Young Riders Overcome Nerves and Distance to Ride with Some of the Best in Dressage

Text and Photos by Lynndee Kemmet for

McKenzie Jenkins was so worried about her ride with Steffen Peters that she couldn’t eat before her ride. Mary Lauritsen and her mother traveled a thousand miles in two days for her chance to ride with Edward Gal. They were among a group of nearly three dozen junior and young riders given the opportunity for a lesson with four of the World’s top riders – Gal, Peters, Volker Brommann and George Williams.

“She’s so nervous,” said Tami Crawford as she watched her young student, McKenzie Jenkins, warm-up prior to her lesson with Peters. “Once the lesson starts, she’ll relax and I think Steffen will have a really good time with her.”

The Fourth Annual Junior/Young Rider clinic was held March 10-11 in Wellington, Florida with the clinic split between Two Swans Farm and Bass Pond Farm. Junior and young riders from across the U.S. apply to ride in the clinic, which works on a first-come, first-serve basis and riders. On their applications, riders list their choices of instructor in order of preference. Lauritsen placed Gal at the top of her list and only when she found out the week before the clinic that she’d gotten Gal did she and her mother make their plans for their thousand-mile journey. It meant traveling from Massachusetts to Florida with Lauritsen’s horse, the eight-year-old Rossignol (by Rampal) in tow.

Photo: McKenzie Jenkins with Steffen Peters


By Lynndee Kemmet for

The Opportunity of a Liftime

“Mary saw Edward at the WEG and she said, ‘that’s the person I want to work with.’ So, when this clinic became available, she was like, ‘wow, I want to ride in this.’ So, we applied and I said only if you get Edward will we go,” said Mary’s mother, Joy Bahniuk. “When she got Edward, we overnight expressed her stuff and we left Harvard, Massachusetts at 3 a.m. on Monday and got her on Tuesday and we’re leaving again on Monday. It’s all just for this clinic.”

The mother-daughter team got a bit of help from Bahniuk’s uncle who joined their trip as they passed through his home state of Maryland. Bahniuk has been her daugther’s trainer and instructor from day one and has discovered that she can’t quite compete with the handsome Gal where her daughter is concerned. “She had said to me, ‘mom, when I see him I might faint.’ But the dinner before the clinic was good because she got the chance to get a bit chilled out about seeing him.”

Was the trip worth it? The 17-year-old Lauritsen thinks so. “I thought it was great. I’ve wanted to work with Edward for so long. It was amazing to finally meet him and my horse has done better than he has for the last couple of weeks,” she said. “I was so happy. I think he was great. He was awesome, he was clear. I really didn’t know what to expect but it was better than I could have ever imagined.”


By Lynndee Kemmet for

Expanding Horizons For Students and Trainers

The clinic included not only the lessons, but also a question and answer session with the four clinicians and a wonderful lunch for all the riders, their trainers and their parents. Nerves kept 14-year-old Jenkins from enjoying much of the lavish lunch spread before her on the first day of the clinic. Her ride with Peters was right after lunch. Crawford, her trainer and instructor, called her one of the most dedicated of students. “McKenzie is very serious. This is her passion. It’s all she lives and breathes,” Crawford said. “She’s very dedicated and very easy to teach. She tries really hard and I don’t have as many students who are as devoted and dedicated as she is.” Among those other highly dedicated students is Katherine Murray, who rode with Volker Brommann.

Crawford, herself an FEI-level rider and trainer, expressed tremendous pride for both her students who made the clinic. “They’re good riders and they’re good kids. They’ll go someplace,” she said.

When asked if she felt a bit intimidated letting them experience instruction from such top riders, Crawford, who is based in College Grove, Tennessee said, absolutely not. “I feel like it’s my obligation to see they get every opportunity they can. It’s sort of like, if you clutch at something, it leaves you. If you give opportunities then everyone benefits. I feel possessive because I want them to do well, but I don’t feel possessive about giving them the chance to better their riding.”

Jenkins brought her 11-year-old Anglo-Arab mare Zsarina for her ride with Peters and, as he did with many students, he got on the mare to see how she felt. “I had expected him to do that because I’ve been watching the lessons and he had said that he likes to get on to see how they feel,” Jenkins said. “She was much better after he rode her.”

The mare has been trained to Fourth Level and Jenkins said she learned a lot in her ride with Peters. “It was great. It was a very good learning experience. I learned to bend to the outside and that it was okay to send her forward and not keep the same tempo the whole time. He was great. He was very helpful, but still very sweet.”


By Lynndee Kemmet for

Junior/Young Rider Clinicians Receive High Marks

If the clinicians at this year’s Junior/Young Rider clinic, held at Two Swans and Bass Pond Farms in Wellington, Florida, ever need a reference, they can get one from the youngsters who rode with them. All four clinicians – Edward Gal, Steffen Peters, Volker Brommann and George Williams were a big hit with the young riders.

Young Rebecca Cohen had the chance to ride with both Peters and Gal and loved them both. During her ride with Peters, the 11-year-old from Wellington said that she learned how to “supple my horse in a good way. And also, we worked on a lot of lateral work, which is getting a lot better.” Peters, she said, “was really good for my horse and me because he was sensitive. He didn’t want me to push, push, push. And I think that was good for her because she’s a very sensitive mare.”


By Lynndee Kemmet for

Two Different Horses, Two Different Trainers, Two Different Approaches

Arianne Weiss, a 19-year-old student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, also had the chance to ride with both Peters and Gal and while she found them to have very different approaches, she enjoyed them both just the same. “They both had very different viewpoints and came from totally different angles, but both were very understanding and tried really hard to get their point across,” Weiss said.

She said she rode two different horses – S.Infinity, 6, with Peters and her mare Du-Fox Paw, 13 (by Darius), with Gal – and since both horses are very different, her rides with each instructor were also very different. “My mare is very special because she was actually a broodmare. She’s only been under saddle for a couple of years and she’s like, gets mean, then nice, then sweet – all at the same time. She’s emotional. My six-year-old is a real goofball and he likes to play with everything.”

“With Du-Fox she has a hard time getting under herself behind so Edward had me do a lot of transitions within the gait, like forward and come back. It really helped get her under and through more and lighter in front and off the forehand,” she said. “With my six-year-old, Peters focused on a steadiness and up carriage. My horse is pretty talented and we were just trying to get his talent to be steady instead of here and there.”


By Lynndee Kemmet for

Young Riders Benefit From the Masters

Another happy rider was 16-year-old Amanda Sterns, a New Jersey transplant to Florida. She rode the seven-year-old Holsteiner Charleston (out of Comeback II) with Peters. “I learned how to get him to really listen to me and how to smooth out my transitions and how to deal with the defenses he puts against me,” she said. “Steffen was great. He was really great. He got on my horse so he could feel the horse and understand where I was coming from as a rider.”

Peters’ soft, quiet style was a big hit with the nervous young riders and for 17-year-old Bonnie Efird it was real contrast to more recent clinicians. “Recently, I rode with some trainers from Sweden and it was really good but a little rough in that it was ‘just do that.’ I like that because it’s intimidating and it gets the job done, but Steffen is a completely different approach and I really enjoyed it. It was very calm and he’d say ‘it’s okay if you make a mistake, just do it again.’ And, ‘okay, that was good, but it can be better.’ So it was refreshing, because recently I’ve been riding with some more ‘chop, chop’ kind of people. But I really liked the way he taught. I learned a lot in 45 minutes. It was just great.” For the clinic Efird rode her 13-year-old Dutch mare Magie Noir (by Havidoff).

Fifteen-year-old Hannah Holland Shook rode her 13-year-old Dutch gelding Cape Town (by Michelangelo) with George Williams and couldn’t have been happier with her lesson. “It was awesome. I love working with George. He’s great with juniors and young riders and in our ride today we just worked on movements in the test. We perfected them, going down to the smallest details and just working through them. It was great.”


By Lynndee Kemmet for

Catch Ride for Clinic Provides Opportunity

Ryan Eskridge, a 17-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, gives thanks to Rick Silvia for her ride in the clinic. Her own horse was injured some time ago and hasn’t fully recovered. But she got to ride with Peters because Silva loaned her his horse, the eight-year-old Westphalian, Reximillion. She appreciated the opportunity. “Peters was so easy to ride with. I liked the way he taught a lot. It was a lot of fun.”

Katherine Murray, 18, of Brentwood, Tennessee, rode with Brommann and was extremely impressed, particularly with the genuine love he showed for the horses in the clinic. “You could tell he really cared about the horses. My horse really liked him and his teaching style. He’d come up and pet the horse while you were on a walk break and I thought that was really sweet and that was important to me.”

Murray, who rode her 12-year-old Westphalian gelding Rubin (by Rapallo), said Bromman also had a wonderful way of explaining things and helped her understand the concept of using the least amount of aids possible to get the maximum effect. “He broke things down in a really simple way. I learned a lot and I really enjoyed him.”

The Wellington Young Riders' Clinic is the brain child of Dr. Cetty Weiss, of Weiss Family Chiropractic. Super Mom Weiss, began the concept in 2004 because she wanted to create an opportunity for her daughter to be exposed to several notable trainers. The clinic caught on like wildfire, and together with Carol Cohen of Two Swans Farm the vision took hold. This year the clinic supported by many sponsors was also filmed by, which will soon announce access information to some of the sessions.


By Lynndee Kemmet for

When a group of young riders were given the opportunity to ask four of the world’s best riders for advice, it became very clear that what they want is to keep riding past the age when mom and dad will foot the bill.

At the recent Fourth Annual Wellington Junior/Young Rider clinic featuring Edward Gal, Steffen Peters, Volker Brommann and George Williams, young riders were given ample time to ask questions of the four clinicians. The first day, they seemed so intimidated by the famous riders before them that they hardly opened their mouths, which led the clinicians to begin asking them questions in order to start a dialogue. The only topic really initiated by the young riders dealt with questions regarding qualifications for young rider competitions.

But by the second day of the clinic, held March 10-11 at both Two Swans Farm and Bass Pond Farm, the youngsters discovered these celebrity riders were human after all and began firing off questions. And what did the young riders really want to know from this group of successful competitors? How to find a sponsor.