After a trying week mitigating plumbing problems in my Mom’s 1939 home, I was able to break away for a few hours to attend “The Old Masters” featuring Hubertus Schmidt hosted by Avalon Farm. As always, Anke Ott and Jannika Gray along with their superb team presented a wonderful event. As an added blessing proceeds benefitted the Norma Pfriem Breast Cancer Center. Hubertus Schmidt is truly a Master’s Master. Always kind and respectful to his riders and horses he brought a bottomless bag of exercises to help each partnership. I particularly appreciated his outstanding ability to explain the principals and the application for everything he was offering. Jannike Gray who rode several horses for him prepared an excellent summary which I am copying in its entirety below. Thank you, Jannike!
- Warm up is everything, a 5-year-old or a Grand Prix horse should be warmed up the same.
- Walk, trot in a frame where the horse is stretching down and out to the bit in both directions on bending lines. There should be contact!
- Trot, canter, trot transitions with the goal of keeping the frame stretching to the hand. The gait shouldn’t change before the transition.
- The warm-up should be as short as possible but as long as necessary. The goal is to keep the energy for collection, but the horse must be swinging and stretching in all three gaits first.
- Once the warm-up is complete, begin in the easier gait.
- Most horses are stiffer to the left rein. We must supple this side of the jaw by slightly overbending, wait for the horse to give and then give our hand forward for the horse to reach out with the nose. The goal is to get more weight into the right rein and the horse softer on the left rein.
- Most horses are more supple right, so we must be aware not to overbend right, especially in lateral work.
- The rein is a direct line to that hind leg. If we hold too much left, we stop the left hind.
- The straightness and suppleness of the horse is of utmost importance. The suppler they are the more rideable they become, especially in the upper-level work. The goal needs to be creating an even left and right side of the horse.
- We must think about why we do each exercise, one must build to the next.
- In the canter work, the half pass is the best preparation for the pirouettes. The horse must collect and come back off the outside rein and stay supple to the inside leg and rein.
- When teaching the canter pirouettes, it is best to start on a 15m circle with haunches in, once the horse understands this you can come on the diagonal and do a full large working pirouette. The large working pirouette enables the rider to make adjustments and corrections to teach the horse the correct form. Beginning with a half pirouette leaves little room for adjustment. Once the horse can keep the frame, jump, and suppleness in the working pirouette the rider can do a half pirouette.
- The canter should not get smaller for the changes. Use the seat and leg to keep the horse round, while the quality of canter shouldn’t change.
- Your horse is more likely to be ready for the changes when he can do a L canter, walk, R canter straight down the centerline.
- A well collected canter has jump, ground coverage but is not running.
- A well collected trot has ground coverage, cadence, and suppleness. The shoulder in doesn’t need a ton of angle but needs to have correct flexion of the pole and bend through the body. Most of the time to the left we need more but only in the pole and to the right we need to be careful we don’t have too much bend.
- Corners are very influential! If you ride too deep into the corner it will upset the rhythm of the gait. This is not good. The corner should only be as deep as it is possible to keep the quality. Sometimes going deeper can help to rock the horse back and get more sitting, this can be a positive use of the corners as well.
- Voltes are a good test of the bending, suppleness, and rhythm of the horse in each gait., right, left, contact may make the horse look better for a moment, but it will not supple the horse or make them more through.
- The walk needs to be ridden like the trot and the canter. If the horse hurries in the walk you can use many walk serpentines to slow the walk without using the hand to stop the rhythm.
- Many walk breaks can be positive for the horse. It is not necessary to make them so tired. Most times a short break can be at the medium walk with contact. This keeps the horse focused but with a break and the ability to ride the walk. Longer breaks should be given on a long rein with attention to quality when bringing the horse back up into the collected walk.
- Temperament is 50% of the horse you’re riding. Good gaits are important but so is the temperament. In Piaffe work the horse should be able to go forward or stay on the spot. If they stay on the spot alone it is not good and will be difficult to make the passage transition.
- The passage is important to keep regularity. If the horse learns to step shorter or longer with a hind leg this can become a habit and difficult to fix.
- Keeping the horses healthy, happy, athletes is the top priority.
Rider and Horse Combinations:
- Jannike Gray and Frau Schufro (2010 M by Don Schfro, 4th)
- Alexandra Krossen and Damani (2005 G by Duvall, I1)
- Jannika Gray and Ravanti C (2009 M by Rubenstein, PSG)
- Molly Maloney and San Tome (2012 by Sir Donnerhall, 2nd
- Amina Bursese and Fiti AL (2004 S by Jondo, GP)
- Felicitas von Neumann-Cosel and LC Galanton (2007 by S Antonilla, 4th)
- Alice Tarjan and Harvest (2012 S by Connoisseur, 6-Year-Olds)
- David Collins and Bojing (2010 G by Benetton, I1)