January 17, 2009 -- Greetings from Wellington, Fla. While they complain about the cold here, I don't see any frozen water buckets and it feels good to me. It beats Connecticut by a lot. It's Saturday night, January 17 at the Professional Riders' Clinic and Symposium, and the organizers, Wellington Classic Dressage and DressageClinic.com have brought not one but three high-impact, international clinicians: Hubertus Schmidt (GER)--who could be better? Bo Jen (SWE)--the great long liner, and Steffen Peters (USA) who was just announced as the USEF Equestrian of the Year in 2008.
The atmosphere at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center is downright celebratory. It is an evening affair (4-11 p.m.) to accommodate busy professionals. Surrounding the dressage arena at center stage under the brightly lit covered ring are about 40 tables for eight. Bright blue (Swedish blue, perhaps for Bo) table cloths, cloth napkins and elegant centerpieces and soon shoved aside to make room for the barrels of champagne bottles. There are more high-level dressage riders here than I can begin to list, but I'll try: Jane Savoie, Charlotte Bredahl, Brian O'Connor (announcing), Lendon Gray, George Williams, Betsy Steiner, Oded Shimoni, Shannon Dueck and many more.
The staff of DressageClinic.com has promised to arrange interviews for me with people I might want to interview. Upon thinking about it, I decided that I most wanted to meet Andreas Stano, the driving force behind DressageClinic.com. What were his goals for this interesting enterprise, I wondered? That's not to say that I didn't want to talk to Hubertus, but I have a student (Katie Alms) in his barn in Germany for an entire year, so I trust I will get to speak with him. I love Bo Jen, but I often get to speak with him because he does clinics at my farm, and as it turned out, we sat at the same table. Yes, I really wanted to talk with Andreas. This man might be making a big contribution to our sport. This dot.com company is getting hard to ignore. It turns out that Andreas is a dressage rider himself (having previously ridden jumpers) and he simply wants all great trainers to be available to everyone. He's sharing the wealth.
The show begins, and Hubertus teaches. Here are my notes: Jan Brons rides a newly imported 5-year-old Dutch gelding, Zonneglans, by Rubin Royal out of a Sylvio mare. I don't get to see this man ride often, and I'm impressed. He rides this beautiful horse in a relaxed rhythm, like a clock on straight lines. Hubertus now wants him to be able to maintain that wonderful rhythm as he goes on a circle. Yes, it is still like a clock. Hubertus says, "I wish him to be a little more bent to the left without losing this great rhythm." He wants this more pronounced bend to the left to put him more on the right rein. Hubertus asks him to introduce turn on the haunches from an 8-meter volte so Jan already has the advantage of flexion and bending. The walk is clear and deliberate. As he turns, he wants the horse to step under "the heavy point." He means the center of gravity.
Then he wants to introduce the canter-walk-canter transitions. He asks Jan to collect a little on a 20-meter circle in a slight shoulder-fore. In the same way as the horse stepped under the heavy point in the turns, Hubertus wants the horse to take more weight JUST BEFORE his transitions to walk. It is impressive. The horse is always relaxed with his nose on or in front of the vertical. Hubertus says that these transitions are "absolutely great" for a horse of this age.
To be continued...
Beth Baumert is the technical editor of Dressage Today.