Sunday, May 31, 2009

Conrad Schumacher--Part 5 (Final Post)

This post concludes my notes taken at the Conrad Schumacher symposium a few months ago. I hope you've enjoyed this series.

Training the Upper Levels, Preparing for the Show

Classical riding enables us to work the in a horse-friendly way in harmony. Classical riding makes horses equal in temperment. Thoroughbreds and hot horses cool down, warmblood’s heat up. Dressage has nothing to do with head and neck position.

At horse shows, classical riding is not enough. You have to do quality preparation before and at the show grounds.

  • Ride the test at home over and over.

  • Train for the movements at home.

  • Ride the horse other places.

  • Put markers on the ground where each piece of the test is ridden.


It takes a dressage rider twenty years to get there. You must have a lifestyle that you are on your horse every morning in the same mood. When you aren’t in the same mood every day, your aids are different in subtle ways, such as timing or intensity.

You need quality preparation. You must be secure in the saddle. The body part of the sport is the horse. The mental part is the rider. Everything is linked together by a training system.


Train at home with a warming-up concept and train it over and over. Make the horse ready for the work. The warm-up needs to make the horse excitable but controlled. You need to know what do I do, when and how.

Ride slowly in the warm-up. Ride for position first then ride for expression. The test at a show is not the place for schooling. You can only just “ride.”

Train the test until it’s perfect. Ride as good as you can.

The correct focus is mental fitness.

Wrists rotate in when ears come up at canter

Upper level Exercises to get the haunches under:

  • To raise the head use only the snaffle, one sharp snap, then stop.

  • Ride shoulder-in, move to inside track, still in shoulder-in, move back to track in shoulder-in (slowly almost reining back in trot to come back to rail).

  • Do the same but in renver.

  • Do the same in Canter shoulder-in

  • Reinback then forward w/o halt

  • Canter, make a square, (half-halt, turn).

  • Diagonal in Shoulder-in, then change at wall.

  • Changes: Four tempis: Say "1-2-3-I will."

  • Do 4 tempis on a circle

Classical Structure of the Dressage Lesson

Warm-up, preparing for the work phase.
Put the horse on the haunches to make them controllably excited.

Phase 1: Warm up the Muscles

  • Walk for 12 minutes first

  • Move on and trot slowly

  • Deep trot to help back for 2-3 minutes

  • Canter—medium to working canter, back and forth then more precise (10 strides med. 10 collected).

  • Back to trot, working trot to halt.

Horse should get in a more active mood.

Working Phase

Use the power of impulsion to achieve your goals.
When horses are relaxed in the minds, they can listen to the aids

  • Turn on haunches, trot, med. Trot.

  • Halt-RB-Canter

  • Short canter, bigger canter, short canter. On the spot canter, med. Canter

  • Medium canter. On the spot canter, medium canter.

  • Down long side HP left

  • Four tempis, start with collection finish with medium canter.

  • Canter Pirouettes (the pirouette is a Half Pass in a turn):

  • Ride half-pass around instructor. He taps hocks and croup with butt of lunge whip then let horse stretch down after about 3 or 4 of these.

  • HP to Pirouette, ride back(wards) and turn.

  • Down diagonal at medium trot. Halt @ X. Medium trot, Halt in corner.

Exercises for a big, lazy horse

Keep your hip in front for changes.
For a horse who is a bully and doesn’t listen, use shorter diagonals and bend/counter bend.
In half-pass point the neck where you need to go.


  • Shoulder-in in medium trot.

  • Haunches in, rein back on centerline, haunches-in.

  • RB 5 steps, one step forward, pirouette immediately.

  • Turn on haunches, immediate reinback (more control and improves walk).

  • Trot, reinback, trot.

  • Medium canter long side, halt.

  • Medium canter to collected canter.

  • Volte in corner, show diagonal, change at wall (keeps horse from running in the changes.

  • Half-pass, correct bend and counter bend of neck in half-pass.

  • Half-pass in canter, 8 strides in, straight strides, 8 back, change.


How long do you ride your horses: 20 minutes of warmup, 20 minutes of work, and cool down phase.

At Conrad’s barn: We don’t turn out horses but give them chances to move. Go outdoors to ride whenever possible.

Stretching: You should be able to stretch whenever you want. A horse full of confidence takes the rider’s invitation to stretch.

Hips in Front: Bring your hips forward, without leaning back. Scoop with seat.

A horse with tongue out has a lack of throughness and not giving in the neck. A very few do it by nature.

A horse with an open mouth gives in the mouth, not the neck.

To straighten the canter ride shoulder-fore.

For flying changes the hip in front keeps the horse straight.

Wide hands: Should be as natural and easy as possible. Keeping hands together tightens the shoulders. An open upper body makes it easier ride without stiffness.

More Preparing to Show

Drive forward only when you have a rounded neck.

Two traps at shows:

  • Open space makes the horse more forward than at home. Collect in warm-up more than needed.

  • Two-minute before the test: Don’t just ride around. Do something.

Pre-warmup routine: What works best for his riders is to learn to mediate the test. Sit somewhere, shut your eyes and ride the test in your mind five times the hour before the test. Live in the feel of what you want in the test. Feel your leg on the horse, his back underneath you, etc. When warming up have a clear plan. Find out what works best for your horse.

The Way to the Grand Prix Level

The main differences in Grand Prix are the piaffe/passage and the one tempis.

Work from the ground: Don’t need to do as much as the Spanish Riding School as we aren’t training the airs above the ground. Start at 3rd level. Use side reins so the horse stays round. Take the outside rein over the poll and through the bit ring. Frame the horse next to the wall with your body and the whip.



Think of it like teaching a dog to sit down.

First start with a nice collected walk in hand. Moving backward is the sign of a blocking neck.

Practice 2-3 times a week but for not very long.

Under the rider:

Volte in walk
Flex to inside
Strighten and piaffe
Volte (volte is the reward)


Walk, Leg Yield, Passage (Makes horse flexible in the spine)

One-Tempi Changes

Start with nice 2Xs
Counter Canter
Go down longside and do inside bend of the neck, outside bend, inside (get the first change in a corner, then change back in a corner)

Canter Pirouette

Canter Pirouette to Halt to Canter Pirouette

Unfortunately, as the symposium went on, I got more and more tired of writing notes. If none of this makes sense, let me know. I'll be glad to elaborate as best I can remember.


FD said...

What was the context of "Wrists rotate in as ears come up in canter?"

mugwump said...

I learned that a horse with an open mouth doesn't know what to do with his feet. That's why I don't use cavvesons or drop nose bands.

Unknown said...

I was taught that an open mouth is a sigh of resistance.
I like the logic behind yours though, if the horse is thinking about resisting, he probably isn't thinking about where he's going.

I don't think that the noseband causes resistance per se - I just think you shouldn't use one to try to fix it. I tend to hunt in a flash, I think it's a useful safety precaution if you've a strong horse.

When I was younger, I rode a pony who frequently stuck his tongue out and I was told that I needed to 'ride the horse's mouth closed' which is exactly what you do need to do, but rather gnostic for someone not familar with dressage!

Jami Davenport said...


Conrad rotates the wrists inward to give a small half-halt. So he essentially half-halts when the horse is still going uphill, rather then downhill in the stride.

HorseOfCourse said...

Thanks for your C.S.-posts, Jami.
I have enjoyed reading them!

FD said...

Jami - ah, thanks, that makes a lot of sense.

Also, HorseOfCourse reminds me of my manners! I too have really enjoyed these, and I appreciate the effort to type 'em up - you must have had pages and pages of notes.