Remembering Walter Zettl
The guardian angel of dressage horses
From the moment you saw walter zettl teaching, you knew there was something truly special about this man—his passion for horses, his loving and giving way of teaching. what he taught was way beyond dressage lessons. he communicated a philosophy and exemplified the kind of calmness and patience that horses and riders adore in their teachers.
walter was born in the former republic of czechoslovakia and immigrated to canada in 1981. his passion for horses started early in life and he was just 16 when he entered the riding school of bad Kissingen in Kronberg, Ludwigsburg. At 21 he was the youngest person ever to be awarded the german Federation gold riding medal. not only did walter train and compete at grand prix in both dressage and jumping, he ran schools and became a respected and sought-after trainer. in 198T he coached dressage for the canadian Three-day event Team at the Los Angeles olympics and during this time he was awarded by the province of ontario in recognition for distinguished performance. over the last 15 years he traveled and conducted seminars for the uSdF, became Advisor emeritus for Dressage Today, built a bridge between natural horsemanship and dressage and was inducted into the Toronto cadora dressage hall of Fame and, this year, has been nominated for the uSdF hall of Fame.
Walter was a man the insiders knew and respected. Among his friends were the great egon von neindorff and col. Kurd Albrecht von ziegner, and he talked often of his “boss” col. herbert w. Aust and recounted wonderful stories about not being allowed to touch the reins when a young horse bucked and that they didn’t canter young horses for the first two years of training.
Walter’s careful and considerate way was groomed by the greats, but the integrity of the man himself ran deep. The title of his video, “A matter of Trust,” and his books, Dressage in Harmony, The Circle of Trust and Ask Walter, in themselves are an insight into his values. he gave his full attention, passion and respect to every level of rider and every breed and type of horse that stepped into his ring.
“Soft, soft, soft,” is what this
LEFT: Walter teaching at a clinic in Wellington, Florida, in 2006.
BELOW: Walter's induction into the Toronto CADORA Dressage Association Hall of Fame, 2011.