Five Messages from Ingrid Klimke at the New England Dressage Association Fall Symposium

Millis, MA – November 4, 2014 – On Nov. 1 and 2, Apple Knoll Farm of Millis, Massachusetts, hosted the New England Dressage Association Fall Symposium featuring Ingrid Klimke and Dr. Ina Goesmeier. Klimke paraded her brightly painted and ergonomic cavaletti poles in a series of rides ranging from 5­year­olds up through Grand Prix ‘Professors’, as she called them. Interspersed throughout the rides Goesmeier gave a series of mindful powerpoint presentations about the horse’s spirit and mental and physical wellbeing.

Heidi Conlon and Donnerzauber stand with Ingrid Klimke

A particular sentiment that persisted throughout the event was the rider’s responsibility and obligation to their horse. For Klimke, this means riders honestly and critically examining their guidance and role as leader, but also respecting the horse as an autonomous individual. For Goesmeier, this recognition becomes essential in horses’ treatment in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

Through her extensive and creative use of cavaletti work, the encouraging, humorous yet stringent Klimke meticulously picked apart position, geometric accuracy and aptitude for effective and fair leadership.

“If we are perfect with the seat, then the horse has a chance to follow,” she suggested. “You always, always, always must come out and think, ‘What can I do better?’ so the horse has a chance.”

Klimke was extremely successful in managing audience engagement with challenging exercises for rider and horse. She was enthusiastic, upbeat, clever and at times brutally honest. While cavaletti work undoubtedly aids in a horse’s athleticism, Klimke also revealed its power in unveiling rider flaws, fine­tuning rider effectiveness and developing confidence for both horse and rider. The following are five key topics Klimke consistently revisited in her lessons.

Annabel Sattler and Franconia

1. It’s in your best interest to utilize cavalettis.

Cavaletti work is not only an effective gymnastic exercise for the horse, but it also demands extensive concentration, foresight and attention to detail from the rider. Klimke’s brightly colored pink, red and orange cavalettis had a clear strip of white in the centers. She frequently called riders out on their accuracy, with a sly, “Is it white or is it red?” even inviting auditors to confirm whether a rider had hit the mark.

“You have to focus and you have to look,” she explained to the audience. “With this white field here in the middle, from far away you can see it and really focus because you are responsible. You are the focus. You are the guidance. You have the responsibility. That’s why having a visual aid helps.”

Klimke explained that whatever the discipline, cavaletti usage builds a solid, working relationship between horse and rider based on trust, mutual respect and confidence.

2. It’s your duty to give your horse a sufficient warm­up.

“It is the most important phase,” Klimke stressed. “If you go jumping, cross­country, dressage, or just basic transition work before the warm­up phase is properly done, you and your horse are not ready.”

The first morning sessions consisted of two young horses, 5­year­old Franconia ridden by Annabel Sattler and 6­year­old Je T­aime ridden by Denise Goyea. With young horses, Klimke suggested riders consider their entire ride a kind of ‘warm up phase.’

“It’s patience,” she said. “Especially with the young horses ­ they need to be ready for 10, 15, 20 minutes walk before, even if they are fresh.”

Even half an hour into their first session on Saturday, Klimke reminded everyone, “It’s still the warm­up phase! Its still our phase when we say supple, forward, downwards.”

Throughout everyone’s sessions ­- not just the young horses – Klimke had riders “with the longest rein possible, stretch forward, downwards. Make sure the walk is free.” ‘Free’ gaits came up frequently. In every lesson, Klimke asked riders to give horses breaks by inviting them to stretch and relax at the walk, trot and canter.

Annie Morris and Julia’s Magic

3. It’s your responsibility to make your aids and geometry as clear and as accurate as possible.

This was the most impressive aspect of Klimke’s clinic: her persistence in calling out riders on their weaknesses and the expectation of having them give 100 percent. “Mistakes can happen, but they happen once,” Klimke said sharply to one rider. “For sure mistakes happen, but you learn from them right away.” Klimke was constantly reminding riders of their commitment to accuracy. “You are the one who is the guidance,” was a phrase said on multiple occasions.

“You focus. You concentrate. You make it now. For two minutes give me perfect hands.” Klimke’s high expectations insinuated that without 100 percent from the rider, the cards are stacked against the horse. A rider’s frustration and consequent punishments often stem from a place of misunderstanding or unclear communication, often the result of the rider themselves.

“You have to guide him,” she emphasized to one rider. “He needs you.”

Pam Goodrich and Zikomo

4. It’s your obligation not to drill the horse.

Klimke believes short, precise exercises produce the greatest results. No one exercise lasted more than 15 minutes before a mental and physical break. These quick, crisp work sessions keep the horse and rider fresh, making it easier to focus on precision and efficiency.

“When you do something, you do it precisely,” she explained. “You make them work, they have to work, but then work is finished and it’s a break. In the break they should relax and look around. The horse must mentally have a chance to breathe and think ‘I did it.’ Then you pick up the reins and ask again to concentrate and focus ­ you and the horse. These phases must be 10 minutes, maybe 15 minutes. I never would ask a horse longer than 15 minutes to be with me. He can’t. He will get worse. He cannot for so long pay so much attention and give it all.”

Lisa Todaro on UFO­M with Klimke

5. It’s your job to praise your horse when they’re on the right track.

Klimke was constantly calling attention to the horse’s effort, keeping the focus on positive attempts. “Look how much he’s trying!” If ever there was a flustered moment or mistake, Klimke ignored it, reassured the rider to stay focused, and rest assured the next time around the horse would return to the cavalettis for another valiant try. “Love her, pet her,” she said to Sattler, riding Franconia. “Pet her more! I pet you, you pet her! It’s better.”

“I don’t want to come to the point where we are stuck,” she said to Annie Morris at one point before a break. “We must give her the feeling that she did a super correction here.”

Positive feedback from the rider is an essential building block of confidence, communication and respect for both horse and rider, Klimke explains. “Even with the young horses, who are shy and don’t have so much confidence, I try to give them something where they find the right answer,” she said. “If they are trying, you pet them and say, ‘That’s it. You did it.’ So they learn that they are personalities which you admire and you let them live. They should be proud of what they are doing, not doing it because you force them to do it.”

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