The In­ter­na­tional Omaha 2018

A unique team com­pe­ti­tion and a clinic with Hu­ber­tus Sch­midt made this Ne­braska event one to re­mem­ber.

Dressage Today - - Content - Story and pho­tos by Nancy Jaf­fer

Team com­pe­ti­tion and a clinic with Hu­ber­tus Sch­midt made this a mem­o­rable event

The 2017 FEI World Cup Dres­sage Fi­nal was a tough act to fol­low for or­ga­niz­ers of the In­ter­na­tional Omaha show. What can you do af­ter Is­abell Werth and Laura Graves have left the build­ing?

The In­ter­na­tional Omaha, which started as an all-jumper show pre­sented by the Omaha Eques­trian Foun­da­tion, was de­signed to put Mid­west­ern com­peti­tors on the map and de­velop eques­trian com­pe­ti­tion in the re­gion as well. The show had its big­gest mo­ment presenting the dres­sage and Longines Show Jump­ing FEI World Cup Fi­nals last year. When Omaha, Ne­braska, was first an­nounced as the lo­ca­tion of the fi­nals, there was ram­pant skep­ti­cism here and abroad—many Euro­peans had no idea where Omaha was.

The suc­cess of the fi­nals made be­liev­ers out of skep­tics, but the World Cup won’t re­turn to Ne­braska in the fore­see­able fu­ture. So for the 2018 edi­tion of the In­ter­na­tional, April 12–15, at the Cen­tu­ryLink Cen­ter, the com­pe­ti­tion had to go a dif­fer­ent route. The ob­jec­tive was still the same—to strengthen dres­sage in the Mid­west and pro­vide a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for com­peti­tors and spec­ta­tors alike. While big-name in­ter­na­tional Grand Prix riders were not available this time around, there were plenty of oth­ers ea­ger for a chance to ride in the arena where the stars of the sport had been show­cased 12 months be­fore.

This year’s ap­proach was twopronged. First, Small Tour riders were com­bined into teams with Am­a­teurs and Ju­niors, each com­pet­ing at their own level on Thurs­day, the first day of com­pe­ti­tion. The cli­max for every­one tak­ing part was the freestyle, per­formed on Satur­day night.

That evening tra­di­tion­ally had been re­served for the show jump­ing Grand Prix, but the $130,000 fea­ture for that dis­ci­pline was moved to Sun­day so dres­sage could en­joy a spe­cial spot­light. The con­cept brought pub­lic at­ten­tion to dres­sage at a show that be­gan in­clud­ing it only in 2015. The hope was that per­haps some of those watch­ing would want to get in­volved and try the sport them­selves.

The other an­gle in­volved pro­vid­ing a top-notch clin­i­cian, Ger­man Olympic and World Eques­trian Games gold medal­ist Hu­ber­tus Sch­midt, to work in front of an au­di­ence with equine par­tic­i­pants who had quite a range of ex­pe­ri­ence— from First Level up to a horse who was just start­ing Grand Prix.

Lisa Roskens, chair­man and founder of the Omaha Eques­trian Foun­da­tion, ob­served that Sch­midt’s pres­ence was ex­cit­ing. “Peo­ple in our area, re­gard­less of dis­ci­pline, are hun­gry for knowl­edge and it was a priv­i­lege to give them the op­por­tu­nity to learn from some­one of Hu­ber­tus’ cal­iber,” she said. “It is not of­ten that you find some­one who is a top rider and also a great teacher. Hu­ber­tus is both—he knows what needs to be done to im­prove a horse and he has a very clear, but kind way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with riders. I even saw jumper riders watch­ing and tak­ing notes for their flat­work.”

Missy Flad­land, who rode the 5-yearold I’m All In to start off the clinic, said her work with Sch­midt re­as­sured her that she and her reg­u­lar trainer, Kather­ine Bate­son Chan­dler, are “on tar­get” with the work they have been do­ing with the Dutch Warm­blood, who is school­ing First Level. “Proper train­ing is proper train­ing,” said Flad­land, who is based in Iowa.

Dur­ing her ses­sion, Sch­midt talked about the stretch and mak­ing sure the poll is re­ally loose and the horse is soft over his back be­fore adding any power to the trot. “Once we get that loose­ness, we start to build the power and start to ask for a bit more col­lec­tion,” Flad­land said.

Sch­midt men­tioned that on a horse’s stiff side some­times it’s good to over­bend to get it more sup­ple as part of the train­ing pro­gram. Flad­land cited his ad­vice to not work too long, espe­cially with a young horse, and to make sure that Indy, as he is known in the barn, got time on the trails and ex­po­sure to some­thing be­sides the arena.

Flad­land is a long-time ad­mirer of Sch­midt, par­tic­u­larly re­mem­ber­ing a dis­play of skill she saw at Aachen a few years ago, when he fi­nessed a young stal­lion he was rid­ing. “Hav­ing some­one like Hu­ber­tus come to Omaha shows how much this area has grown and is con­tin­u­ing to grow in the sport,” said Flad­land. “Any time we can get any top pro­fes­sional into our area in the Mid­west, and not just the big ar­eas on the East or West coasts, it shows how much our area is com­mit­ted to bring­ing the sport to the top and how much in­ter­est and de­sire we have to get there.”

With Al­li­son Nimmo, of Colorado, who rode the Olden­burg Fin­ley PCH, a horse she is pre­par­ing for the FEI 6-YearOld Test, Sch­midt sug­gested start­ing with shoul­der-fore rather than shoul­der-in as the way to go at this level. He men­tioned that the half pass is “the best move­ment to make the trot bet­ter.”

Find­ing the right time to be­gin fly­ing changes, he said, hap­pens when a horse can do a good tran­si­tion to the can­ter in a straight line. When there is dif­fi­culty in the counter can­ter, a way to deal with it is just to pro­ceed on the short side of the arena. He sug­gested go­ing on a cir­cle to work on the tran­si­tion to the walk.

Heidi Basler, who is school­ing Grand Prix with the Zweibrucker Le Mode, is a na­tive of Lin­coln, Ne­braska. Basler now lives in Florida but came home for the show. Sch­midt asked her to go from a medium walk to a col­lected walk and then to an up­hill trot. He men­tioned that it takes “two or three years to make a good pi­affe,” while point­ing out a pi­affe pirou­ette is a way to get the horse “more swing­ing and more sit­ting.” He also noted it is im­por­tant to fo­cus on the point where you want to go to get a fly­ing change.

Kansas trainer Emily Miles was aboard the Olden­burg Flore­ti­enne (E.T.) for her time with Sch­midt. The 9-year-old, with whom she has worked from Train­ing Level, is a de­vel­op­ing Grand Prix horse with lit­tle in­door mileage. That made his pres-

LEFT: Camille Carier Bergeron and Sound of Si­lenceBE­LOW: Lisa Roskens (right), chair­man of the Omaha Eques­trian Foun­da­tion, and her daugh­ter, Mary, were a con­stant pres­ence at the show.

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