I am currently on a plane headed from sunny FL, returning home from a couple days watching Johann Hinnemann teach at the FEI Trainer’s Conference. I debated attending this year, but in the end I decided to buy my ticket.
My debate was a bit based on the nature of my business. SFD’s business model is helping adult amatures achieve their dressage goals. This means a majority of the horses I train are “shared rides,” meaning I ride a few times a week, and I help the horse’s owner from the ground a few times a week. Which means my training goals are about consistency over brilliance. I want the horses I develop to have such a clear understanding of what I want that they are able to help their owners out a bit. How do you make a horse consistent, you ask? Well, consistency in the training.
Normally, I have a few horses that are not “shared rides,” temporarily or permanently. These horses I don’t have to be as careful with. Yes, I want them consistent, but I also have more freedom to develop the expressison in their gaits. In order to do that, I often need to push the boundary of what they are currently willing and able to offer, which means I risk tension. I think it’s most fair to the horses to help them get to the other side of that tension before I ask the horse to teach that new skill to their rider.
The FEI Conference is generally all about creating the best balance and gaits that a horse is capable of, so I debated whether it was worth the time and money for information that, in theory, only applies to some of my horses, some of the time. Plus right now, for various reasons, I have fewer non-shared rides than normal, so I wondered how much of what I saw I would be able to use every day.
But even as SFD is about helping riders develop their horses, Ange-the-trainer, wants to see the best my mounts can offer. As I watched the horses and riders in the conference, I realized that routine has been winning over expression lately. Which is not bad for business, but it isn’t everything.
I took Johann Hinnemann's words to heart --"That’s really our job as trainers, to always think about something, every day how to make something better, better ideas to school the horses and teach our students.”
So I am now recharged, refueled, and ready to see how many of the techniques that develop the best gaits in horses can be applied to my “shared rides,” and how I can help coach my students to when tension is acceptable and when consistency is better.
Let the winter training begin.
If you are interested in details about the FEI Conference itself, here are a few blogs about the rides themselves: