dates are set! The reservations are pouring in…make your plans now! Harvest time is super busy here in Sonoma Valley, but it is also a beautiful time of year to visit. Click on the tab above for the Symposium October 2016 for all the details. Stay tuned to the blog for announcements about the Saturday night entertainment, reception, and dinner. Dancing Horse Events will be catering again (always delicious) and we’ll have a special guest for entertainment, along with the horses and riders of Barbier Farm. As always, feel free to write with any questions. ( barbierfarm @ aol.com )