Global Dressage-North America

6 Mar

Global Dressage Forum-North America 2014  opened with an enthusiastic rendition of the American national anthem. Organizer/impresario Andreas Stano thanked everyone for coming and read a note from biomechanics guru Eckert Meyners–  still recovering from emergency surgery and unable to attend–  and  we were off.

Despite horrendous storms closing many airports and snarling connecting flights, the audience was sizable and spirits were high.

Jan Brink started the first day’s ridden demonstrations, first helping riders and then getting in the saddle himself to show how he plays with the training, especially high collection. “Do not think in terms of the movement,” he told us, “only the horse’s response. Keep it light, wait for the horse to offer, so it does not seem like hard work.” He emphasized the need to keep the forward energy, reminding riders not to try too much ‘on-the-spot’, letting the horse turn as in pirouette, or move forward as in piaffe.

Mention of his mentor, the one and only extraordinary Kyra Kyrklund, received applause, as well as his extraordinary partner, the Swedish stallion Briar. “Eleven years straight at international Grand Prix, including 3 Olympics,” said Brink. “He is 23 now and still fit, still sound, and still owned by the man who bred him.”

After lunch, German Reitmeister Udo Lange and his life parter, 6-time Olympian Christilot Boylen took the stage. Boylen started off emphasizing the training scale or ‘scala’ as she and others referred to it, and pointed out that ALL horses and riders are asymmetric and that training must work to overcome this in both ,in order to produce balance and straightness. “Straight,” said Boylen, “means same connection in both reins, and balance  is side to side as well as front to back.”

 Then she and Lange showed some of their favorite exercises:

Pick up trot down the long side of the arena,  develop leg-yield along the wall, horse’s head to wall; Walk, reverse direction (small half circle), trot, develop ley-yield again, go straight, walk, reverse, etc.

This was followed  by use of cavalettis to develop the rider’s awareness and precision, and then the use of canter-walk-canter to prepare for flying changes.

Boylen ,now 67 and in fantastic shape, does 20 minutes stretch exercises before riding her 5 or so horses each day.

Lange, asked about the new coefficient for piaffe in the FEI standard, said he thought it was a good development. “Too many horses are not really ready to show Grand Prix. The horse has to be able to show collected walk, turn and then piaffe—right there, when asked. That is Grand Prix…The others now have Intermediaire A and B.”

FEI Judge and longtime  head of instruction for the German Olympic Committee Christoph Hess, used several riders to discuss training scale and biomechanics ,carrying on expertly without planned demo partner Eckert Meyners.

The second day, freestyle designer Terry Ciotti Gallo lectured, her ideas and directives amply demonstrated by  trainer Betsy Steiner, to the kind of musical choices we all wish to have for freestyles .

(photo courtesy

Tinne  Dream

And then Swedish shooting star Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven rode in on her newest partner, Benetton Dream…, and the atmosphere rose another notch. She has had this new horse only a few months, but the energy, balance and suppleness are already extraordinary. (A few weeks after the forum, she took him in his first show and won Int II with nearly 78%)  Tinne winters in Wellington, where her sponsor, Antonia Ax:son Johnson bought a farm a few years ago. This year, this Swedish team has won every  Florida class they entered,international and national,  in an effortless display of top sport riding and  horseflesh.  Talking while riding, Tinne says, “we try to make every experience positive, and have learned to wait for the horse. Sure, keep asking, but we see what they offer .” Her current top horse, Don Aurellio, is headed to the FEI Dressage World Cup Finals. “Some people felt we did not ask him for enough piaffe—but we felt he needed to get stronger and more mature—and now it is really coming,” says the confident rider.

She returned with yet another horse, Divertimento, who has  also really developed into a top Grand Prix partner. Casually, she told the audience, she was working on a new freestyle with the horse, and  was trying to find new ideas for movements—and then she turned, did extended canter down centerline, collected the canter and changed to piaffe, producing a piaffe fan as she turned back up centerline in passage, halting and ‘saluting’ the audience.

Everyone needed a lunch break after that!


The afternoon was over-full. Susanne von Dietze discussed Balance in Movement, offering exercises that got the audience up on its feet, exploring for themselves just how important it is for the rider’s seat to be balanced and able to follow the horse’s motion.

Longtime international and Young Rider coach Conrad Schumacher clearly and expertly helped his demo students, using exercises and ideas that have become building blocks for an entire generation of trainers. “Riding is an art,” he acknowledged, “but riders must first learn craft and technique. No one makes an artist, they try to produce craftsmen.”

Finally, Olympic judge , FEI Judge General,  every rider’s favorite judge at  C (and affectionately  known as Pope-General) Stephen Clarke stood up, talked to the audience and to the panelists about the responsibility of the judge. “Every rider relies on our comments for direction, it is a huge responsibility,” he acknowledged.  “Those comments must try to give a clear picture  of the direction training should take.”

The Para-Dressage Rider Scholarship  Award was then presented to Kelby Barranco, USDF Volunteer of the Year.

And then—the GDFNA Life Time Dressage Achievement Award was presented to Stephen Clarke.

And with that, another Forum was over.


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