Do Not Interrupt the Swing: 12 Tips on Developing a Grand Prix Horse with Isabell Werth

Omaha, Neb. – March 31, 2017 – Two-time FEI World Cup™ champion Isabell Werth, the most decorated dressage rider in Olympic history with a total of 10 medals, taught a mini-clinic on Friday at the FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha. Spectators were given an inside look on how Werth develops a young horse to be a successful international Grand Prix competitor.

Endel Ots and Lucky Strike
Endel Ots and Lucky Strike

Werth taught Karen Pavicic on the 5-year-old stallion Totem, Endel Ots rode Lucky Strike, a 7-year-old gelding, and Sabine Schut-Kerry rode Hellohalli, an 8-year-old.

“What do we look for when we choose a horse for dressage with the goal to build a young horse up to Grand Prix?” Werth asked. “First, I look for three very good gaits: walk, trot, canter. Then do they have a very high rideability with a good mind? A love to move and go forward with a lot of elasticity? These points together make the difference from a good horse to a top horse.”

Check out twelve tips from her clinic at the FEI World Cup Dressage Finals:

1. The most important thing in the education of the horse is improving the flexion and bend. The goal is to make the horse more flexible, supple and elastic. The horse will be safer in the connection once you work for more bend and flexion of the sides — lateral sideways movements will help encourage the horse to come into the bit.

2. It’s important from the beginning to bring him from behind, while trying to make him lower behind. Find a good contact from behind and then you can start to do half halts. He needs to become more steady from behind with a really nice, clear swing.

3. Let the swing come out of the horse: Don’t interrupt the swing or rhythm. Encourage the horse to swing from behind. It’s very important for a young horse to find the rhythm on both sides.

Karen Pavicic and Totem
Karen Pavicic and Totem

4. Be careful with the inside rein, it’s a discussion. As soon as you use too much inside rein, you block the horse. Don’t shorten him with your inside rein.

5. Look for the contact: The horse needs to trust and look for the reins in order to begin proper work. Try to let him chew. He should look for the reins, so don’t throw away the reins.

6. Sit straight and still to encourage the horse to come through. When you sit on the horse, try not to lose his natural jog or interrupt the fluidity.

7. When beginning to work on the flying changes, try to get a little more connection and contact between the changes so she goes a little more ‘through’ the change evenly in both reins. Only a good canter will bring a good change.

8. To keep him in front of you, keep the shoulder in front of you.

9. Try to make the hind end more active with more jump. Ask for little, quick steps.

Sabine Schut-Kerry and Hellohalli
Sabine Schut-Kerry and Hellohalli

10. When you start with the half pass, start with more cadence control, and flexion. Once you have achieved that then you can ask for more forward more fluidity and swing within the gait.

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