Hubertus Schmidt Clinic


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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!

Jannike’s Notes:

  1. Warm up is everything, a 5-year-old or a Grand Prix horse should be warmed up the same.
  2. 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!
  3. Trot, canter, trot transitions with the goal of keeping the frame stretching to the hand. The gait shouldn’t change before the transition.
  4. 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.
  5. Once the warm-up is complete, begin in the easier gait.
  6. 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.
  7. Most horses are more supple right, so we must be aware not to overbend right, especially in lateral work.
  8. The rein is a direct line to that hind leg. If we hold too much left, we stop the left hind.
  9. 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.
  10. We must think about why we do each exercise, one must build to the next.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. A well collected canter has jump, ground coverage but is not running.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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)

The Elusive Pursuit of Straightness

In the classical riding schools, riders begin their education on the lunge line astride well-trained school masters to develop correct and effective positions.  In the U.S. however, this is rarely the case.  Most riders are trying their very best to make progress with challenging horses, limited financial resources,  limited time and limited access to instructors with school masters. This can feel endlessly frustrating.  I have prepared four articles to help and encourage you. Continue reading

Tristan Tucker Clinic

Tristan Tucker, Indoor Brabant, March 2014

Tristan Tucker, Indoor Brabant, March 2014

I have been using elements of John Lyons style groundwork for years, but have had difficulty transferring that work to the saddle in a way that is compatible with the dressage training scale.  Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend a clinic with Grand Prix dressage trainer, Tristan Tucker, based in the Netherlands.  His “conditioned response system” was developed out of an eclectic background as a games, eventing and jump rider and working alongside his mom in a racing barn before relocating to Europe.  His program progressively raises a horse’s tolerance for pressure, improves their proprioception, enhances suppleness and improves their fore and hind limb range of motion.  Tristan worked with each horse/rider combination 1 hour per day which began with mobility work then transitioned to de-spooking exercises where standing still was the correct response and finished with fore and hind limb range of motion exercises.  I found his communication style to be especially effective and was impressed how much he accomplished in a short time frame. Continue reading

Aqua Pacer Conditioning

Aqua Pacer at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center

Aqua Pacer at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center

This week I am sharing an article I wrote and published in 2010, discussing Aqua Pacer conditioning.  Enjoy!

Emily Covington and I teamed up with Bruce Jackson at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center (F.H.E.T.C.) in Fair Hill, Maryland, to explore the benefits of an underwater treadmill or Aqua Pacer, as part of our fitness regimen. Our training program had always put a strong emphasis on fitness. Our horses lived primarily outdoors rather than being stalled, and we utilized cross-country hacking, free lunging, free jumping, cavalletti exercises and hill climbing to enhance soft and hard tissue strength and cardiovascular health. The Aqua Pacer however, offers several intriguing benefits. Horses working in the above ground, underwater treadmill, use the same muscles, ligaments and tendons as land based exercise but concussive stress is greatly lowered. This high resistance, low impact workout, reduces weight bearing by 40-60%. In clinical settings, Aqua Pacer therapy has been shown to increase strength, fitness and cardiovascular endurance as well as improve range of motion and flexibility. The height of the water and the speed of the treadmill are fully adjustable to achieve specific outcomes. Continue reading

How Hiking Helps My Riding

Bryce Canyon, UT

Bryce Canyon, UT

I became a true lover of mountain hiking in 2010. Since then I have hiked through the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the state parks of Utah, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the Black Mountains in North Carolina and along the Appalachian Trail in New York and Pennsylvania. There is something so transforming about being in very high places and gazing out on God’s untouched creation. Continue reading