Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Glimpse at my FEI Symposium Notes

Anyone who knows me knows my education is really, really important to me.  For Christmas, my boarders took a collection to be put towards just that cause.  In Linda’s words, “investing in your education makes sense, we get it back.” 

I used my Christmas education gift to do something I’ve wanted to do for years—attend USDF’s FEI Trainer’s Symposium in Wellington, FL.  This year I was really chomping to go, since Steffen Peters and Scott Hassler were the presenters.  Plus it is in Florida at the end of January, which usually has a bit better weather than Pennsylvania this time of year.

In this Symposium, Steffen worked with 9 horse-rider combinations at various stages of their FEI journey, from learning changes to schooling Grand Prix, and Scott recapped the rides.  Steffen got on every horse at least once, and his ability to articulate what he is doing while he is riding is truly impressive. Getting a glimpse inside of another trainer’s mind is really neat.  All of the horses improved dramatically, and I think we’ll see a couple of them on future teams.

One really neat thing about symposiums with Steffen and Scott is how they emphasize the importance of indentifying each horse’s strengths and weaknesses, and creating a training plan to improve those weaknesses.  Because they were so clear about what each horse’s weakness, I could see how each training plan could be applied to specific horses I ride every day.  Plus they were super clear to emphasize that a weakness is just that, a weakness, not a limitation, which, of course, just gets me all the more excited to get home and train.  But since it is 75 here and 15 at home, I’ll stay until Thursday and visit an old friend as planned.

Here I am, at the conclusion of day two, and I thought I’d share some snippets from my pages and pages and pages of notes. Please note—these are my unfiltered translations of a master, so any fault you find in them is most likely my translation.

Train like you show, show like you train.

Don’t “kick the can down the road.”  When a training issue comes up, fix it. Don’t wait for the elusive “strong enough” to happen. 

Stay true to yourself as you train.  All of the input from judges, instructors, and peers should add to your training path, not replace it. Stick to a horse’s path.

Another word for discipline is priority.

When a horse makes a mistake in a movement, it is a problem with the acceptance of one of the aids. Figure out which aid needs tuned up, then try the movement again.  Fix the root problem, not the movement.

A good seat goes with a manageable contact. You can’t have a good seat if the horse is incorrect in the contact. They go hand in hand.

Contact needs to be correct first, then add  cadence and swing.

Every step needs to be controlled.  Each aid has to be purposeful.

Let  a horse make mistakes, then take care of it. Don’t ride to prevent mistakes.

Horses need to come back as easily as they go forward.

As a trainer, we need to figure out when a horse struggles with strength and when the horse struggles with understanding. Handle each differently.

If you need to ride strong, do it, but immediately be light.

If you can’t fix the outline/balance/rhythm in 2 strides, simplify the work and fix it. Then go back to more complicated movements.

Every movement has 3 phases:
                Phase to set up
                Phase to execute
                Phase to finish – movement isn’t over until the quality, balance, and relaxation are reestablished.

Very few horses are deliberately disobedient. More often, resistance is caused by confusion, fear, or pain. This is why attention to your horse's welfare and simplicity and clarity of aiding are paramount.

Loaded with all of this inspirational goodness, I'll bundle up on Friday and train to my heart's content. Within the limitations of the weather and my tolerance for frostbite, of course. 


  1. Great quotes/ things to ruminate on!

  2. Thanks. I am a compulsive note taker. I even draw little pictures in my notebook -- and not just doodles ;-)