So you think learning equitation is all about serious schooling? Let me tell you about one of my teachers, and an experience I had down near the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
We were in the habit of making trips to Diana and Arthur Christiansen’s Shalimar Farm near Abita, Louisiana, where we learned French classical equitation on Grand-Prix level horses. Diana had spent numerous years studying under Nuno Oliveira in Portugal. There she had learned his version of the half-halt, which was to simply attempt to make one’s shoulder blades touch together. As it turns out, this causes a chain of position changes in the riders body, which, on a trained horse, bring about rebalancing and collection. On one of those visits to Diana, I was taking my turn in our lessons on a horse that was to teach me how to ask for, and sit, the passage. In a medium trot down the long side I thought I heard, through her British brogue, “shove your legs together,” which I did. The horse responded by speeding up. She gave the command again, somewhat more emphatically. I was whizzing around at race track speed when she stopped me.
“What on earth are you doing?” she asked.
I said, “shoving my legs together.”
Amid trills of laughter peeling out and echoing off the rafters she choked out
“no, I said shoulder blades together!“