In the notion of presenting our US partners, the person to have the stage this week is Florida based dressage rider Endel Ots. I met Endel the first time last year when he had his debut at the World Championships for Young Dressage Horses with the 5-year old Hanoverian gelding Lucky Strike by Lord Laurie/His Highness. We approached Endel as one of our partners because observing him in his daily training and his work with the horses before and during the shows, he embodies what we look for and promote in a rider: Horsemanship, sustainable horse management, a thorough basic education and simply good riding are his recipe for success.
In his early years Endel started his career in the mid-west. He already competed as a child, but the breakthrough to succeed in the shows did not really happen until he became a professional. While training with Hubertus Schmidt in Germany, Endel received the offer to show Kristin and Steve Cooper’s horse, KWPN gelding Toscano in the US. He went back to train with Lars Peterson and became alternate for the Pan Am Games in 2011.
Endel talks about his time at Hubertus Schmidt’s place as an eye-opening experience. “It was amazing to me how easy his horses worked and how happy they were. Sure each horse would struggle with something every now and then, but that was never a problem. Hubertus had such a clear and calm mindset; it was amazing how quiet and methodical he was.” Seeing Endel work with his horses today, it seems he has adopted that style with the same patience and methodology. He does not get stressed about problems; he finds ways to solve them. And he constantly tries to get better at that. Therefore, over the course of his career, Endel has trained with a number of well-known names like Evi Strasser, Debbie McDonald, Robert Dover, Joe Hinnemann and Christine Traurig, who each taught him different things and shaped him and his riding to where he is today. “Evi is very good with explaining what the judges look for in the young horse classes and how a horse should look to compete. That helps a lot when I prepare for the Young Horse Championships.” Last year Endel started to train with Christine Traurig, former Hanoverian auction rider and current US National Trainer for Young Dressage Horses. “Christine is very relaxed and understanding. We work perfectly together on shows. She gets me and she gets my horses. She has this ability to create confidence in a rider.”
Today Endel has two main focuses; one is bringing up young horses, the other is bringing up young riders. Working in a sales barn for several years, Endel has gained experience with a variety of different horses, which today he sees as very valuable for developing his skills.
“I learned how to improve all kinds of horses with different abilities and different mindsets.” However, he wanted to train and educate horses over a longer time, which is why he decided to buy young horses himself. One of those being Lucky Strike, the now six year old Hanoverian gelding by Lord Laurie/His Highness with whom he made it to the final of last year’s World Championships for Young Dressage Horses in Verden, Germany. Looking for those young horses, Endel prioritizes mindset over quality of gaits. “At Hubertus’ place I learned that you can develop movements and that you can make a normal solid horse look very good through the right training. What is really important is the mindset of the horse. They have to love their job, they have to love dressage and they have to try to understand what the rider is doing. Lucky was like that. When I tried him, he was nice and forward, I put a little pressure on him to see how he takes it and he was fine with it. He did not get stressed or nervous, he tried to figure out what I was asking.” Now Lucky is six and on his second show after a break he had over the winter Endel already qualified him for this year’s Young Dressage Horse World Championships with an outstanding score 0f 87.6% in both CDI classes in Wellington a week ago. Lucky is a fast learner, he is already familiar with everything that is asked from him in the shows this year. That is important to Endel. “My horses are young so I try to take really good care to not overpace them. At home I challenge them, ask them to stretch, ask some higher level than at the show. The show should always be easy and fun. I want my horses to gain good experiences in the ring so they actually like to compete.”
That same attitude is what Endel passes on to his students. Since a couple of month he has Young Rider Barbara (BeBe) Davis under his wings. During this time, Bebe climbed up 194 (!!) spots on the Young Rider World Ranking to rank 5 with her Hanoverian Gelding Feival Mousekewitz (Federweisser/Singular Joter). Asking Endel how he made this steep climb possible, he referred back to the work on the basics. “BeBe was already very good in the ring. She has the right mindset to perform in the show and she does not get nervous. We shifted the focus of her work at home to improve the basics, make sure the horses are supple. That was what moved the needle.” This focus on the basics and education based on the Training Pyramid has to be a given for Endel. To him, the best ability in the ring cannot make up for a lack in focus on suppleness.