Steffen Peters Symposiums
In 2010 and 2011 LTR Dressage hosted three time US Olympian and World Equestrian Games team and Individual medalist Steffen Peters for symposiums at nearby Valhalla Stables.
Start the slide show to see pictures from both symposiums. Click on any image to expand to full size and see captions.
Read the article bellow to learn more about this event.
Steffen Peters Gets Respect
Respect was the main theme of the recent Steffen Peters Symposium. Eight riders, with horses of various type and ability, came together to learn from the newly minted, two- time, World Equestrian Games individual Bronze Medalist on October 16-17 in Aubrey, TX. During the weekend Steffen preached that the riders educated their horses to respect the aids, that the riders understand and respect their influence on their horses, and for everyone to understand and respect the difference between how one rides for the judge in competition and how one trains to get there. In return Steffen humbled his large audience of auditors and riders with his respect for them by addressing everyone honestly and willingly sharing his knowledge and skill.
Laying the Foundation
Steffen Peters prefers the word cooperation to submission. Horse and rider have to work together, with a willing attitude and mutual respect, to achieve training goals. Steffen repeatedly explained that he could forgive a lack of talent, or a lack of engagement, but not a lack of willingness or disrespect for the aids. High demands are placed on the horses to cooperate with the riders’ aids and high demands are placed on the riders to encourage the horse to carry himself at all times, and at every level. It is the riders’ responsibility to give the proper aids and fairly and effectively communicate their intention to the horse. If the horse “tricks” the rider into giving too many aids it is not the horse’s fault when they become less sensitive or heavy. He told riders that a stubborn hand will make for a stubborn mouth and asked the riders who they thought the judge would blame if they see heavy and rigid contact—the horse or the rider? Steffen stressed that the horses will be what we let them be: lazy and stiff, or giving and responsive. He consistently encouraged the riders to be more aware and take advantage of any mistake the horse might make as an opportunity to train and teach them to work at a higher level.
The Man and His Methods
Steffen is not unlike many elite FEI trainers in his desire to influence the horse with more precise aids to create lightness and self-carriage. Where he sets himself apart is in his unwillingness to compromise his belief in the quality of the contact and the lightness of the aids. Achieving a forward response from the leg cannot come at the expense of the roundness of the frame or the lightness of the contact. If the horses pulled upward or downward with the application of the driving aids this was considered either a mistake or disobedience and the riders were expected to be quick to respond appropriately. The horses can only become light to the aids when they are applied with a consistent approach and a thorough understanding, from the rider, of the difference between disobedience and confusion in the response of the horse.
Steffen reminded riders to pay attention to the difference between corrections and aids. The kick is a correction to gain the attention of the horse but there has to be a follow up aid to tell the horse exactly what to do next. The leg aid should be a squeeze for two or three strides to encourage the horse upwards, forwards. The spur can be added to this leg aid if the horse does not have enough response. He also explained that when he wants to give a driving aid he often closes his knee against the saddle to drive the horse and this should be enough. He often caught riders with their outside leg too far back and supporting in movements such a pirouettes, half passes and counter canter and reminded riders that if the horse required that much support in schooling it will be nearly impossible to achieve self carriage in competition. Steffen suggested that pressure from the outside knee and thigh should be enough to drive the horse sideward in these movements. His sharp eye always found an area that could use improvement in rider position or technique. Toes must face inward, legs longer, and hands must stay upright with thumbs on top. He also worked with many riders technique with the whip by asking them to give small taps with the whip and to use it on the top if the croup to eliminate a one sided response from the horse.
While a horse that is light on the bit and easily adjustable is most likely nice to ride it is also more likely to remain sound. Steffen is a strong believer in riding the horses for soundness. Self-carriage can be achieved at every level and with every horse. He often preferred the horses start in an outline where they were slightly behind the vertical and then come up and out in the outline as a result of the correctly ridden basics and self-carriage. He reminded riders not to let the outline remain too open for too long as most horses will use the stretching as an evasion and they often end up on the forehand. Riding the horse out of balance, on the forehand, places undue physical stress on the horse and will eventually deteriorate its soundness.
Don’t Be Boring
Steffen encouraged his riders not to be boring. Don’t stay in one tempo too long and experiment with enlarging the “comfort zone” of both horse and rider once cooperation at one level, or speed, has been achieved. He focused on transitions and urged the riders to constantly test the responsiveness of the horse by lengthening or shortening for a few strides at a time or by testing the walk and canter pirouettes instead of practicing movements. Steffen reminded the audience and riders that training and competition are very different and that one can only ride from a judge’s perspective once the horse has been made willing and adjustable through the training. He teased one rider about taking a career in politics when attempting to motivate her to take more risks and abandon a bit of her “show ring” tact. While he appreciated the sympathetic group of riders he did want them to be reluctant to take a risk to prevent a mistake, but to view mistakes as training opportunities. He coached riders to work towards a score of 8 or higher and not be satisfied with satisfactory, 6, or fairly good, 7. He stated, with remarkable honesty, that he is no longer certain that the trot he rides in Ravel’s half passes is still a collected trot but that trot is the international standard and he has to do everything that he can to earn a 10 so that is what he rides and trains. It all came back to respect; he believed every rider could strive for 10 as well and he encouraged them to do so.