Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 6, 2022 – The Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic kicked off at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) on Thursday morning with lessons given by top riders and clinicians George Williams, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz, and Jan Ebeling. The afternoon consisted of sessions led by Olympians Sabine Schut-Kery and Guenter Seidel. Talented young riders who were invited to the event would have the opportunity to develop their skills with the designated instructors over the course of three days, with the fourth and final day featuring a test ride in the International Arena at the venue.
In Schut-Kery’s first afternoon session, she was paired with rider Bianca Schmidt. Schmidt and her horse were a new partnership, and Schut-Kery immediately commented on how experienced the horse is. An eager and sensitive horse, Schut-Kery would instruct Schmidt, to ride with more control from the back to front when he got going too quickly in the tempo and have his hind legs be more through and working under his body.
The pair started their warm up with leg yields, and Schut-Kery reminded her to ask her horse to flex through the poll and around her inner leg. “When he goes a little ahead of you, ride exercises where leg is required, but it’s more relaxing and brings him back.”
She asked Schmidt to think of controlling the back to front motion of the horse and hind legs through using more of her own leg — If he dropped his neck a bit, bring him up more with the leg. Swinging a little more forward with the hand would give him confidence, Schut-Kery noted.
Moving into the canter work which led Schmidt’s mount to get a bit uptight in the contact, Schut-Kery told her, “If he gets hot, it doesn’t help if you get passive. You have to mentor him. You have to be there for him and guide him. ”
When working on half passes in the trot, Schut-Kery reminded her not to let her horse over bend in the neck so she would still have access to his poll and ribcage. Whenever she used a hand aid, she was required to keep the movement going forward so he would stay through in his body. “He reacts, but he reacts backwards,” Schut-Kery said. “Don’t fix him with your spur, use your leg. Don’t give everything away in the front, hold him in your ring fingers.”
“Everything you do, you’re working him through those exercises so he understands them better,” Schut-Kery said. “Working on his bend will contribute more to relaxation and keeping him supple. When he gets stiff he gets more uptight. He needs a lot of suppleness and gymnastics.”
At the end of the session, Schut-Kery complimented the pair’s talent, and encouraged Schmidt to continue getting to know him and have him in more of a partnership with his rider.
In the next ring over, Guenter Seidel welcomed his second rider for the afternoon, Trinity Schatzel. Schatzel rode Alice Tarjan’s 6-year-old Oldenburg mare Summersby. Seidel was complimentary of the horse’s fluid, balanced movement and noted how much promise the young talent had. Starting out, Seidel asked Schatzel to work on a 20-meter circle at the trot, working on transitions from medium trot to collected trot to get him on her aids. He asked her to pay attention to keeping the collection coming from behind before having her switch directions to work on suppleness.
As she worked on quarter walk pirouettes, Seidel found her horse had an easier time going to the left than the right, and Schatzel had less trouble with him falling out. “It’s important with a young horse to keep the forward thinking” he said as she tried a few more times and greatly improved her right walk pirouettes. Moving into the canter work, Seidel had Schatzel work through several walk to counter canter transitions, maintaining the same amount of forward riding throughout the arena while keeping his haunches slightly out and shoulder a little in. Flowing from one movement to the next, Summersby.
Seidel next instructed Schatzel in smoothing her canter to walk transitions while riding on a 20-meter circle so they were not so abrupt and looked effortless. Improving their balance before the transition and asking Summersby to use his hind leg more allowed for a more seamless movement. The pair ended their session with some trot to canter work, where Schatzel was told to keep a soft, collected canter before moving down to trot and allowing him to stretch and remain balanced while not getting away from her.
Young professional Leah Tenney was the last to work with Seidel on Thursday riding her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Enghavegaard Tebaldi. Seidel instructed Tenney to warm up as she does at home, flowing around the arena to make sure her horse was comfortable. Seidel noted that her horse had a tendency to get strung out in his body during the warm up, and asked her to start putting him together a little more and using his body. He also adjusted Tenney’s lower leg position slightly to help her stay in alignment and not get behind her horse.
As Tenney started cantering, Seidel asked for more self carriage without making the
canter too forward and big. He emphasized the importance of not letting her horse get long behind the saddle as he said, “the better the neck works, the better the back works, the better the hind end works — even if they are being strong in the front”.
Seidel then had Tenney walk in a circle near him and work on her leg position, moving it further back so it was underneath her. He reminded her that she should feel like she has rideability and her horse should “go out easy and come back easily” within the gaits. When working on her walk to trot transitions, Seidel noted that moving from gait to gait should not feel like a struggle, but should feel light without pulling. He commented that while her horse has a big trot, he isn’t truly through on the outside rein and requires more leg to become truly through his body.
Then, Seidel had them work on 10m canter circles where Tenney was instructed to keep her outside leg on and sit on her inside seatbone. They used these circles to get her horse to carry himself more and be more through the outside rein.
Schut-Kery’s third lesson of the day was with Olivia Martz and her 21-year-old German Riding Pony, Norra. The pair won the Medal Finals Class for 13-and-Under at the 2021 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions, qualifying her for the clinic.
The pair worked on keeping rein aids at the canter and having Martz keep her reins when her pony got long in the connection. Schut-Kery instructed her to not let her pony get faster, but to think about making her shorter behind the saddle in the canter. With the use of serpentines and transitions, Martz was able to make her horse much more supple.
The team worked on more suppleness of both the rider’s position and the pony’s body. Schut-Kery commented that when working on suppleness “there is no formula to figuring out what works, and that’s what makes dressage so difficult.”
To continue this work, they performed 10-meter circles at the walk before asking the pony to canter again. Schut-Kery told her to keep the hind legs underneath her pony and that her pony must be responsive. She advised Martz to be proactive in keeping her round.
At the end of the lesson, Martz’s pony became spooky towards the bleachers and they ended by working on bending her pony’s head away from the crowd while keeping her hindquarters towards the rail. After a few attempts, her pony became more settled and the pair ended on a good note.
The Robert Dover Horsemanship Clinic resumes tomorrow at 9 a.m. where riders will continue to work with their assigned instructor for the week.