We were lucky enough to have one of the World’s leading Judges and Coaches in Ireland for a 2-day Clinic and evening Seminar, Germany’s Christoph Hess. Both the Clinic and Seminar were organised by ourselves here at Toorala Equine Performance and kindly hosted by Iris Walshe at Brooke Lodge. Christoph whose accolades are too numerous to mention, is undoubtedly unique in both his positive attitude and ability to instil confidence in both horse and rider. I myself have been training with him for some time, and every lesson we have I come away with little nuggets of information.
From left to right, Christoph Hess and Liz Frayling
Christoph has the ability to explain and break down his training methods in a clear and concise way, making it easy to understand for everyone. His expertise and knowledge comes from over 30 years of heading up the German Equestrian Federation, and from countless Clinics, Seminars and demonstrations around the world. His knowledge really is unsurpassed, but unlike most in his position he is most unassuming, a real gentleman and a kind and intelligent individual.
We had 10 rider's each day, the majority of whom had been able to avail of both days of training although we had a couple of rider's who could only attend one day. There was a great cross section too, with all ages starting from 4yr olds to event horses and dressage horses up to PSG/Inter I level. It made for an interesting two days for all that attended as auditors. I think, for myself, the opportunity to ride in front of Christoph was again such a privilege. I was able to continue with the work that we do in our online lessons, developing our changes. Now that Suki understands what we would like, we now have a few too many changes happening! As Christoph said, "she is over motivated"! We did lots of forward canter in a light seat, counter canter seated and in a light seat to get her to relax over her back and to stop anticipating. Once the canter was in a good rhythm and coming from behind in a relaxed way, we then asked for the changes. This is a totally new way of training them for me that is not in any way tense, and is ultra clear to the horse. Unbelievable! This is how it should always be done, and WILL always be done on our yard from now on. For me, and invaluable 2 days of training and a step forwards for us in the right direction!
The Seminar took place on Friday the 16th in the evening with good attendance, of upwards of 45 people. The focus was on training the young horse, with a horse in each of the age groups, 4, 5 and 6 years old. At each level Christoph assessed the way of going and used simple but effective exercises to achieve a better way of going and harmony between horse and rider. He really focused on the basics with the scales of training, rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness and collection at the centre of everything. Each session had a clearly defined goal with specific exercises that allow horse and rider to achieve a positive, clear outcome in a fun and educational way. You will hear, “leg, leg, leg” as he encourages the rider to achieve a more forward way of going, the horse stretching down with their neck and out with the nose in all three gaits. He encouraged all riders to use their position and weight aids to help the horse, whether it was during a downwards transition or through a half pass, taking both reins in one hand and riding more from the leg and seat. Each and every exercise is to encourage horse friendly riding with a relaxed and happy horse.
Inspiring Words from a Master
Christoph works with both the German and British Eventing Teams and is a real advocate of riders from all disciplines, including dressage using the light seat to allow the horse to relax and move freely over the back, using the power in their hindquarters to really push, all the while the rider stays in perfect balance and harmony with their horse. This is a real test for the rider to ride less with the hand and more from their leg and weight aids, using their body language to influence the horse. The image is then one of harmony with a happy horse and rider moving effortlessly. To conclude, with possibly the best quote of the night or even of the two days; “the inside hand is just for decoration”. Wise Words from a Master.