On a brisk but beautiful fall weekend, a meeting of the masters at a USDF University accredited symposium transpired at the scenic farm of Maplewood Warmbloods in Middletown, NY, owned by Jen Vanover.
Klaus Balkenhol, Dr. Gerd Hueschmann, and Col. Christian Carde gathered to discuss theoretical and practical dressage. Friday held a full day of private lessons with Klaus Balkenhol and Col. Carde. The prevailing theme revolved around the correctness of the connection, honest suppleness, and precise balanced riding.
On Saturday, a sizable crowd huddled together for an eye opening, though at times quite humorous lecture, by Dr. Gerd Hueschmann. Dr.Hueschmann's presentation was informative and palatable; making the at times complicated biomechanics of the horse, easy to understand and relatable to today's dressage horse and rider.
Following the biomechanics presentation riders on horses of progressive age were presented for discussion in front of Klaus Balkenhol. Among these was the rising star of Dr. Cesar Parra, Florence, an elegant five year old mare by Florestan, owned by Dr. Parra and Dr. and Mrs. Jackson Morgan of Savannah, GA. The mare had just arrived from Europe but handled the difficult atmosphere by showing off her fabulous gaits and wonderfully even temperament. The pair impressed not only the crowd but Mr. Balkenhol alike.
The afternoon continued with a demonstration by Col. Carde who stressed on the importance of correct equation of the rider. A VIP dinner hosted by Maplewood Warmbloods rounded out an entertaining and educational day.
The next day promised for more debate with a podium discussion and a question and answer session the audience and the three gentleman. The questions varied from the correctness of gaits to the politics of today's competition. It was vastly informative to hear the opinions of such respected masters and muse on the future and current affairs of the sport today.
Each brought a slightly different perspective to the table making the debate lively and balanced, which gave the audience a chance to form their own opinions on the topics of conversation. Dr. Gerd Hueschmann followed Saturday's presentation with a demonstration of the equine biomechanics with Elizabeth Niemi's anatomically painted Kosmos.
It allowed the audience to view Dr.Hueschmann's points in actuality. The day concluded with demo riders and an open floor for the audience, led by Klaus Balkenhol. Dr. Parra's mount was once again completely relaxed and expressive; the two were a harmonious picture of suppleness and a refreshing example of dressage. When asked by a member of the audience if Dr. Parra's mare would make a future top Grand Prix horse, Mr. Balkenhol simply but emphatically replied "Absolutely!".
The meeting of these three great minds was a special event in the realm of dressage. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to an atmosphere full of passionate equestrians and concepts that will be influencing the future of the sport, with the hope of refocusing the training of the horse to produce a happy athlete with training principles that hold the horse's welfare as the primary goal.
It was a wonderful opportunity to be present for the convergence of knowledge by the ever respected Klaus Balkenhol, Dr. Gerd Hueschmann, and Col. Christian Carde. The conclusion that we can take is that there are only two schools of riding, not German or French, but rather good or bad. Organizers Maplewood Warmbloods, Ron Postleb, and Margaret Boyce reiterated their commitment to education, stating that this is the first of many future symposiums.