Demigods and Demivolts

In the first week of my internship I was watching a lesson with a student who was working on demivolts, or a haunches in on a half-circle. Paul shared how it built on the haunches-in and similarly works to improve hindquarter strength and flexibility. I remember thinking “That looks so fun! I wonder when Kelso and I will be able to do it,” not actually thinking it would be anytime soon. I also giggled at thinking of the similarity of the words demivolt and demigod. [A demigod is a mortal or immortal who is born of a human and a god, like Hercules]

Only a few short months after our arrival, and my demigod creature of a horse is trying out demivolts. There is no accident in me finding the play in the words, and it was yet another week of me being humbled by how hard my little guy works for me and how athletic he is. I can’t say I would be surprised if he grew wings and lived forever as a sort of second-coming Pegasus. Except, in the true nature of gruesome Greek mythology, Pegasus was born out of Medusa’s neck;  we can skip that part.

The demivolt is ridden from a travers down the long side. The horse then keeps this travers in the half circle off the wall. It can then turn into a half pass to return to the wall; as it develops, it will get smaller and smaller, which requires more hindquarter strength and balance from the horse. As you can see in the video, ours starts out quite large, extending all the way to centerline. Our demivolt to the left is also much more balanced than the one to the right, and this is obvious when Kelso switches his right lead to the left lead when it gets tough. However, the fact he has enough hindquarter strength to attempt these is worlds of a difference from when we first arrived. We had a tough time even doing canter-walk transitions, then! This system is a simple (but not easy) one that actually works!

This system is also one that linearly and fairly builds on itself. In the beginning, Kelso and I focused on hindquarter strength with various lateral movements. While it might not seem obvious to how travers can one day lead to canter pirouettes, it linearly progresses from travers on the wall to travers on the circle which will get smaller and smaller to working and performance pirouettes. While it is easy to get lost in the million exercises that are out there, or quick fixes that will get you to the next movement in the next level, it can be often forgotten that the movements are in the tests for a reason. A shoulder-in is not just something that should be ridden to get a 7 or 8; it is a gymnastic movement that will strengthen and straighten your horse. It is this strength and straightness that is needed, in different doses, from training level to Grand Prix.

You can also see in the video that Kelso and I are still focusing on swinging his canter in order to loosen his back. He can get pretty tense and also evade the load of his weight when I ask him to carry more in his hindquarters. He does this by doing a small travers on the left lead, and he will sometimes swap his hind lead from right to left when we are going to the right. We are introducing more counter canter, and have also been riding simple changes along the wall every couple of strides. Our goal in the counter canter, which is discussed in the video, is to have Kelso relax into the corners; if he were to get tense, he would be more likely to break or switch leads. Paul also informed me that I can start asking for even more trot. Our lengthenings are lengthening again. 

Paul keeps bringing up The Big F’s (Flying Changes) more and more. There were a few times Kelso would switch by himself, and Paul is quick to reassure us that we will need them someday and it is nice to know they are in there. I will often joke about this, along with telling Paul that Kelso and I are going to hit the competition world and beat all the big warmbloods. He will smirk and say “Young Grasshopper, focus on riding well. The winning and moves will come with it.”

Hopping my way off to work on our demivolts,

Erin and the Wonder Pony

Week Three Trivia: Who is credited for inventing one-tempis?

Week Two Trivia Answer: The passage is also called the Spanischer Tritt at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.


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