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Genoka Thomassy
Eclipse - Andalusian
Belle - Andalusian

I live in the country an hour north of Austin. My Andalusian owner friends in San Antonio raved about Michael Vermaas back when he arrived so when I had the chance to see him teach and ride at a clinic at Kay Skillern’s in south Austin last October I went. I was so impressed that I immediately began hauling my husband’s Andalusian gelding Eclipse down to Kay’s for weekly jumping training with Michael. Shortly thereafter, Bellona (Belle), our young Andalusian mare, began coming along for some beginning work with Michael. We continued in this fashion and at clinics until mid-December when both horses went to Retama Equestrian Center (where Michael is based) for more intensive training.

Eclipse had been jumped intermittently before and even foxhunted first field on a couple of occasions. He’d go over 3’+ coops but he’d never been properly shown how to jump. His previous jumping training had pretty much consisted of me pointing him at an obstacle at sufficient speed to clear it. Being a very willing boy, he always did but it wasn’t pretty. Michael taught him how to use his body. Eclipse’s stride length increased and there was more "jump" in his canter. His rhythm became steadier, slower and more cadenced. His body developed in all the right places and he carried himself with more pride even in the paddock. And his form over jumps improved dramatically. Michael gave him the guidance to find his own balance and confidence.

 Michael coaching Fern and Eclipse


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Eclipse spent part of December and all of January at Retama having a couple of jumping lessons per week and working on dressage on the other days. In March we resumed the weekly lessons but this time with me in the saddle. I was much worse than the horse ever was! My jumping had consisted mainly of foxhunting on borrowed horses back home. The friend who "taught" me instructed me on how to stay on and not hit the horse in the mouth and I pretty much managed that but my form was hideous and I wasn’t "with" the horse.


EclipseI am thrilled with the progress I’ve made in just a few lessons. Though I have quite a ways to go to be a consistently good jump rider, there are now moments when I pretty much get it right. However I’m most happy with the fact that when things do go a bit wrong I no longer always revert to my previous defensive style of riding. My position is improving as is my understanding of how to ride to the jumps. And funniest of all, the jumps are getting smaller. I thought 2’ 9" was 2’ the other day. Usually it’s the other way around!  
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2008 Vermaas Classical Horsemanship

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