I’m going to put in a disclaimer – every one of these riders was amazing, on superb horses. Some of these subtleties I was struggling to see, but the riders could feel it and Steffen was able to see much, but even he kept telling the rider that they can feel better and before he (or anyone) can see from the ground. Also, auditors could not hear much of the rider’s questions, and so unless Steffen repeated it over the sound system, we only heard answers. He often did this, but the primary purpose was teaching the riders, with bonus educational benefits for all the auditors, so sometimes things were answered in the question and answer breaks. Also, every rider came into the ring, warmed up, ready to start work.
The first rider of the day was worried about false collection and wanted more adjustability. This was a 4th level horse.
Steffen said to be analyzing the feel in the back and sensitivity to the leg. It is always about the connection, steady, consistent and light.
To start, she worked on simple transitions, walk halt. Square up the horse, be quicker in corrections. Make sure the horse is stretching to the hand, not against the hand. When her horse went forward, he would lengthen the frame against her hand, she needed to make sure he lengthens on her terms. Address resistance immediately, don’t fall into the trap of thinking “it gets better in 20 minutes”, raise your expectations.
His neck was not too short, it was too low (this must have been a question), the poll position did not change, but it looked behind the vertical because the neck was too low, and as soon as she got him more uphill, it was clear that he was in an open frame. Steffen used his hand to demonstrate this for the auditors. It is not just the collection, but getting the best possible frame, self carriage and gait.
There was some work on half pass(HP) and pirouette(Pir). Most people ride HP and Pir with too much outside leg. Pir – not just the movement, but a tool to test the work. This was a consistent theme, “test to see if you could do “, don’t do it, but start to see if your horse is listening, then move on.
He emphasized that the horse can stay in front of the leg while resting, so walk breaks, practice extended walk.
The next pair came in, and he immediately commented on what nice stifle & hock use in canter the horse had. He again commented on the concept that your horse will not be stronger in 20 minutes, but perhaps has found a better work ethic. Expect the correct response, don’t waste half the ride accepting poor responses under the guise of warming up.
Steffen got on this horse, he got gorgeous results.
I’m just transcribing my notes here:
-not just ride better, expect more from our aids, every day.
-don’t just hope things get better
-warm up the brain, not just the muscles
-don’t let the horse take advantage of deep corners – no bulging the shoulders out, he had this horse rounding the corners as the horse had started to evade straightness with his shoulders by bulging in the deep corners.
-don’t give away connection or quit too soon.
-analyze the straightness before the flying change, circle if the horse is against the bridle.
Next rider came in. A Grand Prix horse.
This time, Steffen called attention to not letting the horse start his rest in the transition, but after. This was another subtlety that made it clear that this was a higher level of precision and excellence, across the board, than I’d ever observed. As you come to a walk break – which will be forward – you don’t let the horse fall apart, keep the transition uphill and connected. Then the horse can have his rest.
This pair had an exercise of leg yielding from quarter line to wall, then back, make sure to not let the horse take over. As soon as the horse starts to fall into the movement, change, do the opposite. This is in most everything. If the horse has problems with what you’re asking in trot or canter, take it back to the walk, explain the aids.
Every correction needs to be a reflex. The timing is critical. If it takes more than a couple of strides, the ideal moment has been lost.
They also did some shoulder fore and leg yield together in canter.
One last rider before lunch.
Never accept leaning into the bridle at the halt. Test that you can pat your horse and not lose the bend.
After lunch write up will have to be tonight. I gotta go to work to pay for the ponies!