Wellington, FL - January 8, 2016 – Steffen Peters stressed the importance of educating each horse on self carriage and connection during the third day of mounted sessions at the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic, sponsored by Dressage4Kids. He encouraged riders to think about the effects of their aids.
“It is all education and training the horse because the most important part of dressage is how this connection is translated,” Peters said. “If a horse is really nice and softly connected to the bridle, that is the essence of the sport. Any mistake I have made in the show ring has been because I had an inconsistent connection.”
Peters, who made the trip from California to teach Friday and Saturday at the clinic alongside Robert Dover and Charlotte Bredahl Baker, encouraged the riders to be more sophisticated with their aids in order to test the movements and to ride expressively with hidden aids.
“It’s all about your timing and detecting that moment when he is a bit behind you,” Peters said, “Make a difference with your aids, and don’t wait until he gets lazy. Always be a step ahead of him and be testing in your training to get your horse responsive.”
He elaborated that the idea of constantly testing and educating the horse could only be successful if the rider maintains a perfect set of standards and expectations every time they ride.
“Can I allow her to go forward and she not only accepts the bit but respects it? We know she can do the changes, but can you do them with quieter, hidden aids? Can you go at any time at any moment out of the pirouette?” Peters asked. “Test it! Test the simplicity. This is training, so teach her something.”
A few of the riders wanted to work on improving their pirouettes, and Peters stressed the importance of proper preparation for the pirouettes.
“The judges love to see the setup of the pirouette on a straight line,” he explained. “The pirouettes don’t get better by practicing pirouettes; you train by testing the simplicity of the setup. You don’t have the time to analyze a bunch of things before a pirouette. Don’t be lucky; let’s be in charge of the pirouette.”
Molly Paris, 19, from Charlotte, North Carolina, rode with Peters for the first time on her new 13-year-old Danish Warmblood mare Countess, whom she purchased from Canadian competitor Brittany Fraser. Peters motivated Paris to find the frame that she wanted and challenged her to answer the question, “Can we go forward and she stays respectful of the bridle?” If the answer was no, Peters encouraged half halts from the medium trot to the piaffe.
“It makes you feel so good. You come into the ring and think, ‘Great, I’ve been doing all the right things,’” Paris remarked. “Steffen really breaks it down so it’s not just about the movement, but it’s about everything in between, before and after. He makes sure that you have everything to do each movement.”
Looking down the road Paris is hoping to do the U25 Grand Prix with Countess.
“I don’t know if we will be ready by the end of the season because I am still getting to know her, but she knows everything so it’s just a matter of me getting my act together,” Paris said. She is also hoping to continue with Young Riders and try out for the European tours on her Westphalian gelding, Diamant Sky.
Kristin Counterman, 15, from Virginia, rode with Peters on Three Times, a16year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Caroline Stephens. Throughout Counterman’s ride Peters encouraged her to utilize relatively simple aids to maintain a forward feeling in collection.
“I love the amount of detail he focused on in all of the work and how he doesn’t just focus on finishing the movement, but he wants it all to be rideable,” Counterman said. “Steffen stressed that if my work ever feels like it isn’t as good as it could be to go forward and fix it and then come back again and make sure it as good is it can be.”
Peters was pleased by the end of the day after pushing each rider and horse.
“There wasn’t a single lesson where it felt like there was a struggle or we had to work on some major issues,” he said. “All the kids came out sitting very correctly on each horse. The quality of the horses has improved tremendously from years past.
“I enjoyed today a lot,” Peters added. “The main focus of today was increasing the rider’s expectations of not only what to expect from the horse, but what to expect from themselves. Overall it has been exciting to work with a talented group of younger riders. If we don’t start investing in our youth we are lost.”