Emphasizing Activity and Collection in the 2017 Adequan/USDF FEI-Level Trainers Conference

© Annan Hepner: Dana Fiore and Cartier  Dana Fiore and Cartier 

Loxahatchee, Fla. – Jan. 16, 2017 – The first day of the Adequan/USDF FEI-Level Trainers Conference at High Meadow Farm in Loxahatchee, Florida, brought in an enthusiastic crowd of auditors. Clinicians Lilo Fore and Hans-Christian Matthiesen imparted a wide variety of knowledge to the participating riders and auditors, focusing particularly on increasing activity and collection in all gaits. Fore is a retired FEI 5* and Para 3* judge, a USEF ‘S’ and DSHB ‘R’ judge and founder of the USDF Instructor/ Trainer Program. Matthiesen is a FEI 5* judge, member of the FEI Dressage Committee and veterinarian.

The first rider of the day, Nora Batchelder of Williston, Florida, rode her 7-year-old Hanoverian mare Fifi MLW. Fore and Matthiesen began by recognizing the horse’s tendency to carry herself, and noted how difficult teaching a horse to do so can be.

“You can see how the horse sits and waits — she is riding through the turns,” Fore said. She mentioned that when a horse is learning how to go from a pushing mode to a self-carriage mode, it requires some strength development. Fore also also emphasized the importance of maintaining forwardness in everything the rider does.

“Never think of a downward transition as a backward transition,” she explained. “The downward transition should be thought more as sitting down.”

© Annan Hepner: Alexandra du Celliee Muller and RumbaAlexandra du Celliee Muller and Rumba

Fore and Matthiesen explained the value of uphill movement along with forward movement, noting that the withers should be raised and the horse should come into the contact willingly while the hind legs become more active.

A main theme for the day’s lessons was refining collection and adjustability while increasing activation of the horse’s body.

“Collecting is not slowing down, collection is activating what you already have,” Fore said. She explained that being able to collect will translate in increased adjustability. Even as you collect, you must keep the hind legs, which are the horse’s engine, active and revving.

Adjustability remained at the forefront of discussion as Matthiesen explained that the rider should be able to change the bend at all times, as well as collect. Working with Elizabeth Caron of Lebanon, Connecticut, and 12-year-old Hanoverian stallion Schroeder, both Fore and Matthiesen discussed how to improve technical correctness in the passage.

“Passage is not about slowing down, passage is about engaging,” Fore said. “Stay active, but don’t get bigger.” She explained that judges like to see a more collected, technical passage, not one solely based on expression and lacking in straightness.

© Annan Hepner: Elizabeth Caron and Schroeder Elizabeth Caron and Schroeder

In order to bring the horse’s hind legs closer together and more engaged, Fore and Matthiesen recommended using controlled, lateral exercises. “With the smaller strides you teach them to articulate more through the joints,” Fore said.

Karen Pavicic from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, and her 7-year-old Oldenburg mare Beaujolais worked on using tempo changes in the canter to enhance collection. Fore reminded her not to allow the horse to slow down in the collection, but to keep the activity and not hold the collection too long.

“It’s so important for a horse to become confident in the collection,” Matthiesen said. Both instructors advised that even in the highest level of collection the impulsion must remain — it is not a ceasing of energy.

As an exercise to help young horses learn pirouettes, Pavicic was instructed to establish a high quality canter down a long-side, then make a 5-meter turn in the corner to go down the quarterline. The exercise can be performed first in the walk, then the canter and encourages the rider to maintain collection with the leg.

© Emma Miller : Auditor asks a question to the clinicians Auditor asks a question to the clinicians 

Fore and Matthiesen also touched on the essential nature of straightness as a fundamental training principle.

“The rider has to be aware of the horse’s alignment. Less is more,” Fore said. “A supple horse is a straight horse and a straight horse is a supple horse.”

While performing shoulder-in exercises, Alexandra du Celliee Muller of Little Rock, Arkansas, and her 9-year-old Oldenburg gelding Rumba worked on maintaining straightness with the use of the outside aids, and thinking about bending the horse’s entire body, not just his neck. Fore explained that the shoulder-in is both a suppling and collecting exercise, and helps increase the horse’s engagement.

Both instructors stressed the importance of the horse’s mental health and attitude in training throughout the rides. Matthiesen said, especially as a veterinarian, he likes to see the horses happy about what they are doing.

“It has to be fun for the horse, otherwise they won’t keep up the positive attitude,” Matthiesen concluded.

The second day of the Adequan/USDF FEI-Level Trainers Conference will take place Jan. 17 at 9 a.m.

© Annan Hepner: Lilo Fore and Hans-Christian MatthiesenLilo Fore and Hans-Christian Matthiesen
© Annan Hepner: Alexandra du Celliee Muller and Rumba
Alexandra du Celliee Muller and Rumba
© Annan Hepner: Lilo Fore
Lilo Fore
© Emma Miller : Karen Pavicic and Beaujolais
Karen Pavicic and Beaujolais
© Annan Hepner: Nora Batchelder and Fifi MLW
Nora Batchelder and Fifi MLW

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