Baron Munchhausen


... and as I so rode, my heart rang with the grass-hushed steps, rang with the snuffles and bit-play of my Grey, and bliss lit up my heart, and I knew: that if I were to fall out of the world at this moment, I would fall into Heaven.

Baron Munchhausen


News - PSI Young Horse Clinic with Ulf Möller

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We attended the Young Horse Clinic at Werribee on the Sunday following the Dressage and Jumping with the stars to try to glean some insight into what the judges are looking for in the young horse classes. We are currently most interested in the 4 year old section (as we are preparing a horse for these classes next year), so you will find the notes on the 4 year old horses more extensive than those for the 5 & 6 year olds.

The Clinic was run by PSI's Ulf Möller, and moderated by Australian Dressage Selector Susie Hoevenaars.

In Dressage, we judge the horse at the moment that we see it. In Young Horse judging we judge the potential of the horse, how its training is going etc. We evaluate horses at various ages - at 2, 4, 5, 6 years old to see the development.

The first horse in the arena was a 4 year old Holland Bend Weltich ridden by Katrina Bolmart. Ulf M. commented on the noseband, as he felt it was too loose. He said: With nosebands, we want them to be loose enough that the mouth can open only a little. If the horse can open its mouth, you loose the effect of the bit. Also, having the noseband firm also prevents the horse getting the tongue over the bit, or sticking it out, as well as excessive playing with the bit. The bridle fit is also important for getting correct contact.

Young horses like to go forward. If you hold them back in walk you can lose rythym, therefore it is often good to start in trot and canter.

Ulf likes to start with a few steps in sitting trot before really getting into work, to feel if the horse is sound at the start of the ride.

Think about the conformation of the horse when you are training. A heavier horse has to work a bit more than a lighter horse.

Look at the trot for rythym. Go forward in the trot - not backwards. You can do a few steps of sitting trot - just one or two circles at a time. Don't be afraid to ask the horse to activate his legs a little more.

Also, make him a bit shorter & lighter on the bit. Stop him, help him to not lean on the bit. 10 m, or 5 steps - there is no rule. Use feeling, but make sure that your hand does not go backwards, or he doesn't have a chance to become light.

The trotting forward, with a slightly forward hand after the sitting trot should be like a thank you, not a punishment. Take some risk! ask for a big, forward trot, and a big, forward canter. Risk!

In Germany, the four year old classes are considered a gaits class, not a dressage class. So if in a 4 year old class they want some lengthening on the long side, you should do some sitting trot to wake him up on the short side. This will improve the extension.

You want to have long reins in the walk. If the neck comes up to look around in the walk, use it. Keep light contact and wait - he will put his head back down. If you overreact, he will fight, or put his head down too much.

In the trot, don't think too much about the neck - think about good rythym.

Don't make him too short when you want to transition to the trot from the walk - it confuses him.

If the horse starts to lean, ask yourself - is it because he is not strong enough to hold his head? is it the training? It is important that he can hold his head, but don't ask him to hold it up for too long if he is not strong enough.

If you feel that he leans a bit in the canter to trot transition, it is an indication that he needs to build strength.

Remember that you can always ask for more tomorrow, or the next day.

Also use a longer rein. When the rein is longer, it doesn't mean that work is over - you are the master! He should still canter with a long rein (and work).

In walk (trot & canter) with a long rein, you should be able to just touch the mouth and get a bend. He should also work over the back - but don't lose rythym.

Engagement was a problem with many horses throughout the Dressage and Jumping With The Stars competition in all classes. Forward, and with good cadence, was also not always seen in the competitions.

If the horse stays with the contact on both reins, and keeps cadence and rythtym, it is good.

A problem in the competition was that horses tended to run instead of increasing their ground covering rythym. This is a question of balance. Sometimes a rider over hurries the horse, so that he must finish his stride or (canter) jump early.

You should aim that your first step of walk, trot, canter etc should be the same quality as the rest - this is your ultimate aim.

Ask your horse for 100% at home, because you won't normally get it with a young horse when you are at a show.

The second 4 year old was the winner of the 4yo DWTS Championship, SS Sonata ridden by Rodney Martin.

Ulf said: again, if the horse is a bit excited by new things, start in the trot. This horse tends to get a bit passage-y in the trot, which is something we don't want to see.

Even a four year old horse can go into the corner and bend a bit - this also trains the balance. A corner is one quarter of a volté, so we need to work and prepare for it. We need to work on the corners, so that you don't get a problem with the rythym.

You don't have to go too far into the corner, but you need to make sure that the hind quarters don't fall out. The hind legs need to be on the same track as the front legs - don't forget to use your outside leg.

Lengthen the stride by opening the frame. This doesn't mean throwing the contact away - ask for the neck to come up, and the head to go out a little. When you ask for a canter extension, you want the canter jump to be bigger - not quicker. Get him higher, and more open, and then leave him alone.