Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 1
By Charlene Strickland
Introduction by Deborah Hausman

Thanks to DressageDaily I was informed of the Katrin Burger clinic held in Temecula California. I quickly booked a flight and hotel and found that was worth every penny spent and minute of my time.

After competing in the Young Horse Program in Europe this summer I returned with great concern on the differences of how their horses are trained and judged as opposed to our system. Kathrin was intent on making sure that every horse was forward and swinging in the back. She maintained very high standards and insisted that the riders do the same. It was all about developing quality gaits and teaching the horses correct basics.

Because I have the luxury of training frequently in Europe I have a good understanding of what she wanted to see. For those that are unable to travel to Europe this was by far the closest experience they may ever have to what it's really like to work with someone of Kathrin's caliber. Kathrin wasn't "wisked" away at lunch. She sat and continued to discuss the rides even during her break. The teaching never stopped. The only thing that could have made it better was not to run out of daylight!
Debouah Hausmann - Quailhurst Farm, Oregon

Photo: marycornelius.com

 

 


Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 1
By text and photos by Charlene Strickland

Murrieta, California, January 14-15, 2007. To bring a young horse to FEI level requires basic training focused on classical principles. California trainers absorbed an intensive short course in correct dressage training at the Young Horse Development Program, instructed by Katrin Burger of the Verband der Züchter des Oldenburger Pferdes.

Burger is the Deputy Director of the Verband, based in Vechta, Germany. She holds the German gold riding badge, and in 2004 showed FBW French Kiss to the World Championship as a 6-year-old.

Red Hawk Ranch hosted the program, attended by over 100 West Coast riders, trainers, and judges. Owners Bob and Lynn DeGour, breeders since 1990, have 43 horses at their ranch that represent top German bloodlines. Twelve demonstration riders worked with Burger over the two days.

 

In this installment, join us to learn German approaches to training young horses that are only a year under saddle. Burger focused on basic elements of the training scale: rhythm, suppleness, and swing. For these young horses, she said, “Think about making the gaits correct. For me, the gaits are the most important thing. In the first year, you can think only about making the gaits perfect.”

She emphasized rhythm in walk, trot, and canter, and how the rider can help the horse move in tempo. With every young horse, Burger repeated variations of “forward and active behind.” Volando demonstrated a ground-covering canter. “Ride him with the leg to the hand, and over the back,” Burger told rider Niki Hall. “He has to learn to hold the rhythm.”

 

 


Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 1
By text and photos by Charlene Strickland

Riding through the Poll

The rider’s aids must come through the horse, starting with the active hind leg. “I like the horse to be very round in the beginning,” said Burger. “The horse has to be able to swing, into light contact with the mouth.”

With these young horses, Burger repeated the goal of staying through the poll, by working from behind forward. The poll should be the highest point, until the horse is asked to stretch the neck. Sandromere, ridden by Merrie Velden, showed working over the back, with engagement behind and a drive to go forward. In the trot-walk transition, Burger advised to keep the hind legs active. “He holds weight on the hind legs, and then goes forward immediately after the transition. “Give a half halt, then use the leg to bring the hind legs in front again.” Through the half halts, the rider helps the horse develop his athletic ability.

“Sit the trot only a few rounds of the circle, then pick up the rising trot again. If you feel the horse stops swinging, then don’t sit.” To relax after the lesson, Burger had each horse stretch the neck forward and downward. With the hind leg active, the horse will reach through, not falling onto the forehand even with his nose approaches his knees.

 

 


Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 1
By text and photos by Charlene Strickland

Riding Nurtures Rideability

“Normal good riding is the best way to make a horse with rideability,” said Burger. She discussed training the sensitive horse like Fortune, ridden by Robin Garrett: “He is so good in his mind and has such high rideability that he will be able to learn very easily. You must be careful not to go on too fast with such a horse.”

She said, “I prefer to start with transitions. That’s the easiest way to control the rideability, the suppleness, the working of the back.” In trot-canter transitions, she said, “You can look that all your aids come through the horse, that he’s reacting to your legs. You always have to control that the hind legs stay with you.”

To aim for a constant, soft contact, she advised, “Your hand has to be very, very still, very calm. You just have to wait till he allows himself to go in your hand.” The trainer should consider the horse’s learning ability, and plan his work to maintain his enthusiasm.

To develop the inherent talent of the young horse, Burger advised observing youngsters to learn their natural tendencies. Red Hawk Ranch presented two weanling colts, 9 months old, so Burger could comment on what you can learn about a foal’s natural way of going.

 

 

 


Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 1
By text and photos by Charlene Strickland

Decisions with the Young Horse

With trainers, Burger helped them decide nuances of what response is sufficient. The trainer needs to recognize what response to accept for now, to improve later, and what to fix immediately before it becomes a habit.

Many times she told riders, “Doesn’t matter” about a horse’s exuberance or minor error. “It’s okay if it’s not perfect.” With correct riding, the young horse will improve. To those riders who encountered difficulties, she said, “It’s important if you have a problem, you needn’t work on the problem the whole time. Do something that’s easy for the horse.”

The trainer can change the pattern. “Think about doing something else, to let him trot, or take a break, so he doesn’t become too nervous.” With many of the young horses, Burger discussed how the walk can be difficult. To maintain its quality, ride on a loose rein. “Never take the reins short when you ride a young horse at the walk. Help the horse to make the hind legs go more in front.”

The trainer must balance the horse’s gaits and expression between tension and relaxation. A tense horse must unwind, and a lazy one become energized. Burger advised Ampara Visser on Red Hawk’s Royal Dream, “She is too relaxed. Do a little more with your leg to get her swinging in the trot—the hind legs must be activated more, and the expression of the trot is better.”

She added, “Don’t ride a young horse too long. You want a horse that wants to work. One hour is too long for a three- or four-year-old.” Most horses in this seminar worked about 30 minutes. These horses were all prospects for international competition. Besides showing at the national levels of USDF, their trainers must plan for the next 2 years, to advance to either the FEI Young Horse or future Prix St. Georges. See our next posting for how Burger instructed riders who are aiming to compete in the FEI Young Horse tests.

 

 


Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 2
By text and photos by Charlene Strickland

To prepare a horse for the FEI 5-year-old or 6-year-old test requires a talented prospect and correct training. At the Young Horse Development Program at Red Hawk Ranch, California trainers practiced elements of these tests. This installment follows Part 1 of our coverage of this program.

Katrin Burger of the Verband der Züchter des Oldenburger Pferdes instructed riders of young horses. She described the Young Horse tests as “not a dressage test. It’s more important to see the potential, and to see a good ridden horse. It is not so important if there are small mistakes.” Quality of gaits remains a major factor in the tests. In trot and canter, the judges score the gait from the first step, looking for energy and activity. Judges want to see uphill movement.

“You should start to canter up with the withers, not with the croup,” said Burger. Manhattan, ridden by Sheryl Kunkle, showed an uphill canter. Burger described the horse as, “The hocks are going under the body, and it looks very easy.”

She also praised Welcome, who demonstrated the 5-year-old test with David Wightman, for the walk. “The walk is very good in the rhythm.” She added, “Most people only look at the hoofprint in the walk, but the activity is more important.”

And she suggested getting maximum points for a good walk, even before the test begins. “Come in at a good walk. Even though you are not being judged yet, the judges can remember what they first see.”

 

 

 

 


Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 2
By text and photos by Charlene Strickland

Asking for Collection

Burger showed trainers how to increase the demands of the tests. As young horses sometimes respond with resistance, she suggested how to ride each horse to maintain correct gaits and a willing attitude. To start asking for collection, she had riders practice canter-walk transitions.

“Every day, think about that transition. If he is able to do really good transitions between canter and walk, the collection of the canter is no problem any more. “As the horse becomes older and is able to do a collected canter, it is much easier to go to walk because he is on the hind legs. You just have to sit still for one stride, and he goes to walk.”

She had Marilynn Sabovich practice collected canter on Qumo. “Collection, then transition to walk. Make him active behind.”

At the working trot, the trainer can start asking for just two steps of collection. “It’s very important not to pull with the reins, but to do a half halt for two steps. Shorten, collect, and out again. Don’t hold the horse with your hand.”

To add more expression to the trot, Burger advised riders, “Hold the horse with your leg. The horse has to learn to wait for the leg. If he is on your seat, it is possible to hold every step longer than he would go on his own, to hold the leg in the air.”

She commended Breanna, ridden by Kathleen Raine, for “three really outstanding gaits.” As a 6-year-old in 2006, the mare won the USEF/Markel Insurance Young Horse Western Dressage Selection Trial.

Burger also named Breanna as an example of a “perfect” collected trot. With that trot, the trainer can start to think about passage.“It’s easier, because the horse has learned to use the back and hind legs to swing,” she commented.

 

 

 

 

 


Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 2
By text and photos by Charlene Strickland

Training Counter-Canter

The counter-canter revealed correct training. Burger first wanted to see horses showing a collected canter and staying in balance. Counter-canter is another way to help the horse to learn collection.

“With a 5-year-old, you have a little bit of collection—not a perfect collection. You should start to go more on the hind legs, and uphill a little bit more.”

She suggested this exercise: canter left lead on a circle from A. At B, go off the track to make a sweeping circle to M, staying on the counter-canter. “Ride the counter-canter not through the corner, and make it very round,” she advised. “Make it easier for the horse. Don’t change anything in your seat, so he stays in the counter-canter.”

“Help him to learn counter-canter. Make him more active behind.” When staying on the right lead in counter-canter, she told riders, “Hold him a little to the right, and bend him a little to the right.”

After the counter-canter one time each direction, calm the horse by returning to the correct lead on the track. “Do two long sides canter, to go forward again,” said Burger.

Laurie Falvo-Doyle rode Flaming Heart in the counter-canter exercise. Burger noted, “It’s unusual for the horse to go counter-canter. But you can’t wait until the collection is perfect, because you will lose a lot of time.”

She added, “From the 6-year-old test through Intermediare I, the canter is more important than the trot.

 

 


Spotlight on Young Horse Training With Katrin Burger

Part 2
By text and photos by Charlene Strickland

Shoulder-in and Half-pass

Burger had riders of 6-year-olds practice shoulder-in at the trot. “In the working trot, try to get more expression, with your seat. Hold the swinging in the working trot, so he is staying uphill.”

She pointed out what judges want to see in the shoulder-in: “The judges can see the poll, so it is very important to think about holding the poll at the highest point.

“You should see the three feet from the front. If the horse is bent a little more to the inside, there is more expression.”

She reminded riders about the importance of riding into the corners in shoulder-in. By getting into the habit of riding through corners, the trainer will benefit when the horse advances to Grand Prix. “You need all the space you have in the Grand Prix test.”

Jo Moran showed Redondo first at shoulder in, and then half-pass. “Hold the swinging, impulsion, and rhythm in the half-pass,” said Burger. “He is a well-ridden horse with high rideability and an active hind leg.”

Throughout the program, Burger reinforced the principles of German riding, always returning to the elements of the training scale. She continued to remind all riders, “The hind legs have to work forward over the back and into your hand.”

She also shared a philosophy of the rider’s job in the test: “In the test you try to ride as if everything is perfect. There is quite a difference between showing a horse, and working a horse."




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