Riding Towards Success
Loma Fowler Guides Riders to a Better Performance

By Ingrid Edisen

Watching Loma Fowler conduct a series of dressage master classes, a.k.a. a clinic, one is immediately impressed by her positive tone.  Her style reminds one of a considerate conductor or chef who watches the progress of art in action and then adds a little here, a little there to fashion a rider (and horse) into a better performance.

She travels to the Central Texas area regularly, trekking from her home in Parker, Colorado, which is near Denver.  Even the name of her own operation has an upbeat name-Inspiration Farm.  Nanni Baker of Texas organizes Loma's schedule here.  Loma is part of the matrix of highly trained certified United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Instructor Workshop Faculty, which allows her to teach riders and instructors worldwide.  She has done this both on this continent and in Europe.  Of course, besides coaching, she competes and does training herself.  

Besides her considerable dressage education stateside, she also moved to Europe and lived for almost four years to study under two notable masters - Herr Klaus Balkenhol and Ernst Hoyos.  Many know of Balkenhol as the German police officer that represented Germany at the Olympics in 1992 and 1996, winning the individual bronze in '92 and placing fourth in '96.  He served as the U.S. dressage coach at the Athens Olympics and will serve again in that capacity in 2008.  He is said to have one of the best classical approaches to dressage today.  Loma became his "American Bereiter" or lead rider.  She apprenticed under him for three years.  
Then, because Hoyos happened to be in Germany on a sabbatical, she rode with him for a year.  Hoyos' claim to fame is being the Senior Rider at the Spanish Riding School for 29 years.  

What makes her excel at teaching is her intensity and focus.  She is thin and lithe, like a ballet dancer.  With all that knowledge in her head, one might fear she'd get sidetracked and go off on tangents that some clinicians do because of boredom or ego or even a lack of positive criticism.  Not so with this clinician.  She stayed engaged for each and every lesson, never grandstanding.  

The day I was able to audit one of Loma's clinic I got to see rides of all levels-spanning from a young warmblood doing training level work to a thoroughbred working on canter pirouettes.  Lucy and Jay Meyer's Royal Equus Farm in Taylor, TX near Austin hosted the clinic.  

Loma watched Amy Seal ride a well-muscled Arabian. "Step into your half pass with your hip," she told Amy, this just after asking her to use a volte (small circle) to reset the rhythm.  "Just twist your hips to get the bend in the haunches in the half pass.  Step into the direction you're going."  
She had the pair ride eight-meter squares and then break out of that into doing a shoulder in.

For sitting trot she asked Amy to concentrate on the upbeat and to do a bit of the up and out, meaning that she wanted Amy to vary the strength and impulsion of the trot so as to get her gelding to reach for contact.  

Amy admitted to her that a tip Loma had given her at an earlier clinic, that of riding with her hands in front of her hips, had been a help as it gave her horse a place for the energy to flow through.
Then Lucy Meyer rode a young big Hannoverian she'd bred.  He's just five now.  One of Lucy's tendencies was to ride and look down too much.  Loma suggested she just look out, somewhere, anywhere while riding.  "Try looking inside, then outside a bit, look around," Loma said.  With the younger horse, the clinician kept the exercises simpler.  They worked on leg yield and would occasionally do variations of speed within the gait.  "Do a couple of strides of a bigger canter," Loma asked Lucy.

To help the youngster learn control of his shoulders, Loma had Lucy ride a diagonal line and then do a few strides of leg yield out of the diagonal line. "He won't lose his balance as much that way," Loma said. Everything was designed not to take the younger horse too far out of his comfort zone, a little of this and a little of that.  

Loma asked Lucy to lift her thorax and not to force up her own shoulders.  "Use your thorax to help lift him into making the transition," Loma said.  "He needs encouragement to lift up and carry you.  Of course you also have to drive him to get him under you."

Another tip that was helpful was Loma's telling Lucy to "sneak up on the contact after you've made the transition from walk to trot." She suggested Lucy stay on a curved line in the "bigger canter" and to think of "bouncing him up" when taking him from trot to canter.

Georgia Cutrone was next on a bay Thoroughbred.  Her mission was to work on the canter pirouette.  For this, Loma recommended riding the half pass on a twenty meter circle with a shoulder fore feeling.  Cutrone discussed the finer points of this with Loma.  

"In pirouette, look over your inside shoulder," Loma told her.  "Keep your arms straight but elastic as you're doing it." To begin the pirouettes, do walk pirouettes. To help the walk pirouettes not get to "sticky," Loma told her to trot, do a walk transition into a walk pirouette, and then trot out of the pirouette.  

"Keep his hind legs energetic," Loma said.  "Use a slight counter flexion one stride if you need to help keep the outside shoulder under control.

If all this sounds technical, it was.  But to the riders it was a welcome natural flow of give and take of Loma's knowledge that they sought.  All of them were riding better by the end of each lesson and seemed happy and relieved to get more answers.

Loma Fowler is certified by the USDF to instruct through the Fourth Level.  She can be reached via lomadressage@aol.com.  Inspiration Farm is at 10243 Inspiration Drive, Parker, CO 80138; (303) 841-0417.

Clinic information is available from Nanni Baker of Pfalz Farm in Kendalia, TX.  Loma will be in Taylor, TX, at Lucy Meyer's barn, July 7-9 and November 16-18.  Her dates for teaching at Karen Kotts' K Bar M Equestrian Center in Waring are May 19-21 and September 22-24.  Rides are $115 for 45-minute lessons and auditing is free.  Nanni Baker can be reached at home (830) 336-3268; cell (210) 240-0378; email pflzfrm@gvtc.com.

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