Hubertus Schmidt Says "Easy Does It" at 2007 British Dressage Convention
A record audience of 1,300 came to see one of the most admired dressage riders and trainers in the world at the KBIS British Equestrian National Convention 2007 at Addington Manor Equestrian Centre, Buckinghamshire, 24-25 November.
The reigning German National Men’s Dressage Champion and Olympic team gold medallist show jumped up to advanced level before turning to dressage. He has trained about 30 horses up to grand prix level and is famed for being able to make a donkey look good.
Throughout the convention, Hubertus reiterated his main philosophies. This includes the warm-up, which lasts about 10-15 minutes, regardless of the level the horse is working at. His aim is to have a relaxed and supple horse working in his natural rhythm.
“ I want the warm-up to take as little time as possible but as long as I need. At a show, it might take longer to achieve, but I keep it as short as possible so as not to tire the horse,” he said.
Hubertus stressed the importance of the horse “following the bit” whenever the rider gives the rein and this led to working on correct flexion and bending.
“As every horse is crooked by nature, this is something you have to work on from the beginning. The left side of the jaw has to flex as well as the right side. Without flexion there is no bending,” he said.
Another rule is to always to start with easy exercises and progress to more difficult ones, such as doing shoulder-in before going on to practise the half-pass.
“My ultimate goal is to make things look as easy as possible,” he said.
This means making the horse sensitive to the lightest aids. If the horse doesn’t react to a gentle leg aid, use the spur and then the whip, but he stressed the importance of giving the gentlest of aids the next time.
Read on to find out what the six guinea pig riders found the most interesting.
Nicola McGivern and the 10-year-old Active Private Dancer
Nicola was a member of the bronze-medal winning team at the 2003 European Championships and went on to compete at the Athens Olympic Games with Active Walero. Active Private Dancer was competed by Hubertus from a seven-year-old until earlier this year, when he joined the Active team.
“ It has been invaluable to work with someone who knows the horse and all his idiosyncrasies so well. Hubertus insisted that I ask for softness and submission at all times, in every corner and even when he was spooking.”
Jo Barry and the five-year-old Vivaldi V
Jo is on the World Class Pathway programme with her 2007 Nuumed Potential International Dressage Horse Champion. She is a former winner of the Talent Spotting Final and has won six national titles.
“ What stood out for me was Hubertus’s attention to detail. He picked up on small points and made precise changes, which took the horses to a different level. He caught the essence of my horse; he needed to be quicker in the hindleg and then everything started to click into place.
“ I liked his calm approach. He puts a lot of pressure on the horse for brief periods, but then takes it off and gives the horse a chance to respond. It’s almost like a telephone conversation. It feels like he has opened up a new door for us.”
Charlotte Dujardin and the seven-year-old Fernandez
Charlotte began competing seriously in dressage aged 17 trained by Judy Harvey, riding her first international competition after just 12 months. In 2007, Charlotte began training with Carl Hester. Charlotte and Fernandez were second in the national advanced medium championships this year.
“ Hubertus didn’t try to change our way of working, instead he just improved us. He made me ride a lot more forwards with more expression. I learned how important it is to use the corners to prepare for movements and to maintain the quality of trot in all the lateral work.”
Mary Sharman and the eight-year-old DHI Wohler
Trained by Ian Woodhead, Mary and Wohler are on the World Class Pathway programme. Mary started as a junior and was second in the national medium open championships with Wohler this year.
“ The atmosphere got to my horse. Hubertus showed me how to work through it by keeping going, keeping calm and not becoming tense or fighting the horse. When he relaxed, there was real improvement. Hubertus said I have to keep practising in this kind of atmosphere, so I will have to go home and rent a crowd!
“ He made me slow down the trot and still ask for cadence and I found it interesting how he teaches pirouettes without travers. It was an amazing experience and I liked his quiet approach.”
Gemma Green and the eight-year-old Showtime
Gemma has won five national titles and represented Britain in 1999, 2002 and 2003 at under-21 European Championships, winning silver and bronze team medals. She is on the World Class Pathway programme with Showtime.
“ Hubertus gave me a different angle to approach tempi changes. In the past I have always tried to go for mistake-free flying changes. He said my horse has a good canter which can earn an eight and that I should work on keeping that quality of canter in the changes, even if it means making mistakes. He was looking at the horse from the point of view of long-term competition success.
“ When the audience asked questions he answered without overcomplicating and made it clear that this is how he would deal with it, but did not force his view on anybody. Everything was black and white. If the horse was good he was rewarded and if there was a problem, he would work on it without getting angry and, if necessary, by changing the way of doing it.”
Kate Attlee and the 13-year-old Teutone Z
Kate represented Britain four times at junior and young rider European Championships, winning team bronze in 2000. Kate started riding Ferdi and Maria Eilberg’s former ride Teutone last year and they are currently competing at grand prix level.
“ The fact that the horse has to be true in the contact was helpful regarding suppleness. More roundness provides much better ‘swing’. It was also beneficial to keep the rhythm in the lateral work.
“ He was good at bolstering my confidence in front of the audience while correcting things at the same time. He made everything so clear and was so consistent.”
Text and photos courtesy: British Dressage