How I arrived at the Ecole Blondeau!
Sophie Nicod joined our team at the beginning of October. Her tasks are to work on the research programme set up by the Ecole Blondeau with Jocelyne Porcher INRA and Dominique Démaret of Futur Anterieur, and to teach students equine ethology and the scientific advances made in understanding the relationship between man and horse in the context of work.
In "Sophie's story", she shares her passion with us!
"I was a stunt rider for fifteen years at the Ludo Circus Forum, a BEES level 1 riding teacher with a diploma in equine ethology and in 2012, I joined the research group ANR COW "Working animal" led by Jocelyne Porcher INRA Montpellier.
In August 2016, I was invited to the Ecole to discuss the work of the ANR COW INRA research programme with Florence and Nicolas Blondeau.
When I arrived at the Ecole Blondeau, I was struck by a detail:
On the walls between the boxes were ceramic tiles representing engravings of the horse in the working positions of Monsieur de la Guérinière. Why was I struck by this ? Let me explain.
I had just observed a young thoroughbred learning to become a racehorse. The training seemed a long way from pirouettes at the canter, shouldering-in or side pass!
I began to understand the presence of these engravings when Nicolas Blondeau explained to me that for him, breaking-in is the first step and is followed up by dressage in the true sense of the term. Nicolas Blondeau continued this thought by quoting a phrase by General L'Hotte: "Calm, forward-going and straight". "This" said Nicolas, "is what I believe is the objective to achieve with any horse before practising an equestrian activity".
But I didn't really understand until I watched the first trotting of a young thoroughbred stallion who had difficulty getting back into walk. His young rider, out of respect for the horse's mouth, tried using his voice to help the horse keep his balance. But nothing seemed to work and the young horse couldn't find the answer either. Then Nicolas Blondeau came to the rescue. He spoke to the rider of the quality of the walk before the transition to trot. "The walk must be calm, measured and slow. Don't let him rush".
This sentence began to turn over in my mind.
Several years ago, I did a course with Catherine Henriquet. She continually told me "Don't let him rush in the transitions. The horse must cover the ground, but not speed up".
After the knowledgeable advice from Nicolas Blondeau, the rider concentrated on the quality of the walk before going into trot, and almost immediately, the youngster found his balance and his natural paces, easily and calmly.
There was indeed a clear link between the breaking-in and the dressage which followed. The horse has only one way of carrying a man on his back and he must learn it from his very first steps.
So I feel a little silly asking myself why the engravings of Monsieur de la Guerinière are at the Ecole Blondeau!
Sophie Nicod - 03.11.2016