January 18, 2009 -- Hubertus Schmidt is helping several top riders in Florida. Oded Shimoni rides Kathy von Ertfelda's 10-year-old Lusitano stallion. Hubertus wants to see that the horse can keep the same trot and canter rhythm on a bent line as well as a straight line. Improving the gaits is the goal. He wants to see that the horse is willing to stretch forward-downward in any situation. Later, it will be important in piaffe, passage and pirouette, he says. "Any horse that I can't stretch down is not honestly through," he says.
He takes many short breaks on long reins with this horse as well as the others. This horse shows excellent aptitude for high collection, but Hubertus wants him to move forward in piaffe so he can keep an active rhythm.
Betsy Steiner demonstrates near perfect mechanics as a rider on a 9-year-old Rheinlander gelding. The balance and harmony of this pair are beautiful to see. The horse is light in the hand but steady. They have an active, swinging balance. They make no compromises. The poll is the highest point, and the canter keeps a steady jumping rhythm throughout pirouettes. Hubertus talks a bit about warming up, which he says is for the interior of the horse. "With a hot horse, you want to slow him down, and a sleepy or lazy horse needs to be made quicker." He comments that the double bridle is used to keep the horse sensitive, not to keep him through.
Hubertus rides a horse normally ridden by Todd Flettrich-Danseur.I think Hubertus used to train the horse in Germany. It's a little hard to hear in this venue because the round tables encourage people to talk. The champagne compels people to talk, and then it is sometimes hard to hear the speakers. But now everyone is captivated. Hubertus is grumbling about not being able to see himself because there are no mirrors. Todd stands at A, and he gives him some helpful comments I think. (Can you imagine helping Hubertus Schmidt?) Like most top riders, Hubertus is not used to riding without feedback. I know his wife, Doris, is often a help to him from the ground.
Hubertus explains his procedure for making the horse even in the reins when he is "empty on the right" or too light in the right rein. He asks for a little extra bend to the left. He comments that it didn't work. "He only shortens his neck instead of moving more, he says. Then he adds, "I bend him as long as I need to make him soft in the left and more on the right rein." Horse and rider look phenomenal.
During the break, Hubertus draws a name for the raffle. Gene Frieze of County Saddlery has donated a saddle, and the lucky winner is Jennifer Aurelio.
Next comes the demonstration by Bo Jenå, who is chef d'equipe of the Swedish dressage team. He has been at the Swedish stud and training center, Flyinge, since 1973. His forte is long lining, and he gives us an incredible demonstration through cavalletti poles...then on to leg yield, shoulder-in, half pass, canter pirouettes and flying changes. Bo has done this at my farm during clinics and it's amazing how wonderful the horses feel afterward. And I can say for sure that he is equally talented as a dressage trainer under saddle to the highest level. His method is quiet and logical. He gives confidence to both horses and riders. Bo is also an FEI "I" judge.
Next, Steffen Peters rides Utah, an 8-year-old Dutch gelding by Jazz owned by Deborah Ferrolito. I hope I am correct on all of the details. It is honestly hard to hear as everyone is chatting much of the time. Andreas Stano announces that Steffen has recently won both the Bill Steinkraus Award and the USEF Equestrian of the Year Award.
Both Hubertus and Steffen now have microphones so we can hear how they think. Finally everyone is quiet because no one wants to miss a thing. They work on canter-walk-canter transitions, and they note that it is important that the horse stays collected throughout. Many horses are inclined to quit behind in the transitions instead of staying active. Although this is a high level horse, they note that this movement is one of the most important at Second Level--that the horse be able to do these canter-walk-canter transitions smoothly and with collection on a straight line. As a result the horse will be sufficiently through for the flying changes.
When Steffen and Utah start the pirouettes, they say that all options should be available to the rider. He should be able to make the pirouettes larger or smaller, faster or slower. The rider should also be able to ask for more shoulders or more haunches. This horse and rider are like poetry. What a wonderful way to end the evening. It is late... almost 11 p.m. This extravaganza was a tremendous success, and I think there are a lot of inspired riders in the audience.
Goodbye for now!
Beth Baumert is the technical editor of Dressage Today.