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


Masterclass with Steffen Peters, Equitana, Melbourne 2010

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We attended the Steffen Peters Masterclass at Equitana on Saturday 20th November 2010, in anticipation of seeing a master at work. We were certainly not disappointed!

As usual, many notes were taken - although my motivation was somewhat less than usual due to a sprained thumb on my right hand. As ever, I have attempted to take notes accurately, but errors and omissions are certainly possible. I have
also concentrated on the comments from the Young Horse Section, as I felt that a detailed transcript of the notes on the more advanced horses would not be particularly beneficial without corresponding photos or video.

Steffen Peters was born in Wesel, Germany in 1964. He began riding as a child, and moved the USA in 1984, becoming a citizen in 1992. An extremely successful rider, and three time Olympian, Peters first represented his adopted country in

The Masterclass was loosely split into three sections - young, medium and advanced horses.

Steffen commented that there are many ways of training horses, but that he wanted to present his ideas, and his ideas on training. He said that there are other ways, but he wanted to show us the way that he teaches.

The first rider was Maree Tomkinson on a five year old mare, imported in foal as a three year old, and in training since Mach 2010.

This horse works a bit against the bridle. Steffen commented that the rider needs to create a little suppleness, so ask for some flexion.

Any time you close the leg, you want her to be responsive, and move forward with a larger stride. Try a canter to walk transition.

Think about shortening the stride a little more, and try to work on an easier canter to walk transition.

Ask the horse for a little more awareness and responsiveness to the aids.

If she doesn't respond to the half halt, just touch her behind on the croup with a whip to get her awareness. You need to create awareness of the aids.

Steffen doesn't like to use the whip to ask for forward, or to punish a horse, but just to ask for awareness - e.g. ask the horse to pay attention. Steffan normally carries the whip in his master hand, but you can change sides in the canter.

We need to create lightness at this age. Lightness and self carriage. Don’t let the horse require too much contact.

Don't let this mare get too straight. Flexion and counter flexion are good for her. Don't be afraid to try different things in your work outs, be colourful!

We want to be able to truly release, once the horse has done what we have asked.

Before you can truly engage this horse's hind quarters, you need to engage her brain.

Use every single half halt to your advantage. They are used to make a difference. Ask yourself - do they improve self carriage? Or lightness? Have you effected a change? Ask yourself every day.

If she is inattentive, use a little half halt and tap her gently with the whip.

Us the whip in your dominant hand if it is easier, but change it in the canter.

Ask for a forward canter, then ask for a little collection. Today, you achieve some collection in 12 strides. Tomorrow, ask for it in 5, and the next day in 3.

Make sure you pat her with your hand to praise her.

Make the half halts more obvious - you want to make a difference in the horse - then release.  Make it a proper release.

Now we need to work on self carriage, lightness and adjustability.

Horse Number 2.

This horse is nicely supple, and soft in the bridle. It looks like he has an uphill feeling, but he needs to be able to stretch.

Ask the horse to stretch down when it is a necessity - not just because everybody does it, or because it is part of your work out every day. Don't do the same work out every day, or have the same work out for every horse.

The warm up should be used to engage the brain.

When a horse backs up on the rider, don't worry. Stay positive and just walk for a bit.

When you feel that he is drifting to the left and starts to back up, flex him to the left. You have more chance to make your left leg (in this case) more effective. (The type of evasion when a horse wants to drift towards the gate).

When you give him a little kick (touch with the spur), you have his attention - then ask for the trot step. Don't just do two or three little kicks to ask for the trot.

When he is given an aid, he should scoot into the gait. Better too much response than none.

It is so important, getting attention and response to the aid.

If you feel that you are weight lifting (carrying the horse's head), forget it. You want to dance with your horse.

You can't use the spur and leg to maintain a gait. Just ask for it, and expect the horse to maintain the gait. This is honest.

Don't use repetitive aids so that he learns to disregard them.

You want him to be sensitive to the leg - every time you use an aid, it needs to make a difference. You can make him sensitive to all of your leg, to the slightest touch of your thigh for example. The spur is used to refine the leg aids.

Horse 3, a 6yo from Queensland.

Push him into the hand if he is supple and understands what you want.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions - people try to push the horse into the hand, but they must be supple first.

Make use of each and every training opportunity - you ask for a trot and he doesn't respond. Fix it!

Try to make your circles correct so that the horse moves on one line.

Absolutely refuse to ride every step with the spur.

The physical part of being supple is there (in this horse), but the mental part is not there.

He doesn't give in the flexion to the right. Bend his ribs and shoulders - his neck and head will follow. Then release when he does it.

If you don't ask for suppleness, he won't offer it.

Work on getting energy with this horse.

In the canter to walk transition, don't let him think that the walk is a break (this horse dropped from the canter into a slothful walk on his own). He can rest later - keep his energy.

Raise your standards about each and every aid. This horse has the potential to be an international quality horse, but this gives you a big responsibility.

Medium level horses

Horse 1, an intermediate level horse ridden by Jayden Brown, by Fuerst Frederich.

It is better to have too much energy than not enough.

Yarra Valley Rodrigo ridden by Justine Greer.
Have the highest standards for you and your horse, even in the walk - halt transitions.

If you go into the halt and he pushes his nose out, this is not ok. Have a playful hand - the steady hand can also be playful. Be creative in your training.

We have to take responsibility to make the horse supple, very few horses offer it on their own.

If he places his head up or down, and it is an evasion, then you need to correct it.

Whilst riding a movement, stick to the same principles of lightness, self carriage and energy.

In the canter, use the spur for two strides to get his attention, then use the leg to get him to go forward. If you keep kicking him, he will go faster. Doing this (spur and then leg) is two times more effective than just kicking, and it is invisible.

Ask yourself - is every stride honest? Can you release the contact and have the horse continue what he is doing?

Je t'aime, Jenny G.

Too many riders make the mistake of riding riding riding - just remind the horses of what they have to do.

Make sure you finish each movement that you ask for.

Start in the halt. You want him soft and connected - then you can walk on. So many horses need to be educated in the halt. Even the halt to walk transition is important, so raise your standards.

Dimontina with Maree Tomkinson.

Test the connection with the horse, test the movement (by releasing the contact or aids momentarily). Don't just ride them.

Whatever you start, finish it. If you start a half halt, make sure you get the change. If you start a movement, make sure you get it (or a try).

If you ask for flexion, don't let it go after 2 steps - let it go after 6 or 7 steps.

As soon as you lose something - attention, impulsion etc - correct it. Take every training opportunity offered.

Don't just kick the horse - use your calves, and hold them on for 2 steps. Wake him up with your spurs, but ask with your legs.

Test yourself all the time. In the pirouette, ask yourself can you ride out of it at any time? Can you go faster at any time?


This horse likes to put his head down as an evasion, especially in the half pass, but also in the corners. Don't let him put his head down - as soon as he goes down an inch, correct him.

Some horses need to be encouraged to go along with their head in a lower position, some need to be higher. You can't just do the same thing for all horses.

Grand Prix horse, Shiraz Black - ridden by Steffen Peters

Especially with stallions, if they start to jib or go backwards, turn them quickly to one side and then ask them to go forward. Otherwise, they will often rear up with the running back.

If the horse wants to go out of the gate at the canter, for example, flex him towards the gate (so in this case, an outside flexion). You will be more effective with the outside leg, and it is less likely that the horse will fight to go in that direction. (Note: Shiraz Black gave Steffen plenty of opportunity to prove the effectiveness of these last two tips). Effectively, you have put the horse in counter flexion.

If he plays up in one spot all the time, make sure that you don't anticipate the bad behaviour. It would be so easy to clamp your legs in anticipation. Don't do this - deal with the behaviour when it happens.

Don't go overboard with stallions - it is important that you still respect the horse, and let him know that you respect him and that he can respect you.

But remember, as soon as he decides to go backwards, circle circle circle.

Several riders were asked (sometimes repeatedly) not to lean back behind the vertical in the saddle. SP said on several occasions that it is ok to lean back for a few strides when the rider is trying to make a change or correct something, but that they should otherwise sit up vertically.

Steffen also repeatedly asked riders to lift their standards in every aspect of their riding - in giving the aids, in expecting responses etc.

He also stressed that riders should never miss a training opportunity - if the horse does not do what is asked, fix it. If you ask for something, carry it through.

He stated time and time again that riders should be working on responsiveness, lightness, self carriage and energy. These should be tested regularly - ensuring that the work is honest - (removing the aid or contact) and the horse should carry on until you request another change.

He stated that you cannot perform piaffe (for example) kicking at every stride.

Suppleness was also something that was very important. Steffen commented on numerous occasions that the rider needed to ask for it (in order to increase it), as the horse would not offer it on his own.

He stated that it is also important for riders to realise that they are the trainers of their horses. If they feel that something has changed, they should fix it - not wait for their instructor to tell them to fix it. Having eyes on the ground is very, very important, but the rider is responsible.

He was also not overly critical of horses "wanting to play", and stated that it was "ok for horses to have an opinion". He did not deal harshly with any 'bad' behaviour, just rode through it extremely tactfully.