Words of Wis­dom from the West Coast

71 tips we learned from ex­perts at the Cal­i­for­nia Dres­sage So­ci­ety sym­po­sium

Dressage Today - - Content - Story by Lind­say Paulsen Pho­tos by Kim F. Miller

71 tips from Char­lotte BredahlBaker, Chris­tine Trau­rig, Hilda Gur­ney and Steffen Peters

Through the screens of our smart­phones and com­put­ers, many of us watched Steffen Peters ride Le­go­las to a team bronze medal in Rio. Oth­ers have ad­mired pho­tos of Hilda Gur­ney and her Thor­ough­bred, Keen, at the 1976 Olympics or spot­ted her as an “S” judge at C. You’ve prob­a­bly seen im­ages of Char­lotte Bredahl-Baker and her Olympic mount, Mon­sieur, at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and of Chris­tine Trau­rig rid­ing Eti­enne at the 2004 Olympics in Syd­ney.

It’s not un­usual to see these ex­perts per­form­ing in the ring, but it is a unique op­por­tu­nity when you have the chance to hear them speak per­son­ally about the the­ory and tech­nique that have made them the rid­ers we have seen so of­ten at the top of the sport.

At the Ad­e­quan ® / Cal­i­for­nia Dres­sage So­ci­ety (CDS) 50th An­niver­sary An­nual Meet­ing and “Cel­e­brat­ing Cal­i­for­nia Sym­po­sium” in Del Mar, Cal­i­for­nia, Jan. 20–22, au­di­tors gath­ered to ob­serve train­ing ses­sions taught by these in­struc­tors. The par­tic­i­pants ranged from young horses to high-per­for­mance horses, and Young Rid­ers brim­ming with po­ten­tial to ex­pe­ri­enced Grand Prix rid­ers.

Char­lotte-Bredahl Baker: Fo­cus on Young Rid­ers

Char­lotte Bredahl-Baker and Mon­sieur were on the 1992 Olympic bronze-medal-win­ning

U.S. dres­sage team in Barcelona, Spain. Char­lotte was also on the sil­ver-medal­win­ning U.S. team in 1997 at the North Amer­i­can Cham­pi­onships, rid­ing Lugano. She trained both horses from start to Grand Prix. Char­lotte is an in­ter­na­tional dres­sage judge (4*) and has judged all over the world. In 2014 she was named Hon­orary In­struc­tor by the USDF and re­ceived the gold medal of dis­tinc­tion from the USEF. In 2014 she was ap­pointed U.S. As­sis­tant Youth Coach.

Char­lotte’s ses­sion was geared to­ward help­ing two ta­lented Young Rid­ers, Gabriela Glumac and Ash­lyn De­g­root, fi­nesse their work at the FEI lev­els. Gabriela rode her 12-year-old KWPN mare, Zodessa. Ash­lyn rode her 9-yearold Dutch Warm­blood mare, Dalina DG. Through­out the work, Char­lotte re­mind- ed her stu­dents to ride from back to front with elas­tic hands. Here are 16 tips we learned from Char­lotte’s ses­sion:

1. When you are teach­ing your horse some­thing new, be­gin on his good side so that it is a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

2. When you are teach­ing pi­affe, pas­sage and pirou­ettes it is best to do ev­ery­thing in short sets. “It is bet­ter to do many short spurts than a few over an ex­tended pe­riod,” Char­lotte said. It is im­por­tant not to get the horse mus­cle-sore when you are first ask­ing for more col­lec­tion.

3. Think about rid­ing your horse up and in front of you. “Ev­ery chance you get, put your hands for­ward so you can meet the con­tact out fur­ther. Keep think­ing about the frame and keep­ing your horse grow­ing in front of you.” Both horses Char­lotte was work­ing with had a ten­dency to be a lit­tle short in the neck.

4. “As you tran­si­tion between medium, work­ing and col­lected gaits, fo­cus on rid­ing tact­ful tran­si­tions while keep­ing your horse’s neck long.” Again she was re­fer­ring to the two horses who had a ten­dency to be a lit­tle short in the neck.

5. If you struggle to main­tain power in the trot, just think about rid­ing medium trot with­out ac­tu­ally per­form­ing medium trot. Hav­ing a medium-trot men­tal­ity should cre­ate a bet­ter trot.

6. To en­sure cor­rect bend in the haunches-in, imag­ine wrap­ping your horse’s body around your in­side leg.

7. As you prepare to ride a half pass, make sure that you get a good qual­ity shoul­der-in first. It en­sures that you start with good bend and an up­hill bal­ance when you be­gin the half pass.

8. If you find the half pass chal­leng­ing, try this ex­er­cise:

Ride shoul­der-in. Ride a 10-me­ter cir­cle. Re­turn to shoul­der-in for a few strides. Turn the shoul­der-in into half pass. This ex­er­cise is ef­fec­tive be­cause it breaks down the pieces of the half pass (shoul­der-in and the 10-me­ter cir­cle) and then puts them back to­gether in a log­i­cal se­quence.

9. When you school half pass, don’t stay in the move­ment for too long. “Go back to shoul­der-in to re­gain the bend if you lose it.”

10. Char­lotte likes to ini­tially school walk pirou­ettes on a big square. As you progress, you can move to rid­ing on a smaller and smaller square, she said.

11. In pirou­ette work, re­mem­ber to give your horse room in the out­side rein. “One thing I see a lot when peo­ple do walk pirou­ettes is that they are too strong in the out­side rein. If you re­strain the horse too much with the out­side rein, you won’t al­low the horse to bend or turn. The same thing hap­pens in the can­ter pirou­ettes,” she said. “Re­lax the out­side rein a lit­tle to al­low your horse to turn.”

12. When a rider schools pirou­ettes, Char­lotte likes to stand in the mid­dle to keep the rider and horse us­ing their in­side legs, pre­vent­ing the horse from fall­ing in.

13. As you be­gin to ride the tempi changes, don’t fo­cus on counting un­til later in your ses­sion. “I al­ways start off the changes with­out counting so I can fo­cus on the qual­ity. I al­ways want to set my horse up for suc­cess by not chang­ing un­less the horse is straight and in bal­ance.”

14. To pre­vent your horse from los­ing ac­tiv­ity in the can­ter pirou­ette work, ride medium gaits in between. “Some­times

you have to mix it up between medi­ums and pirou­ettes to make sure that the horse keeps think­ing for­ward.”

15. Keep your horse think­ing for­ward in the pi­affe. “I never walk out of the pi­affe be­cause I want the horse to come out think­ing for­ward.” To pre­vent the horse from los­ing for­ward in the pas­sage work, Char­lotte likes to mix it up with trot and/or medium trot spurts.

16. Uti­lize leg yield in the changes. “Us­ing a slight leg yield between the changes re­minds the rider to keep her leg on in the changes and it keeps the horse mov­ing for­ward and straight. “

Chris­tine Trau­rig: De­vel­op­ing Young Horses

Chris­tine Trau­rig is the USEF young horse coach. She was born and raised in Ger­many, on the farm where her fa­ther bred horses. It was there that her pas­sion and skill for rid­ing young horses de­vel­oped. Chris­tine works con­stantly in the United States to help to­day’s Young Rid­ers and horses de­velop a com­mit­ment to ba­sics. At the age of 12, she started rid­ing at the Na­tional Rid­ing School at Hoya with the leg­endary trainer Otto Meyer. As a young adult, Chris­tine rode and trained young horses for fa­mous Han­nove­rian Auc­tion in Ver­den, Ger­many. She rode sale horses for Ger­man Na­tional Trainer Hol­ger Sch­mezer be­fore mov­ing to the U.S. in 1982. In 1998, Chris­tine be­gan train­ing with Jo­hann Hin­ne­mann and in 2000 she com­peted at the Olympic Games in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, on the bronze-medal-win­ning U.S. team. She lives in Carls­bad, Cal­i­for­nia.

Dur­ing her ses­sion, Chris­tine fo­cused on ad­vanc­ing young horses and con­firm­ing proper ba­sics. She coached Craig Stan­ley, who rode the 5-year-old Dutch Warm­blood geld­ing, Ha­banero CWS, and Anna Wood, who rode the 4-yearold Olden­burg geld­ing, Hot­shot AF. Here are pearls of wis­dom from Chris­tine:

17. Chris­tine likes to ap­ply the same warm-up struc­ture to each horse she rides. She uses that time to con­firm the fun­da­men­tal aids to loosen, sup­ple and straighten her horse. This in­cludes the use of driv­ing aids, con­tain­ing aids and bend­ing aids.

18. Re­mem­ber that as you ride in a dres­sage sad­dle, you are main­tain­ing a three-point con­tact with your horse: your leg aids, your seat and the bit.

19. Chris­tine de­scribed the ideal re­sponse your horse should have with your in­side leg: “You want your horse off, around and ahead of your in­side leg.”

20. Make straight­ness a pri­or­ity. “You al­ways want to get your horse straight, which is a pre­req­ui­site to cor­rect flex­ion,” she said.

21. To straighten your horse, think of putting him in align­ment from the poll to the tail, and keep his neck in the cen­ter of his shoul­ders.

22. Re­mem­ber the spe­cific role of each rein. “The in­side rein in­di­cates di­rec­tion, the out­side rein ex­e­cutes di­rec­tion.”

23. It is your re­spon­si­bil­ity as a rider to ad­dress your horse’s strengths and weak­nesses. “Ev­ery horse has a soft side and a stiff side, and it’s our job to deal with that.”

24. In young horses (and all horses), you can pro­mote through­ness, re­lax­ation and rhythm by rid­ing lots of trot– can­ter–trot tran­si­tions.

25. No­tice that the con­cept of re­lax­ation has two com­po­nents: “Re­lax­ation means that the horse is phys­i­cally and men­tally ten­sion free.”

26. Young horses must learn to go for­ward and stay for­ward while re­main­ing calm. “Your horse’s de­sire to go for­ward must be greater than your need to re­mind him. But he must stay calm in his mind and loose in his body.”

27. En­cour­age your horse to cover ground. “Feel in your seat that your horse is work­ing from his hind end to­ward the bit.”

28. Do not teach col­lec­tion to a young horse too early. “Use ex­er­cises that nat­u­rally en­cour­age col­lec­tion with­out men­tally forc­ing it.”

29. You can use ex­er­cises like shoul­der-fore and 10-me­ter cir­cles to nat­u­rally en­cour­age col­lec­tion. Leg yield

is use­ful be­cause it teaches the horse to go for­ward with a de­gree of side­ways.

30. When teach­ing a young horse the shoul­der-fore, try this ex­er­cise:

Ride down cen­ter­line. Leg yield to the rail. Ride a 10-me­ter cir­cle. Cre­ate a “baby” shoul­der-in. When the horse loses for­ward­ness and im­pul­sion, straighten him and go for­ward. The leg yield makes the horse move away from the in­side leg, the cir­cle makes sure he un­der­stands the di­rec­tion of the front end, then the shoul­der-in com­bines those two ideas.

31. As you work to­ward col­lec­tion, don’t for­get about the ne­ces­sity of for­ward­ness. “You need the for­ward­ness be­cause you must have some­thing to col­lect.”

32. Stretch­ing is im­por­tant in ev­ery school­ing ses­sion, but don’t let your horse think it is a break from the work. “Stretch­ing is not sup­posed to be as­so­ci­ated with quit­ting.”

33. Do not un­der­es­ti­mate the value of a 20-me­ter cir­cle. “The work to­ward half pass ac­tu­ally be­gins on the 20-me­ter cir­cle. This is be­cause you are dic­tat­ing the place­ment of the fore­hand in front of the hind end.”

34. The horse must be able to find trust in the rider’s aids. “When we talk about trust, it is im­por­tant that we be clear about how that is de­vel­oped,” Chris­tine said. “Han­dling must be done in a very ex­pe­ri­enced way so that the horse can trust the out­come of the in­flu­ence. This should be cou­pled with the rider work­ing to­ward obe­di­ence and re­spect. The horse needs to know that when he responds in a cor­rect way, there is a re­ward.”

35. Al­ways con­sider your horse’s age and stage of train­ing and ad­just your ex­pec­ta­tions. “Sub­mis­sion is will­ing­ness to co­op­er­ate, but what cre­ates the will­ing­ness to co­op­er­ate?” Chris­tine asked rhetor­i­cally. “Obe­di­ence. All of this must be done in re­la­tion to the horse’s age and stage of train­ing.”

36. En­ergy from the hind engine must be cou­pled with men­tal and phys­i­cal sup­ple­ness.

37. You must teach the young horse to clearly un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence between yield­ing ver­sus bend­ing on a cir­cle.

38. Al­ways en­cour­age the hind leg to be­come more weight-bear­ing. To ac­ti­vate your horse’s in­side leg, try this ex­er­cise:

Ride a fig­ure-eight. Bring your horse’s haunches around the bend­ing in­side leg to ac­ti­vate the in­side hind leg. No­tice how this makes the horse more sup­ple and flex­i­ble be­hind the sad­dle.

Hilda Gur­ney: Les­sons from a Judge’s Per­spec­tive

Hilda Gur­ney has made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the sport of dres­sage. In 1976, she earned an Olympic team bronze medal. She won in­di­vid­ual gold and sil­ver and three team gold medals at the Pan Am Games. She also took six USET Na­tional Grand Prix Cham­pi­onship ti­tles on the leg­endary Hall of Fame mem­ber Keen. Hilda is an S judge and has been a USDF “L” Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram In­struc­tor and has served on the USEF’s test writ­ing com­mit­tee. She has a highly suc­cess­ful breed­ing pro­gram and still rides 15 to 20 horses per day.

Hilda’s ses­sion at the sym­po­sium in­cor­po­rated her per­spec­tive as a judge. She dis­cussed what is ex­pected of horse and rider through each level, which was demon­strated by Grand Prix rid­ers Adri­enne Bessey and Jodie Cress­man. Adri­enne rode the 15-year-old Olden­burg geld­ing, Win­ter­snow, and Jodie rode the 15-year-old Dutch geld­ing, Upendo. Here are 15 tips from Hilda:

39. At Train­ing Level, judges want to see a horse who cov­ers ground and moves for­ward to con­tact. Halt­ing through a walk is ac­cept­able as long as it is straight.

40. Judges ex­pect to see horses in a more up­hill frame at First Level. Tran­si­tions should be at the mark­ers. The walk should cover ground and the can­ter should have a nice jump.

41. Be­fore a turn at C, do not let your horse drift be­fore the turn. Hilda said this is a prob­lem she of­ten sees at First Level. “You must ride straight through G and then be­gin your an­gle for the turn only af­ter G,” she ex­plained.

42. When you ride a tran­si­tion to halt, the halt must not be abrupt, which is when a horse makes quicker, hur­ried steps into the tran­si­tion or just plants his feet.

43. Hilda re­minded us of the value of tempo: “Tempo en­ables dres­sage to be­come danc­ing. Rhythm is the reg­u­lar­ity of the pace. Tempo is the speed of the pace.”

44. In can­ter–trot–can­ter tran­si­tions at First Level, three to five steps of trot are ac­cept­able.

45. If you are con­cerned about your horse’s abil­ity to per­form at First Level, take heart. “Ev­ery horse can learn Train­ing Level through First Level move­ments,” Hilda said.

46. Hilda de­scribed the chal­lenge of dres­sage in a unique yet sim­ple way: “We are try­ing to teach gym­nas­tics through a tac­tile lan­guage,” she said.

47. At Sec­ond Level, col­lec­tion is in­tro­duced. Judges look for in­creased en­gage­ment, thrust and el­e­va­tion. The medium trot ap­pears at Sec­ond Level be­cause of the new ex­pec­ta­tion of some de­gree of col­lec­tion. Re­mem­ber, you can­not ride a medium trot un­til you have an el­e­ment of col­lec­tion. Hilda also ex­plained the dif­fer­ence between a medium trot and a length­ened trot: “In a length­en­ing, you don’t see as much light­ness off the ground and reach in the shoul­der,” she said.

48. Hilda put the def­i­ni­tion of cadence into sim­ple terms: “Cadence is thrust and power within rhythm.”

49. At Sec­ond Level, the medium walk should be per­formed on the bit and should have more over­step. “There is not as much vari­a­tion in the walk at the lower lev­els be­cause the goal is to keep the gait pure,” Hilda said.

50. It is not re­ally pos­si­ble to per­form a medium walk to can­ter tran­si­tion. “This is be­cause you need steps of col­lec­tion in the walk to rock the horse back for the can­ter depart.”

51. At Third Level, fly­ing changes are in­tro­duced. You need a can­ter with good ground cover and sus­pen­sion in the col­lected can­ter. “The change must be per­formed in the same can­ter you were in be­fore the change. Even if the change is clean, the qual­ity of the can­ter has to be good.”

52. Hilda ex­plained that you need two in­gre­di­ents for a good qual­ity, clean change: A can­ter with good sus­pen­sion and a horse who re­acts well to the out­side aids.

53. Half pass is travers on a di­ag­o­nal line. “The legs must cross in the half pass. This train­ing starts at First Level be­cause the leg yield in­tro­duces the horse to the skill of cross­ing his out­side pair of legs over and in front of his in­side pair of legs, a skill that is also needed in the half pass.

Steffen Peters: The High­Per­for­mance Level

Steffen Peters was born in Ger­many and be­came a U.S. cit­i­zen in 1992. At the 1996 Olympics in At­lanta, he com­peted on Udon in his first of four Olympic Games, earn­ing a team bronze medal. He also rep­re­sented the U.S. in Beijing in 2008, plac­ing fourth with Ravel, and in Lon­don, scored sixth in team com­pe­ti­tion. He won the 2009 FEI World Cup Dres­sage Fi­nal in Las Ve­gas with Ravel. He also won both in­di­vid­ual and team gold medals at the past two Pan Amer­i­can Games. Steffen and Le­go­las 92 were ranked No. 7 in the world in 2014. He logged his best in­di­vid­ual fin­ish of bronze at the World Eques­trian Games in Lexington, Ken­tucky. Com­pet­ing in his fourth Olympics in Rio, Steffen earned team bronze with Le­go­las.

Steffen and his as­sis­tant, Dawn White-O’Con­nor, both par­tic­i­pated

in the High Per­for­mance seg­ment of the sym­po­sium. First, Steffen coached Dawn while she rode his Olympic part­ner, Le­go­las, who is known for his sen­si­tive na­ture. Steffen then rode Rosamunde, the 10-year-old Rhein­lan­der mare who is his new­est high-per­for­mance horse. The fol­low­ing day, Dawn rode Aristo, a 12-year-old KWPN geld­ing. Through­out the rides, Steffen ex­plained the im­por­tance of work­ing within your horse’s com­fort zone and tailoring your pro­gram to what is most pro­duc­tive for his spe­cific needs. He also em­pha­sized the ne­ces­sity of quiet, pre­cise aids. Here are the tips Steffen left us with:

54. Steffen ex­plained that Le­go­las has re­ally good gaits, but he is not the most sup­ple horse. He is also ex­tremely sen­si­tive, which can be both an ad­van­tage and a disad­van­tage. To get the most out of him, Steffen said it is a mat­ter of work­ing his body in a po­si­tion that makes him feel most com­fort­able. “For ev­ery horse, you must find the most pro­duc­tive frame and the most pro­duc­tive tempo,” he said. For Le­go­las, Steffen finds it most pro­duc­tive to ride in a rounder frame and a slower-tempo trot.

55. To ad­dress sup­ple­ness in the warm-up, Steffen has a go-to ex­er­cise:

Trot down the long side in counter flex­ion. As you ap­proach the short side, turn early and tran­si­tion to true flex­ion. As your horse is in true flex­ion, leg yield away from your in­side leg. Ride this ex­er­cise equally in both di­rec­tions.

56. Do not be afraid to let hot horses go for­ward. “It’s tempt­ing to ride hot horses too col­lected,” he said. Half pass is a good move­ment for hot horses be­cause it al­lows you to ac­tu­ally put your leg on while the horse moves side­ways.

57. Re­mem­ber to take breaks. “Even with hot­ter horses, it’s im­por-

tant to give them a break. It’s not such a good idea to wear them out. Even if the break is just for 30 sec­onds.”

58. Build­ing strength is grad­ual. “Strength comes from brief mo­ments of ask­ing for more ef­fort.”

59. Stick with what works in the train­ing. Don’t change the rou­tine too much.

60. The horse should have re­spect for the bit and should re­spond to the small­est of aids. “When we touch a horse on the in­side rein, he should bend to the in­side. When I touch the bit ever so slightly, the horse must an­swer to this.”

61. Get com­fort­able with cen­ter­lines. “We ride cen­ter­lines all the time in dres­sage, so make them your friend. Re­mem­ber, noth­ing changes on cen­ter­line.”

62. Fo­cus on cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive train­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Le­go­las gets too ex­cited in the changes af­ter school­ing pi­affe/pas- sage, so he rides the changes first.

63. Choose your bat­tles wisely. For Le­go­las, Steffen says that he is com­fort­able with him earn­ing a 6 or a 6.5 on the changes be­cause some of his other move­ments are so much stronger. “We have a ‘sav­ings ac­count.’ The changes are not the sav­ings ac­count.”

64. Have a high stan­dard for giv­ing aids in a re­ally clear, cor­rect way. “If the aids are that ob­vi­ous, that’s not dres­sage. Ed­u­cate your horse so that he responds to gen­tle leg pres­sure.”

65. Don’t rely on your spurs. “Only use the spur to cor­rect. The spur is not in­tended to ride a move­ment. It can­not just sup­port the gait or the move­ment. Make a clear cor­rec­tion with the spur. If you are con­stantly giv­ing your horse an aid, he will get numb to it. “

66. Keep things sim­ple. “You don’t want to feel like you have to mi­cro­man- age so many lit­tle things.”

67. The horse must be happy in his mouth. “What good are big, ex­pres­sive move­ments if the horse isn’t good in the con­tact?”

68. Lis­ten to your gut. “It’s im­por­tant to lis­ten to in­struc­tion, but it’s also im­por­tant to lis­ten to your gut feel­ing about when is the right time to make a cor­rec­tion.”

69. Be de­ci­sive. “The wrong re­ac­tion is 10 times bet­ter than no re­ac­tion at all.”

70. Test the show sit­u­a­tion by rid­ing the chal­leng­ing move­ments that ap­pear in a test. For ex­am­ple, rid­ing an ex­pres­sive trot to a calm walk is dif­fi­cult for Rosie, so Steffen makes sure to prac­tice this as it ap­pears in the tests.

71. In­cor­po­rate plenty of praise. “Stop and let your horse think about it when he’s done some­thing right.”

Steffen Peters rode his new­est high-per­for­mance horse, Rosamunde, in a demon­stra­tion.

From left: Clin­i­cians Steffen Peters, Char­lotte Bredahl-Baker, Hilda Gur­ney and Chris­tine Trau­rig led the ses­sions at the Ad­e­quan /Cal­i­for­nia Dres­sage So­ci­ety 50th An­niver­sary An­nual Meet­ing and Cel­e­brat­ing Cal­i­for­nia Sym­po­sium in Del Mar, Cal­i­for­nia,...

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