“My horse handled the atmosphere better than I thought,” said Adam Steffens who rode the handsome gray Zikomo De Grand (Democrat x Gribaldi), a 13-year- old Dutch gelding owned by Jean Vinios at the New Englad Dressage Association 2017 Symposium with Carl Hester.
“I was first after the lunch break so we warmed up as the crowd (of over 1200) shuffled back in and the energy in the arena was electric. He was a complete angel and really relied on me to give him the confidence.”
Adam felt Carl’s insights meshed well into his daily routine and complemented the work he did with Debbie McDonald last season. “For me, I’ve ridden this particular horse mostly with Debbie, so it was a similar sympathetic approach to the training we strive for every day.”
Carl wanted to tackle difficult exercises early while the horse felt fresh, not tired and bored, starting with three quarter pirouettes off the corner to centerline travers and medium canter.
Carl had Adam use working pirouettes, ridden at a working pace on 10 meter circles to freshen the canter. “You want it freewheeling, when the horse takes you around, you can make it smaller,” instructed Carl.
Guiding the front end front on 10 meters and the hind on 8 meters meters using flexion inside as control so the horse is not whipping around.
“Carl's approach to the canter pirouette with my horse on both days was absolutely fantastic. My horse tends to over collect and gets a bit behind me in the turn. I absolutely loved the exercises he had me do and look forward to using them on the other horses I ride,” Adam said.
Carl pointed out Adam’s too strong inside leg, he needed to loosen the leg and use the heel with the outside leg for support. “You can see the horse relax when his inside leg softens,” said Carl. He also had Adam lighten his aids with on and off again exercises making three transitions every long side to elasticize the horse.
Asked how many many steps his horse took on the 20 meter circle and short sides, Carl admitted he was “gobsmacked” that Adam had the answers and demonstrated after a few passes how eight strides made the canter more expressive on short side.
Trot-halts into the corners always with a forward hand was an obedience exercise to get the horse more rideable and stop leaning across the corners.
Adam said another thing that really resonated was the way Carl changed his upper body position in the trot work. “The swing and self-carriage I felt from that was another notch up the ladder.”
The second day, Adam felt his horse was more in front of his leg with a new level of flexibility and adjustability in all the work.
“This clinic was a great confidence booster for me and ‘Z’. This is a relatively new mount for me and I feel this really helped us grow as a team.”