His tireless energy, the intuitive way he related to each horse, introducing excersises which worked no matter what the breed - is what made the Raphael Soto Clinic in April an inspiration to all who attended. Three-time Olympian and Team Silver Medalist Rafael Soto from Spain conducted a two-day dressage clinic at Joli Burrel's Halcyon Farm in Palm Beach Point East, in Wellington, Florida.
Rafael’s first ever trip to Wellington (and only second clinic in the United States) was enormously helpful and appreciated, according to all of the riders who participated. Burrell’s luxurious farm and covered arena was an ideal location for the clinic which drew over 85 auditors and featured Grand Prix riders Bruce Miller, Pati Pierucci, Arlene (Tuny) Page, Cheri Reiber, Janne Rumbough, Michael Kohl, and Kathy Von Ertfelda.
Excersises to Improve Gaits, Balance and Contact
Rafael’s focus for each of the rides was through-ness and contact, regardless of level. On young horses, the flexion and balance exercises were shown to relax and strengthen the horses, as well as improve the gaits. At the same time, he demonstrated that the training of the higher movements must stem from correct balance and contact, especially in the walk.
For the upper level horses, he emphasized correct contact in the transitions, and the proper use of collection in developing all of the movements.
He had all of the riders perform a number of exercises regularly used by the Royal Riding School in Jerez, such as a piaffe to canter to walk to piaffe regime, and lots of time on the circle in renvers and travers at all three gaits. What was particularly effective on all of the horses was the shoulder-in to create the piaffe, which the horses then offered naturally and which Rafael worked from the ground.
Memorable quotes from Rafael Soto
- Training is most evident in the transitions - Every transition has a half-halt.
- If you want a good extension, you must have good collection.
- To control the horse you have to control yourself. The horse never lies.
- Legs, legs, legs, legs!
- Up the nose, now stretch.
- Interrupt the piaffe!
The Foundation of the Pure Spanish Horse, The Host - Iberia Airlines The Sponsor
The event was hosted by the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse, the official representative of the Spanish Studbook and Breed Organization in the U.S. Rafael’s travel was sponsored by Iberia Airlines. Euro American Saddlery generously provided saddle pads to all participants. The clinic was open to all breeds, with rider’s qualifications requiring a USDF Gold Medal or similar standing in Europe.
Bruce Miller rode Donna McNulty’s 10 year old Friesian gelding and Tuny Page rode Wild One in an inspiring final session on Wednesday. Kathy Von Ertfelda brought her stunning young Lusitano and Michael Kohl rode Susan Gohl’s Grand Prix Hannoverian, L’Aviateur.
There were many PREs as well. Janne Rumbough brought both her 9 year old FEI-level gelding as well as her handsome young five-year old (which Rafael worked in hand and rode himself). Michael Kohl rode his own 11 year old Grand Prix prospect, Jazmin, along with Andrea Mischna’s 12 year old gelding Fulmar. Pati Pierucci brought two Grand Prix horses, Idilio and Cosaco, and the rambunctious Grandioso, a 7 year old bay stallion. Cheri Reiber rode Faraon, who she has been successfully competing this season at Intermediare I. Most unusual about this clinic was the variety of breeds and the effectiveness of Rafael’s methods on horses of different conformations, dispositions and levels.
Soto To Hopefully Return in 2008
The clinic’s riders were very grateful for Rafael’s help and have asked that the Foundation bring him back next season. There is already a waiting list for participants who were unable to ride with him this year.
Auditors of the clinic included Allyn Schiavone, Besty Reiber-Selle, Jodi Riddick of PRE Magazine, Linda Clements, Debra Jenkins, Lisa Bush, Len Prevo, Tom Boorse, Pierre Cousyn, Jessie Steiner, Alex and Lily Zilo, Judy Streisand, and Tom and Megan Reed.
Ecogold presented a customized Frictionless Saddle Pad to Rafael at the clinic, and announced their sponsorship of Pati Pierucci and Idilio, a 12-year old PRE competing his first year at Grand Prix.
PhelpsPhoto: Janne Rumbough and Rafael Soto
A wrap-up cocktail party was held at Hampton Green Farm on Wednesday evening, where the who’s-who came out to meet Rafael. Soto's endless energy continued through the evening spending time with most of the guests who snacked on hors d'oevers prepared by Chef Frederick Boyer. Even though a training session with Pati Pieuricci the following morning was interrupted by a Florida spring thunderstorm, he continued the lesson in conversation until his departure for the airport.
PhelpsPhoto: Megan and Tom Reed with Rafael Soto.