Part 1 of the Global Dressage Forum North America – Meeting Klaus Balkenhol

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This is a repost from my Barnby Notes journal.  I’ve decided to transfer the entire series bit by bit to my new blog.  Enjoy!

February 2, 2013

The Great Master!

Klaus B

A bit of background regarding the photo above with Klaus Balkenhol.  During a break in the event’s program, I crossed paths with Klaus.  I waved, smiled and approached with his book in hand, Success with Sympathetic Hands, for an autograph.  While I was on cloud 9, Klaus agreed to a photo.  I leaned over the table and Klaus said, come closer, come closer.  Thanks to our wonderful Dressage Masters, who make themselves accessible and perhaps more importantly willing to share all that they know, we are much closer to the art and history of classical Dressage than we may realize.  Klaus, it was an honor beyond words (I know very little German) to meet you.  I felt inspired in your presence to carry forward and apply your teaching philosophies of fairness towards the horse.  We should always surround our noble horses with kindness.  Thank you for the autograph, photo memory and congratulations on your GDFNA 2013 Life Time Dressage Achievement Award.

I’ve made a commitment to myself (and my horse) to save my pennies and attend at least one educational event annually.  As with any sport, it is important to stay current and informed especially when that sport involves a partnership with a living/breathing animal.  It also an opportunity to temporarily disengage from my daily routine, meet new people and be completely immersed in the sport I love.

Chosen events have spanned the spectrum of topics from veterinary care symposiums to watching our top riders perform at the World Equestrian Games (thank you, Dad!).  This year’s event was the Global Dressage Forum.  A first for North America.

Life takes a lot of patience!  And as Steffen Peters mentioned during his presentation, every mistake (or misfortune) should be viewed as a training opportunity.  Ironically, Steffen shared the analogy of being lost in a car and in a time crunch or missing a flight and how this can create too much pressure.  We learn more about ourselves in that moment and how we handle the situation is very telling.  Did I mention that my 7 AM flight (I was up at 4 AM) was canceled after boarding the plane due to a mechanical issue and that there were very few options remaining to arrive in West Palm Beach, FL and drive to the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in time to hear Steffen Peters speak?  With literally no time to spare, my friend and I got off the plane, rebooked our flight (thank you kind gentleman waiting in line for handing us your priority customer card) and drove 3 hours to another airport.  We arrived in West Palm Beach and were fully prepared, or so we thought, with a ‘not really to scale’ printed map and Google maps downloaded on my iPhone; however, sometimes one still has to drive around in a lot of circles for an hour until figuring out their location.  As frustrating as all of this seemed, we were still approaching the dangling carrot.  It just took a bit longer than expected.

I appreciate everyone who organized and attended this event.  There are opinions circulating regarding what was liked and disliked; however, I never, EVER imagined having an opportunity to see so many in our sport (Ingrid Klimke, Rudolf Zeilinger, Steffen Peters, Wolfram Wittig, Arthur Kottas, Bo Jena, Grant Moon, Hilary Clayton, Stefan Stammer, Christopher Hess, Stephen Clark, Gary Rockwell, Lendon Gray, Sue Blinks, Anne Gribbons, Kathy Connelly, Betsy Steiner, Leslie Reid, Jan Ebeling, George Williams, Felicitas von Neumann-Cosel and the list goes on!) come together, collaborate and share their knowledge over a 2 day period.  We are all so very fortunate!

Simplicity, adjustability and honesty resonated throughout Steffen Peters’ presentation on the training of the horse.  Steffen encouraged riders to be productive.  In other words, give the horse a job from the beginning.  What can we do right now, today.  Encourage the horse to reach respectively to the bridle.  Need another way to look at the half halt?  Think of it as bringing the horse back to you.  Our aids should be reminding and not supporting.  Steffen used the pirouette as an example, don’t use a correction if it is not needed.  Make the correction logical, analyze and refine your aids every day.  Allow the horse to use its own muscles and not ours.  Rider control comes from the seat and core muscles.  Feel for that perfect moment that you can release.  Test it within the gait and not between the gaits.  It is always about the contact, it is never not about the contact.

Stephen Clark emphasized it should be more cooperation not submission.  Steffen added that professionals must be able to show passion to the horse in the warm-up, outside of the competition arena.

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