Saturday night at EQUITANA was set to be one of the highlight features of the event and the crowd began to roll into the amazing Nutririce Pavilion well ahead of the scheduled start time. The evening program was an interesting balance of equestrian entertainment and competition of the highest level that was part of the newly introduced Australian Open Series. The CDI-W was to be the final Australian qualifier before the Pacific League World Cup Final which will be held as part of the Saddleworld Dressage Festival in Melbourne from the 9-12 December.
EQUITANA gave the Dressage competition a truly “international” feel with a huge audience and the atmosphere under the Nutririce big top matching that found in the top stadiums around the world where thousands gather to enjoy the horses dancing.
he evening opened with a mesmerizing demonstration of the Spanish art of Garrocha performed by the most capable of Spaniards, Jose Mendez who rode his coal black imported Spanish stallion. The Garrocha is a wooden pole with a metal point at one end and approximately twelve foot long (3 meters), the diameter of the specially crafted pole widens to the size of a hand grasp at the top end. In the Spanish tradition, the Garrocha was used in two ways – as a tool for working the bulls and more in modern times this demanding craft forms part of artistic displays which are only attempted by the most capable of horsemen. Jose was wonderful and the rousing applause confirmed our respect for his skill and showmanship.
Jose wowed the 4,500 equestrian fans and the lighting and mood got the evening started in fine style. Gitte Donvig rode movements from the Grand Prix test and MC Roger Fitzhardinge talked the crowd through the complexities and explained what the judges would be looking for. Gitte’s horse Port Said was in wonderful form and seemed to put the ‘spookiness’ of the first day behind him so Gitte was all smiles and enjoyed her ride.
The competition got started and the 7 riders gave us a wonderful evening. The eventual winner was Mary Hanna’s imported gelding Umbro. Mary always rides to music which is well suited to her horse and she was delighted with the way the young GP rookie, Umbro handled the atmosphere.
Mary also took out second place on the exciting Sancette who was in Steffen Peter’s barn in the USA for most of this year and arrived in Australia to have his first GP start at Boneo Park in October. Sancette is light and ground covering and shows great potential as an Australian team prospect for 2012.
Maree Tomkinson and her much beloved Rodrigo lll worked very well to finish in 3rd place. I love Maree’s music which is a beautifully mixed selection of “Sting” favorites. The style suits Ringo and is very easy listening.
Chantal Wiggen and her imported gelding Ferero have quite recently returned to Australia following an extended training sabbatical in Germany where she has really got to know her horse well. Chantal appreciated the ride in this atmosphere and Ferero is a real “piaffe machine”. His freestyle ride was a little disappointing as he won the Grand Prix event on Thursday. Chantal is sure to have London in her sights and they are certainly right up there on the selector’s lists.
Caroline Wagner and WS Nevada put in a great performance. Nev, is a very reliable horse and took the atmosphere and aloneness of the big top in his stride. Caro beamed at the completion of her test and agreed that is was a great event and fun to be part of EQUITANA.
New Zealand combination Gosh and Shiwan Greene have been in Australia attending a number of the top competitions hoping to gain experience and make the improvements necessary to represent the “Kiwis” at the London Olympics. Gosh is Shiwan’s first GP horse and she acknowledges that they are learning together. She is enjoying the journey and Gosh is a very elastic and scopey horse. She received a great acknowledgement from the crowd – many of whom know just what it is like to train a horse right through all of the grades.
Finally was Nadia Coghlan who did her early riding from her parents property in the Macedon Ranges but I now based in Sydney. Northern Campion and Nadia spent 4 years in Germany training with Kristy Oatley and Karen Rehbein. Nadia put together a great test but the atmosphere gave Campion a few worrying moment which he showed with tenseness and this brings the marks down.
Most Australian competitors agree that we need more competitions which can attract a large audience as this is the part of training that is difficult to practice. Every horse and rider would have benefited from being part of the EQUITANA Australian Open CDI-W Dressage competition.
At the halfway mark of the competition there was an arena maintenance break but before the John Deere worked its magic we saw a very polished and enjoyable demonstration from 4 members of the Victorian Young Rider Squad – Ben Terry, Emmalee Western, Nicole Touzel and Faye Hinchcliffe who are to be commended for their fantastic performance. This quadrille has only been working together for the past 4 weeks and their polish and poise confirm a very good level of basic training of their horses together with correct riding and presentation of the FEI movements. They were fantastic and will be in strong demand in the future.
Then the lights were dimmed and Jose Mendez again took centre stage – this time he and his beautiful black stallion were joined by three ballerinas and the contrast of there white against the black of night and Jose’s stallion was imposing and dramatic. The music, lighting and character of Jose’s Equestrian Ballet was equal to the best and a very popular part of the EQUIITANA Dressage Spectacular.
At the completion of the Grand Prix Freestyle competition we were expecting to see Steffen Peters to ride Shiraz Black. However, the kind and considerate Steffen felt that the 7 YO had done all that could be expected of him in Thursday night’s All Star Spectacular and again earlier on Saturday at his Dressage Clinic.
Steffen took the reins of his old friend Sancette and gave us a glimpse of what this stunning young Grand Prix horse will do when he settles to into a really easy relationship with his new owner, Mary Hanna. Steffen said that it takes a little time for horses to get to trust the rider and he was delighted to be in the saddle “I still love him”, he commented at the completion of his demonstration.
The Grand Prix competitors came into the arena for the prize giving ceremony with Mary riding the winner Umbro and Steffen remaining aboard Sancette who finished in second place.
The EQUITANA Dressage Spectacular was just that and we enjoyed the many facets that came together to provide a truly memorable evening which showcased the special talents of our top riders and the unique skill and showmanship of Steffen Peters who won an individual Bronze medal with the stallion Ravel at the 2010 Kentucky World Equestrian Games.
Stop Press – EQUITANA have just announced that there will be a Sydney event in November 2011 – so watch this space for more.
See Slide show of the EQUITANA Dressage Spectacular
French riding master Philippe Karl was a hit at Equitana with standing room only at all his sessions. Some sections of the Australian dressage community are obviously keen to embrace his classical methods to discover for themselves a lighter, more refined way to train their horses, than that which is widely on offer these days.
This is his second trip to Australia and his School of Légèreté (lightness) is blossoming under the care of Perth entrepreneur Pip Easton.
With his perfect English and French charm, Monsieur Karl clearly explained the classical method of training the proper contact which he said is fundamental to training, and demonstrated with pupil Leanne Williams and Avoca Eclipse. The demonstration on Sunday 21st November took place in the John Deere pavilion.
During the short session time it was only possible to gain a small insight into the very first stages of his training method, but it is so obviously different to the current popular method. His method of training is to first use exercises from the ground so the horse understands better when the rider is in the saddle.
For training or correcting the contact the hands are raised and parallel so that the bit only acts on the corners of the mouth and does not crush the tongue. When the horse accepts this contact then the reins can be given forward without losing the contact, so that the neck is long and low with an open gullet and the nose in front of the vertical, therefore acting as a balancing pole. He warned against having the horse’s neck too low which would put extra weight on the forehand. Eclipse’s poll was slightly below the wither when she was accepting the contact nicely.
Corrections are made by raising both hands or only the inside rein so that there is no pulling back on the reins. In particular he stressed not to ask for flexion at the poll at this stage. He was adamant that pulling left and right with the reins had no place. Monsieur Karl’s method sets up a dialogue between the rider’s hand and the horse’s mouth so that there is communication and understanding, not domination by the hand. He only allows the use of a gently fitted cavesson noseband.
This method is in stark contrast to the ultra deep and round and pulling back with the reins which is now so common in the warm up and competition arena, both in dressage and showjumping. For all those riders who have often experienced the feeling that there must be a better way, this is their answer!
Monsieur Karl emphasised the importance of resting the horse regularly during every training session, especially to rest the mind. At this time the horse is allowed to have a rein with no contact and will eventually learn to stand still anywhere, for example at the end of a dressage test, even when the crowd is applauding loudly. This is after all supposed to be one of the goals of correct training.( Only one horse stood at the end of their test in the Grand Prix Freestyle on the Saturday night. )
The Mendez brothers, Manolo and Jose were keen spectators at the last session of the exhibition.
Philippe Karl joined the Cadre Noir in 1985 as an ecuyer where he performed in every gala performance in France and Europe for thirteen years. In 1998 he left to dedicate himself to his international teaching courses which since 2004 includes training teachers. His School of Legerete which is becoming widely popular world wide is now becoming established in Australia. The concept behind his philosophy is presented in detail in his marvellous book and video “Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage” – a search for a classical alternative.
Vive le difference !!!
Article by Victoria Ferguson (Victoria FERGUSON at her EQUITANA book launch)
Pictures by Melissa Alexander
Pictures included are from the Saturday 20th November demonstration in the Barastoc Arena
Nadine O’Sullivan-Clarke and RP Mozzimo plus Phillipe Kar with a stdent's horse.
When planning the trip into the Melbourne Showgrounds EQUITANA Precinct, I took into consideration the concentration of people who were expected to attend Steffen’s Dressage Clinic. I was pleased to have thought of this as both Ascot Vale Road and Lang Street could have been described as a “car park” and the final few hundred meters took nearly as long as the first part of the trip. However, when inside the Nutririce “big top” the traffic stress melted away to the honest and down to earth teaching style of the Kentucky bronze medal winning dressage supremo, Steffen Peters who rode for the USA. Left - Steffen Peters presents magic as he rides Shiraz Black.
The session started with a highly accomplished demonstration by four members of the Victorian Young Rider Squad who rode a quadrille at PSG level. I was impressed to see our talented youngsters engaging and entertaining this knowledgeable crowd. The four were Emily Weston, Faye Hinchcliffe, Ben Terry and Nicole Touzel, and as they have only been working together for a month, they worked miracles with the demanding choreography and technical elements. After the final halt, the riders looked at each other and we saw 4 big beaming smiles – they knew they had done well and obviously enjoyed the EQUITANA atmosphere and enthusiastic applause.
Having been lucky enough to hear Steffen speak at a couple of international press conferences, I was prepared for the pleasant and sincere approach that has made Steffen one of the most popular riders on the International circuit. Steffen opened his Melbourne session by saying that when he first arrived at the EQUITANA venue, he was very pleased to see a sign … he let us imagine what it said, and ended the suspense by saying, “The sign said, Cruelty to Horses will not be Tolerated.” Steffen congratulated EQUITANA and Australians for making the welfare of horses a priority.
Steffen Peters is indeed a unique individual; he is amazingly gifted, amazingly observant and amazingly empathetic with a refreshingly honest delivery of his lessons which paved the way for improvement in all of the horses and riders who were lucky enough to be part of his EQUITANA 2010 Masterclass.
Steffen explained that the sport has changed and he is pleased that judges are now looking to see harmony between horse and rider and believes that this element goes back to the “less is more” concept that can only be achieved by teaching the horse to respond to the lightest aids, it sounds simple enough, but we all know that sometimes it just does not seem to work. Steffen said, “Use the calf once or twice and click with the tongue to let the horse know what you want and then let him respond!”
We saw the master in action and he made “less is more” look easy and every horse that Steffen rode quickly adapted to this harmonious style and worked with ease, from soft imperceptible aids.
The first group of three horses were 6 year olds, first to go was Maree Tomkinson on the beautifully compliant mare Debstar (by Di Maggio, imported and owned by Sarah Lloyd) then Ambassi with the 2009 Aachen Challenge winner Shannon McKimmie (he is by Samba Hit and was imported by Mary Hanna) and Flavio ridden by Nicole Tough (he is by Florestan and owned by Ken Dowsett). The three young horses were wonderful to watch and most people could relate to Steffen’s advice. Each of the riders had approximately 20 minutes dedicated time with Steffen and the difference at the end of the lesson was quite remarkable.
Maree was first to go and Steffen said, “Create awareness” – the horse needs to be aware of the aids. What do we want to achieve with transitions? Ride creatively, be colourful, be more obvious – take and release! Sharpen the horses’ responses to create suppleness. Don’t hesitate to use some counter flexion and then send her forward. Engage her brain, do not have too much contact – create awareness and leave the horse giving the feeling “what would you like me to do next?” Steffen added, “The half halts need to make a difference. Ask, can I improve self carriage and lightness?” Steffen again said that he appreciates that judges are now looking for harmony.
He noted that the horse’s head carriage is up to the rider, not the horse! “We must ask our horses to go in an uphill tendency and if the transitions do not work, we will not have the horse responsive or attentive enough, so we need to go back to the creative riding and half halts. This finished Maree Tomkinson’s session and we all marvelled at the poise and balance of the beautiful Debstar – Steffen said “Great job, great future, love it!”
Steffen asked the other two riders if they had had a chance to listen a little bit and the answer was “Yes.”
Maree Tomkinson on the imported mare Debstar
Ambassi was next to go and Steffen said the horse has a nice connection and nice into the bridle. He encouraged Shannon to feel when her horse needs to stretch and said; it should not be just on a loose rein as this leads to disrespectful and inattentive behaviour.
Ambassi became unsettled and tried to duck out of the arena, his attempts became more determined and Steffen beckoned the session announcer (and experienced horseman/instructor) Roger Fitzhardinge to come over and help. It could have been that Steffen would ask Roger to take a rein or in some way help Shannon to contain her fractious horse. Roger was asked to stand in front of the horse (see picture) and knowing that we were keen to know what the helper would be asked to do. Roger did not receive any instructions so did nothing and Steffen said, “Thankyou Roger that was awesome!” The intrigued audience wondered if we had missed something. It was discovered that the purpose of having Roger stand in front of the horse was to diffuse his opposition and cause the horse to wonder, “What do you want of me?” You must get his attention, said Steffen and this passive distraction worked a treat, Ambassi forgot the resistance and focused on his rider and we saw a change of demeanor and obedience that enables progress.
Shannon McKimmie and Ambassi
Roger Fitzhardinge gives Ambassi
something to think about!
Steffen said to Shannon, “Get a reaction to the driving aid - get his attention, but do not kick - refuse to give repetitive aids. The calf is your driving aid and the spur is the emergency aid. Push him does not kick him and don’t lean back. Wake him up.”
Steffen laughed and said to Shannon “you can’t disagree, with so many people here watching. What we are looking for is the correct response to the leg; he needs to go more forward … give him the aid … train him to respond.”
Steffen gave all riders a lot of little corrections with their position and it was obvious that he believes that good riding and a good position are pre-requisites for a correct response from the horse.
He said, “The horse must not be too dependent on the leg. Don’t be a weight lifter, it must be like dancing. Create awareness, but don’t niggle. Only use the spur when you need to make a difference, do not use repetitive aids, don’t bug the horse - make a difference!!!”
Steffen said, “Every single day that you ride the horse, we must seek to improve and keep the horse thinking. He said, “Shannon, don’t let him get sticky to the aids, wake him up. Don’t make me say it … you are the trainer. Let him be sensitive to the legs, don’t let him rely on the aids. When you use the spur, it must make a difference.” By now Ambassi was working compliantly for Shannon and the session came to an end. Steffen recapped telling Shannon that when her horse was naughty, she should turn him the other way and get him to pay attention and ask what the rider wants! Interestingly, the horse was so calm and accepting that he did not react to the sound of several thousand people clapping. I am sure Shannon learned a great deal from this problem solving session with Steffen Peters.
Next to go was Nicole Tough who came all the way from Queensland. She was riding the amazingly loose and expressive Flavio. Steffen said to Nic, “Now that you have listened to the first 2 riders, he will be perfect??? You now know not to use too much spur, you can use it, but it has to make a difference! The horse must collect from behind into the hand … and remain supple. The horse must have an understanding of suppleness, this is the biggest training misconception and it goes back to the training scale. Energy, suppleness, contact … give him things to learn and refuse to ride every single step with the spur.”
Steffen said “He is now warmed up and ready to work – that is the physical part of being supple, but not the mental part. It does not work for him to just use the inside leg to the outside rein. Do not accept that he sets his head and neck against you, when he gives in the rib cage he will then have to soften.”
“Ride a little leg yielding feel and then you need to truly release and make it clear to him about suppleness … this is the mental ability to soften. Leg yield – prove to yourself that he will soften. Wake him up, you are working too hard, use leg yield to make him give - if you do not ask for suppleness, then we won’t get it. If the horse uses his body against us – this is trouble.”
“Do not let him rest in transitions – he is not in front of the leg. You have to use too much spur to get a reaction … the energy and suppleness is what you need to develop.”
Nicole did some work in a lengthened trot and Steffen said, “Do not let him yank the reins in the extended work!”
Steffen addressed the audience and said, “Nicole needs to raise her standards regarding her horse’s response to the aids, but he is a very good international quality horse.”
Nicole Tough and Flavio
The three young horses left the arena and the next horse in was Furst Friedrich (by Furst Piccolo from a mare by Angelo … of Ahlerich and Amon fame). This beautiful imported gelding was ridden by Jayden Brown from Queensland and they are working at small tour level. The chestnut was very bright and Steffen said, “It is better to have too much energy, but we must achieve this with the leg. Do not drive so hard with the seat, it looks too hard!” Only allow him to be lower in the neck if there is a true necessity – have him nicely uphill – the contact gets tricky if he is too low. He takes advantage of lengthening his frame. Collection does not improve the quality of the paces, only forward will make more expression in the canter. Maintain the self carriage and suppleness, then release the rein. Be productive with the suppling work to improve the quality of the canter and do not let his energy work against you!” Jayden and Furst Friedrich pictured right.
Steffen identified that Jayden used three half halts with no effect and said “Use ONE bigger one to make a difference - this is training, be colourful, teach your horse to express himself. He goes forward but you must now ask him to come back … Yes! Praise him, yes! The frame is improving beautifully.”
Jayden put into practice Steffen’s advice about the half halts and the response was … “THAT was a half halt and we saw the improvement! We want the horse to go respectfully forward, not disrespectfully and we must have adjustability of the tempo.”
“Jayden, you are accepting too much contact (not taking it) and this concept must be logical to the horse. Lots of transitions and then allow him to go. It is up to you to lengthen his neck – it is not up to him! Allow him to go, show the judges that he can carry himself – train self carriage, it is up to you to lower the neck – not him. Get out of the “grey zone” … be BLACK or WHITE … forward, uphill, teach him to listen.”
Steffen recapped, “The horse must wait and listen, if he wants to go too deep he must be taught to listen. The rider must make a difference – don’t let him bury in the hand!”
The lesson progressed and Steffen warned Jayden not to canter for too long. “Maybe 3 to 4 controlled strides, horses must not take advantage of the energy they have. “He needs to come back. Obviously he is relaxing, because he is understanding!”
As with the other riders, Steffen urged Jayden to consider his standards. “What you will accept and what you will tolerate. Do not accept that it looks good, it must also feel good. Work through the resistances and do not create energy with the spur.”
At the end of this very comprehensive session Steffen said to Jayden that First Fredrich is a very talented horse and he is a very talented rider.
The next rider was Victorian rider and trainer Justine Greer, she rode Yarra Valley Rodrigo, a 7 YO gelding by Regardez Moi out of a Flemmingh mare and Justine has enjoyed great success with this horse at DWTS when he appeared as a 4 YO, 5 YO and again as a 6 YO. Justine did a great job in 2010 when she significantly improved her first round score to move up in the placings. The horse is now working at Medium level and Steffen told Justine that he always aims to make it perfect; because he does not want to look bad (he had a giggle and asked if she had checked her homework from their previous days training session. Steffen also asked Justine if she got the chance to listen to the last lesson. Pictured left and below right - Justine Greer on Yarra Valley Rodrigo.
“Do not allow the horse to become too deep as an evasion or resistance.” He corrected her position saying, “Don’t let your arms get too straight. We talk about a long neck but we have to be sure that we can control it. How does he feel???”
Steffen likened the horse’s response to contact as a similar situation to that of a dog on a leash for the first time - it pulls! Teaching the horse is similar to teaching a puppy to “heel”! We must keep our standards high and expect an obedient halt – he must be respectful. If the horse moves off – this is not good. We cannot fix this in one day, but do not accept lack of obedience.”
Steffen was not 100% happy with Rodrigo’s frame and asked, “Why downhill, why so low in the neck. If he takes a nose dive, tell him we will not accept this. If we do not ask for suppleness, he won’t give it! Very few horses offer suppleness; we have to ask for it. Do not accept a heavy contact – if this happens, you need to tap the hind legs to get more lightness, straightness and energy – test movement and do not just hope that it works out.”
Steffen went on to explain that we can test the movement and suppleness with the half pass. Justine progressed into this movement and Steffen felt that the haunches led because she had too much outside leg and not enough bend. “You need to train your horse, do not let him be too dependent on the leg. You had to work too hard, he drops behind the leg and this was not honest and reliable … don’t kick, push!” was Steffen’s advice and he felt that the improvement took the half pass from a 6 to an 8.
“He has to respect the aids and maintain suppleness, do not just ride circle after circle, keep riding lightness and suppleness … train your horse. Do not use the spur in time with the canter. Get a reaction … Get a reaction! Close the leg and then hold the energy. If we kick then we will make him quicker. Ask for more forward and then check the self carriage. Collection is dependent on energy, but he will only have enough energy if you increase the self carriage and lightness – you have so many tools. Don’t let him get too open. Steffen praised Justine saying, “Great half halt, very effective. Don’t allow the trot to become too “passagy”– better to have too much reaction than not enough. Remember, every movement is a test of half halts, energy and suppleness.” That finished off Justine’s lesson and gave her lots to work on with Yarra Valley Rodrigo.
Next out was another Queenslander – Jenny Gehrke riding the gorgeous mare Gitane. They took part in the PSG competition and placed second in this event. Gitane is by the Dutch bred stallion Gullet (imp/exp) and is owned by Joanne Cotton. Gitane was the Prix St Georges Horse of the Year in her home state. Steffen observed that when Jenny rode a half halt, the mare was inclined to anticipate piaffe and start jiggling. “Ride on; she needs to go more to the bridle and more forward. Horses need to be adjustable in the halt, allow changes in self carriage and not give piaffe steps.” Steffen asked Jenny to do some shoulder in. He commented that in this movement, the horse did hot release on the inside rein. “She must not take a nose dive, take the reins when she dives – tap behind to get a more uphill and consistent frame.”
Steffen gestured to Jenny that he would like to sit on Gitane – of course we were all very keen to see the master at work. He said, “Ride the horse over the back, horses that carry their head too high, get an under neck. Once in a while she tricks us with too much contact. She must respect the aids and not become a bull dozer; she must be a dressage horse. We must observe the whole idea of lightness with engagement – test the movement.”
Steffen said that he had way too much contact and said, you need to address this and say to the horse, “Look sister … that is too much contact!” The rider must analyse the contact each and every day. Right Steffen Peters on Jenny Gehrke's mare Gitane
Steffen said that Gitane was now coming back much easier. “This is what I am looking for … good girl!” This is lighter … remind our horse, do not support them leaning.
Too many riders are just riders and not trainers. “Now she is carrying herself!”
Jenny got back on Gitane and after a few circles Steffen said, “try piaffe, do not use too much spur, give the aid and allow her to respond, but you need to make sure she responds, get her attention with a half halt. Now it is honest and true – it puts a smile on the rider’s face.”
As Jenny progressed to work on the extended trot, Steffen said, “Talk to her, you know that she is going to get on to the forehand so ask her to keep her frame!” This well timed advice produced the most gorgeous extended trot and it was smiles all round.
Steffen Peters on Jenny Gehrke's mare Gitane
“Don’t accept her becoming a freight train and ask yourself, can I feel the true result of a half halt? What am I trying to achieve. Let her stretch respectfully forward, never let her take advantage and take her head too forward.”
Steffen concluded by saying, “lovely horse, she gave me a nice feeling, love her!”
Next in to work in front of the huge crowd was the winner of the PSG class on Thursday, the Victorian combination who have worked consistently up the grades following dazzling results in young horse classes including international placings. Diamantina was ridden beautifully by Maree Tomkinson. Steffen observed that when the mare gets uptight, the neck gets a little high and added, “I saw you give a half halt – do not lean too far back, it is OK to make your point. If she braces a little up, it is OK to ride her a little lower – not too much, just let her do it on her own, it must look effortless and harmonious, adjustability is good . Your horse has so much quality, match it with self carriage, if the half halt gets stuck and she gets tight, lengthen the neck in a controlling way.” Pictured right Maree Tomkinson and Diamantina.
As Maree progressed in the work, Steffen said, “Think about quickness of the hind legs
when we come into piaffe. Prepare for stiffening in piaffe, prepare for this and do not allow her to be rigid. Create engagement with suppleness. I would say “Look sister, stay with me!”
Then to the canter and Steffen comments, “Beautiful canter, other horses often come too low but she comes a little high – we will fix this!”
It is super important for her to be more in self carriage and not dependent on the rider, you must be able to say, “Now my horse is energetic enough!” Steffen said to Maree, “OK, this is the picture we are looking for.” They prepare to try the pirouettes and Steffen warns, “Don’t use the turn to increase the collection, use the straight line to develop the jump and energy. If she is not jumping enough, wake her up. Judges want it to look easy. Be creative – make her sensitive to the leg, NOW we are training her!”
Diamantina performed a canter pirouette and Steffen said, “Wonderful engagement but she lost the activity. The second you lose energy, sent her on. She needs too much support with the outside leg. Bring her back to a walk pirouette – you are working too hard, do not support - remind her to listen to the outside leg. All horses are better on one side more than the other.”
Maree Tomkinson and Diamantina
“When it comes to the flexion left, you TELL her and do not be prepared to negotiate. Look for 30 to 40 degrees of flexion - for 8 strides, not 3. When you use the spur, you must get a reaction – 2 strides forward. YES! Let her offer, do not override – allow!” Steffen urged.
“When we see a good Grand Prix test, it is not that a rider has had to do a great job on that day – they have done a good job with the training!” Steffen added that Diamantina has plenty of talent to be an International horse and said to Maree, “I have no doubt that you can do it too!”
Steffen’s final pupil was the recent Australian import Sancette - they are old friends! (like Shiraz Black, Sancette is by Sandro Hit). Australian Olympian Mary Hanna purchased the handsome gelding from Steffen earlier this year and then spent some time in the USA training with the Master. Mary loved her time with Steffen and hopes to return to the USA for some follow up. Pictured left is Mary Hanna riding Sancette at EQUITANA.
As Mary and Sancette stepped out, the crowd was respectfully hushed and we saw the lightness and harmony that Steffen said hallmarks the modern sport of dressage.
Sancette has movement to burn but Steffen asked Mary to take time and wait until the horse was balanced and on the aids. “Ah, ah, he not to be an inch too low! With this horse it is better to be a little too high. Do not ride the pirouettes, first test the pirouettes. The canter pirouette must look uncomplicated, suggests Steffen. The canter pirouette to the left is lovely and just as Steffen said it should be, easy and uncomplicated. Then we see a pirouette to the right. Steffen suggested that Mary test that the pirouette was uphill and that the horse could move forward out of it.”
Mary Hanna and Sancette
“When he gets behind your leg, I don’t take a chance. In the tempi changes, test the straightness, talk to him.” “Forward Mary, don’t let the trot get too passagy and in the piaffe, test the movement, do ride it, Good Mary. “Make sure he does not trick you into changing your position. Cadence is in his genes, but don’t let him use his talent against you. I still love him, good job Mary.
Next came the part of the clinic that we were all waiting for. Gitte Donvig entered the arena on Mary and Rob Hanna’s magical 7 YO stallion Shiraz Black (by Sandro Hit) This horse needs very little introduction as he was the 5 YO Champion of Champions at DWTS in 2008 and defended his title in 2009 when he won the 6 YO class and went on to be named the Champion of Champions, impressing the riding judge with his beautiful canter and well established ‘rideability”. Left - Shiraz Black ridden by Steffen Peters
After a short warm up, Gitte came to a halt and held Shiraz while Steffen took the driver’s seat. When they got going, Steffen said that the rider needs to be making sure that we to not allow the trot to become too passage like. “He is nervous, but always think about creating forward energy… watch diving into the bridle and catch this early. Even if he takes the poll lower, I correct. We know in the half pass, he likes to dive so make sure he does it in a lovely uphill tendency.” Steffen advised from the saddle.
This attention to detail produces a really good half pass and the audience acknowledged Steffen with appreciative applause. He said, that was a good half pass, so don’t change a thing!
The demonstration progressed and Steffen said, “You know he can do passage, but make sure it is honest and you could go straight to medium trot. Always check the collection in piaffe and passage, the moment it feels behind the leg, send him forward.”
“Be careful with the contact; give a tap to keep him in front of the leg. He has so much talent for movement but relies on the rider too much. When you lengthen the frame, keep the nose forward, not down. In walk, slow down, ask him to wait.
The demonstration hit a wall when Shiraz became tense and showed his youthful lack of experience. He made a couple of attempts to get back to the stable and it seemed that he knew it was naughty but could not help furthering his resolve to end the demonstration.
Steffen talked us through the sticky moments saying “At times he does some diving – he is a little nervous and when he becomes nervous it is better to drive him a little more up. I absolutely refuse to use spurs to make him come back. When I use my leg, I try not to kick; I use a flat leg for 2 strides.
He can have a little opinion, then I turn him more sideways and go back to canter – he needs to blow off a little steam. I still ask for little things and test to see if I have the horse’s attention - he knows exactly where the exit is. Careful! Steffen showed us that if he loses control of the horse’s shoulder, he will give Shiraz the chance to run off. Steffen brings Shiraz back and starts again. This time with a better connection to the outside aids and then testing that the horse is honest to the leg, he steps into a pirouette. He says, “Now I am not helping the pirouette, just testing and refusing to support him too much. Make sure he is yielding and be quick; it can be dangerous to let him go back. We have to be firm, but with respect. We have to show him that we trust him and then try again to the right.” “He is entitled to his opinion but the second he does not want to go into the corner, I keep turning. Don’t clamp the legs on or take too much rein – just keep turning, it is so important to keep him moving. Just use one leg at a time, it would be so incorrect to use both legs. When he is accepting the aids, we go back into canter.
They come back and Steffen prepares for some piaffe steps saying, “If I have to use an excessive amount of spur, the piaffe is not going to happen!” Shiraz did some beautiful steps and Steffen said with a smile, “I think it happened!”
We must always maintain proper standards as horses can learn to resist at shows. We should test the transitions in and out of piaffe, being careful not to override.
Steffen, always the gentleman, showed the horse his respect and negotiated patiently until it was clear that the resistance had been subdued. Shiraz was tired and overwhelmed so it would have been egotistical and unfeeling to have pressed for more. When Steffen got the break he announced that the horse had done enough and the applause was as rousing as if he had just done 35 one times changes! This audience appreciated the “less is more” lesson from first principles and no one showed this better than Steffen Peters during his ride on Shiraz Black.
Steffen concluded his morning Masterclass and said that he would see us again in the evening (for the Dressage Spectacular) He said with a laugh, “I have done a lot of crazy things in my life, but riding a Grand Prix test on a 7 YO … and not only a GP but a freestyle, is pretty crazy – but that is our goal. Mary has done a good job.
Rod Lockwood from Definitive Events who stage EQITANA made a presentation to Steffen, thankyouing him for coming to Australia and giving us such a wonderful dressage clinic. (Pictured right)
We all l loved Steffen and hope he comes to see us again soon.
The very keen junior rider took his young horse to train with Jo Hinneman, who started his early career with the renowned Dr Reiner Klimke. Hinneman went on to become respected and well-credentialled in his own right, winning
many Grand Prix competitions throughout Germany and Europe.
At Jo Hinneman's stables Steffen met the American trainer Laurie Falvo Doyle (Laurie Falvo Doyle), who invited Steffen to take a trip to the USA and work at her barn in San Diego during the summer of 1984.
Steffen loved the Californian weather and the lifestyle it offered and he went back to Germany to make plans to move to the USA. He returned to San Diego with Udon in 1985.
Steffen settled in to life in the USA and the American dressage community warmly embraced the enthusiastic German. In 1992 Steffen became a US citizen. Steffen loved the American sense of patriotism and a highlight of his career was being part of the Bronze Medal US team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, riding his German partner Udon.
Steffen went on to form a history making relationship with a horse belonging to a student - this "aged" gelding really had something and quickly developed into superstar under the guidance of Mr Peters. At 17 years of age the attractive Westfalian gelding Floriano partnered Steffen to be the alternative horse and rider for the Bronze Medal US Team.
In 2005 Steffen and Floriano visited Germany together and put the leading dressage nation on notice that they were HERE by winning the CDIO Grand Prix competition at the famed Aachen Showgrounds. The following year, and again at Aachen, Steffen and Floriano turned heads at the World Equestrian Games and their performance was noted by the expects as a fine example of sympathetic riding, which preserves the horse physique and spirit - Floriano looked like a horse half his age and Steffen was delighted to be in his homeland under such commendable circumstances.
2007 was another milestone year as Steffen Peters won the US Freestyle Championship, which qualified him to take part at the World Cup in Las Vegas, where he brought home the Silver Medal for his wonderful ride in the Grand Prix. Germany's Isabell Werth on Warum Nicht were the victors on this occasion.
In 2008 Steffen made a glorious, but controversial appearance at the Beijing Olympic Games and threw down a challenge to the dressage hierarchy that he was still "HERE". His performances saw him right up there and challenging the German rider Heike Kemmer for an Individual Bronze Medal. Steffen rode the test of his life - as did Heike, and it would have been difficult to pick the best of these two riders based on their Freestyle performances. In the early stages of Steffen's test the US contingent were sublimly confident - this was a winning ride! However the German judge marked Steffen well down, and as the marks were very close, this discrepancy in the judges' opinions cost him an Olympic Medal. However, Steffen was very pleased with Ravel and seemed to take this situation as a challenge to show the world their true talent.
In April 2009 Steffen and Ravel again appeared at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas and all of the disappointments of Beijing faded into the distance as they came through as the World Cup Champions of Freestyle Dressage.
Steffen has already been to Australia, where he conducted Riders' clinics - his teachings were enthusiastic, articulate and compassionate to both horses and riders and he has been put forward as a perfect coach for Australia one day. We are so lucky to have him as part of 2010 EQUITANA Melbourne and surely Steffen will help to make this a memorable occasion for all dressage enthusiasts.
Steffen Peters will be in Melbourne from the 18th - 21st of November and he will present a specialist dressage clinic on how to train dressage horses from Preliminary to Grand Prix level and he will also participate in the daily Education Program, where he will deliver various dressage training sessions and presentations during the show.
Follow the links below to some YouTube footage of Steffen in the saddle and enjoy the slide show of Steffen on Floriano and Ravel.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQfbfEq-oTU - Steffen Peters on Floriano in 2006
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgYsghdSARc - Steffen Peters on Ravel in the GP at the US Olympic Trials in 2008
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sB5pov3B64 - Steffen Peters und Ravel in Aachen, Germany 2009, Freestyle
For more exciting news about EQUITANA Melbourne go to http://www.equitana.com.au
The judging panel consists of:
Uwe Spenlen (Germany), Alison King (Hong Kong), Helen Hughes-Keen (New Zealand), Mary Seefried (Australia) and Susie Hoevenaars (Australia) will officiate what is hailed to be, the most exciting Dressage competition conducted in Australia. The huge crowd at Equitana allows the sport to be introduced to a wider audience and everyone who steps in to watch our best international representative and the up and coming future Olympians, will marvel at the quality of the horses, talent of the riders and sheer majesty of their indoor performances.
Sicca van Schaardenburg from Equitana said, "The new Royal Melbourne Showgrounds venue has been a real hit with the competitors as it gives them room to warm up and care for their horses without having to worry about confined spaces and limited access to the warmup arenas and other facilities. All of the people involved with the organisation of this event are delighted with the response for the important participants - the horse people and we know that the spectators will love it too!"
The competition is an all important qualifier for the World Cup Dressage final which will be held in Europe next year. The three international visiting judges have all been to Australia before and clearly have a soft sport for us and our riders.
The dressage program is as follows
Lyn Gilbert from The Riders' Shoppe (below right, holding a Sommer Saddle) told me that she was delighted to be part of Equitana and even more pleased to be part of the Dressage competition. She said, "I wanted to support the Intermediate 1 class as my daughter Hayley Gilbert is taking part on her imported mare Odiana K." (by Jazz and pictured right).
Lyn added, "I recognise the importance of the Equitana competition as it will be a huge atmosphere and a very special event for everyone. We know that there will be lots of spectators and I am sure that this gets close to the feel of the bigger International events.
"I am very excited to be able to showcase Australian riders and their wonderful horses to Philipp and Renee Sommer (from Sommer Saddles) who will be here to help us on The Riders' Shoppe stand. Visitors to Equitana will be able to meet part of the family behind the famous saddle making company in Germany.
Renee's family established Sommer Saddles 1965 and today, the manufacturing processes employed in their Germany factory harks back to the traditional craftsmanship that has been handed down through the family's long and respected involvement in manufacture of top quality leather goods. Renee & Philipp will be able to answer your questions & provide information on the beautiful Sommer Saddles at Equitana stand 97. We are looking forward to introducing them to Australian enthusiasts, we are certain that our guests will be impressed with the development of the sport in Australia and just how knowledgeable our riders are."
The Riders' Shoppe Intermediate I entries are:
Many of these combinations recently took place at the Horseland/EFA National Dressage Championships and witnessed a spectacular freestyle event where Heath Ryan rising Regardez Moi was the victor by the smallest of margins -just .100 of a percent, from Rachael Sanna riding the new kid on the block Jaybee Alabaster. Mary Hanna won the Grand Prix event and so the three will meet again and ensure that the competition will be hot and the horses beautiful. If you missed the Nationals, be sure to catch the international dressage event at Equitana.
General Entry Tickets
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