The Professional Riders Clinic and Symposium, held Jan. 16-17 at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center, brought together many of world's leading riders for two educational days in an elegant setting. And one thing's for sure, the riders lucky enough to receive an invitation to the clinic weren't disappointed. "I was excited to be invited and it turned out to be as great an experience as I thought it would be," said Bill Warren who rode with Romantic. It was his first time working with Hubertus Schmidt, but he had seen him teach before. "I saw him at a symposium two years ago and so I knew he was a good teacher. And now having ridden with him, I can say I couldn't be happier with the opportunity and I hope I get it again."
Andreas Stano, owner of Select Media, Inc., which includes dressageclinic.com and several other equestrian sports websites, and who helped create the event, said the feedback he has received is so positive that he already has plans in the works to do a similar format in California at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and in Massachusetts during the New England Dressage Association's annual Fall Symposium, in which Schmidt is the scheduled clinician. Look for the clinic to be on-line on Dressageclinic.com in the near future.
"I've heard nothing but good things about this symposium and the format. It's been very well received," Stano said. "This format has never been done in the U.S. before and so far, it seems that people really enjoyed it." Stano said there is no doubt in his mind that the symposium will be repeated in Florida next year. "And County Saddlery will be title sponsor again and we'll have Hubertus and Steffen back, as well as some other top clinicians."
The event featured Hubertus Schmidt as the lead clinician, but also included educational sessions with Steffen Peters, Bo Jena and Laura King. Among the demo riders were many of America's top competitors and trainers, including Betsey Steiner and Charlotte Bredahl. It was a unique symposium. Held in the evening under the covered arena, it was an elegant affair complete with table clothes, wine and scrumptious food.
Around 300 people attended the symposium hosted by Wellington Classic Dressage and DressageClinic.com. Noreen O'Sullivan and John Flanagan, managing partners of Wellington Classic Dressage, said the event went off without a hitch. "It went seamlessly well," O'Sullivan said. "The feedback afterward was very positive and everyone said it was such a great event they'd like to see it done again." She said the symposium met the two-fold goal behind its creation -- to be both educational and entertaining.
O'Sullivan and Flanagan said the symposium fit a mission of Wellington Classic Dressage to support the sport of dressage by making it more accessible and appealing. "One very nice thing about the venue was that we were able to set it up so that everyone was ringside right on the footing. No one had an obstructed view," Flanagan said.
Warren said that Schmidt helped bring him out of his comfort zone. "He challenged me and brought me to another level. Sometimes, when you ride too much on your own, you settle for not quite enough. He got me to ride with more risk forward than I usually do and that put the horse in a different balance," Warren said.
Schmidt has a reputation for being not only an excellent trainer and rider, but also a great teacher and demo rider Shannon Dueck said that reputation certainly proved to be true. "Hubertus is an excellent communicator and one of the best trainers in the world. I was thrilled to be able to ride with him. I had a great lesson and got a lot out of it because he is very good at getting his point across." What she liked best of all, however, was watching Schmidt ride. "It was so educational to watch his reactions and what he asked of the horse and how. It was a good way to see how I want to ride."
The main sponsor for the event was County Saddlery, which gave away a free saddle during the symposium. County Saddlery's Gene Freeze said the event was certainly worthy of the company's support. "It was a spectacular event -- first class. It drew many of the dressage world's elite and I've heard nothing but really great comments. It was a great educational opportunity and a wonderful way to share knowledge," he said. "The other nice thing is that I got to see a lot of my old friends from the dressage world."