Gerd Heuschmann - September 2011

I only managed a half day at this clinic but having seen/heard his lecture I was keen to see him in a practical teaching environment. Gerd is an excellent presenter who charms and flatters his audience and his riders in a way that I guess you either love or hate. The audience at this demo "oohed" and "aahed" at his every word until I quite expected someone to leap up and shout "Hallelujah and Praise the Lord"! Joking apart, much of what he said was very sound and my only criticism was that like most trainers, he was more polite than honest and I am more familiar with a teacher who "could never be accused of being a diplomat"! If you read between the lines, Gerd also had a knack of damning with faint praise, for example, towards the end of the session with the very overbent horse that had been winning consistently at elementary level:
"She is now carryng herself and looks like a 3 year old"
The 9 year old Prix St George horse, also very btv and stiff in his back and hind legs:
"He is not yet through and soft in his haunches but I'm sure he will be in a few years"
Both these comments were received like manna from heaven and yet I don't think I would have been that pleased if he said it about my horse.

The theme of this half day demo lessons was "balance" and he started by explaining that there were two types of balance - horizontal ie when viewed from the side, the top line from nose to tail and vertical ie when viewed from the front or the back, the straightness. Without horizontal balance, there is no chance of achieving vertical balance. The balance of the rider plays a very important role in achieving and maintaining this and he made some observations about saddles with large knee blocks which lock the rider into an artificial position and about riding too long and ending up in a fork seat and leaning back.. While his lessons with 3 guinea pig riders provoked many more noteworthy observations, "balance" was hardly mentioned again: he simply worked with the horses and riders in front of him. This comprised mainly of encouraging longer necks, a slower rhythm and some lateral work, all of which helped but seriously, what can anyone do in a 45 minute session?

Here are a few of his more noteworthy comments:
When you pick up the reins/contact, nothing should change.
You should see the headpiece all the time.
If the riders seat is not relaxed, the horse cannot relax through his back nor step with his hind legs
You can never have a good contact if the shoulders are tight.
Horses need a break every 6 - 12 minutes; young horses need breaks more often. Give a break every time you have a good moment.
Don't push every step - the horse can't relax.
Respect the rhythm and drive with feel.
If the horse is behind the vertical, it can't flex (at the poll) left and right correctly and if it can't flex, it can't bend (through the body) correctly and therefore, it can't bend the inside hind leg.
A round outline is the result of good training, not a goal in itself.

Gerd Heuschmann UK 2012, August 29 - September 1
The Unicorn Trust, Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire
Lessons all mornings, 10am - 1pm. Lecture demos in the afternoons, 2pm - 5pm with power point/videos/photos and live demos all in the arena. Each day we will have several different demo horses. Some of the horses will be painted. Some of the work will be carried out on the lunge. Each day has a different theme and I think it is definitely worth going to see and hear him talk.

For more information please go to

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