The Importance of Coaching


Coaching was the topic of discussion at the Ontario Equestrian Federation member appreciation night at the 2016 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Bill Windsor was presented with the 2016 OEF Coach of the Year award by Ian Millar and OEF President Mark Nelson and Ian discuss the importance of good coaching in the equine industry. Check out the following videos:  (more…)

December 8, 2016 |

Charlotte Dujardin Clinic – Day 2

charlotte dujardin

Janet Rowe has graciously submitted her notes from the past weekend’s clinic with Charlotte Dujardin at the Caledon Equestrian Park.  It sounds like this wasn’t a clinic to miss and there was tons of information to take away (so much in fact, that we had to do a separate post for day 2’s notes!) If you would like to submit clinic experiences, horse show results or local stories, please email them to

Charlotte Dujardin Clinic Day 2 Notes

This day saw horses further along in their training – Prix St Georges, Int 1-2 and Grand Prix. Notes address issues found as well as basic work. The day began with some reiteration of themes from the first day, namely education of the young horse. Take them out to see the world! So many people are afraid to EDUCATE the horse. Take them out to places, shows, events to get them comfortable there. You don’t have to show;p just let them SEE. When you do show, whether or not you have a bad or a good test, take them back to the warm up and stretch them out. Let them relax and end on as positive a note as possible. Learn from it. It doesn’t matter about mistakes; learning is what matters.

In the leg yield in the canter, play with the aspects of it. How much flexion, bend, steepness, etc. Again, not one way only of doing things. Play with it and make it malleable. Keep your reins short and your hands in front. RIDE FORWARD.  Collect the horse, then FORWARD, always emphasizing the ability to go FORWARD at any given moment.  It does not matter if they make a mistake or if you do. Try again and praise the try. Play with the movement. Collect – forward – collect – forward… The poll is always the highest point and hands are pushing towards the mouth. Push the neck away and do not scrunch him up to his chest; out and away.

When going around your corners, keep the poll UP. It is easier to go steep in leg yield than in half pass. You MUST be straight for the changes.  Work in travers for a test to see how flexible you are. There is always a stronger and weaker side and the weaker side ALWAYS gets worked more. You are always going for straightness and evenness on both reins.

For the working pirouette, the hip is pushed in on the circle. DO NOT SLOW DOWN! Keep the rhythm quick and forward as slowing down means you will get the bouncy up and down rocking horse. Keep them round and forward, massage the bit in their mouth and don’t let yourself get holding. Keep your weight in your seat bone in the direction of travel. COLLECTION DOES NOT MEAN SLOW DOWN. Ride shoulder fore to travers to shoulder fore and go back and forth. The quality of the canter will improve. The half pass is collected and of course, able to go FORWARD.  In the working pirouettes, the shoulders are in front and they must move quicker. Always look around your turns.  Keep freshening the forward. At any moment you want to be able to GO! Do not let them drop down on you (on a horse that had a tendency to curl and not take the weight onto the hind). If your canter gets slow, freshen it again by going FORWARD with alacrity within the gait. Half pass to X then shoulder fore to corner with the shoulders FIRST then the hip comes in for half pass to X. You must have control over every step and every part of their body, equilaterally.

The canter to walk posed some problems on day 2 as well. Most riders had the canter stall into the walk rather than a step forward INTO the walk from canter. Part of this was likely due to our innate human lazy factor when we go to walk, it’s a break and the horse flops along with us 😉  For the school master, it is important to keep him thinking and working so he does NOT anticipate as these fellows KNOW their job and try to take over.  Throughout training, keep playing with the collection and forward in all movements. This keeps them from getting stale and keeps them interested in their work.

When giving the rein to test for self-carriage, the rhythm should not change. They stay in the same outline and do not fall forward. Ensure you are not carrying the horse yourself by having him lean on you. They must do the work and you must always think uphill.  Push between your changes (for 6s and 4s). Again, do not worry about making a mistake, just find the answer. There is NOTHING WRONG WITH MAKING MISTAKES. Everyone goes through the same issues with their horses. Horses are NOT being naughty when they anticipate. They think they are helping. Do not tell them off for this. Thank them and ask again for the correct answer.  Use the corners and short sides as preparation for your movements.

Transitions into corners, they learn to wait for you. Walk into corners, then trot out, forward and then to a walk. DO NOT PULL. You ease them back smoothly and then push them forward. Do not allow the back to drop. The downward transitions usually ended up with the “Slap the rider, pat the horse” comment as the riders did not hold the horse and push them forward into a walk. Common issue with them all.

Extensions and changes across the diagonal is PUSH, PUSH, PUSH the whole way. Don’t peter out after X. Keep the same rhythm the whole time; do not get slower. *IT MUST BE SAID THAT CHARLOTTES COMMENTS ARE WONDERUL. SHE IS POSITIVE, ENCOURAGING BUT DOES NOT PULL PUNCHES WITH ANYONE, INCLUDING OUR OWN OLYMPIC RIDERS.      Don’t be afraid of making mistakes (again a theme).  We cannot let them get too strong. Keep the bit moving in their mouth so they do not get static and pull, and so WE don’t get static and pull.

A lazy horse must do many transitions within the gait as well as between gaits. They must be kept CRISP off the leg.  In shoulder fore in canter on the circle, the hind leg must come strongly under the tummy.  You can correct the horse after about 2 mistakes (school master) – they know their job.

In the half pass, the shoulders lead. Steady and hold with your seat and legs NOT our hands (an established half halt is obviously required *my addition) Give with the hands regularly to test for self-carriage.  One always wants the muscles behind the saddle to keep moving. In stallions, their tension tends to come through an open mouth/gaping.

When the horse has done something well, let them have a breather, stretch them or give them a walk break. Very important in the youngsters/greenies. Keep them happy!! We as riders MUST be disciplined to ride EVERY step. You are ALWAYS riding, even at a breather walk. WE MUST BE DISCIPLINED!!! We cannot expect every ride to go well. Bad rides can and do affect our lives off the horses. Try to take a positive out of every ride by trying to learn WHY it was bad. Learning from the issues we have is the POSITIVE in a bad day. Remember this. IF I DON’T WIN, I DIDN’T LOSE, I LEARNED.  We cannot take everything so seriously… Remember why you do this, because we LOVE IT.  (questionable sometimes haha! *my addition*)

Work forward and back within exercises. Travers, renvers etc.  Pirouettes again, don’t just finish the pirouette and ride out of it, make it smaller, bigger etc. Keep them round and SOFT. Weight in the direction of travel and don’t pull back!  Keep them round and soft working over the back to keep the tension out. Tension equals getting to UP and the rocking horse. There should be 7-8 steps in a pirouette – Edward Gal gets them in 6, so I am still catching him up (CD).  Control the quality and keep it from getting too slow and against the hand. Keep the contact and push the neck down, ride it big, then small, then big, then small. Think ROUND in the pirouettes. RIDE THE QUALITY. THINK ABOUT YOUR TRANSITIONS!! Short bursts in passage; keep it quick in the hind – quick and round. The neck must be in the correct position to PUSH. Keep them soft in the hand and soft in the rein.  Each leg yield must be equal to the other side in depth, steepness etc.

Zig zag – They are not just sideways; think shoulders over first. Same amount of bend both ways down the centre line. Be brave and take risks!! EXPRESSION!! “He is going to the loo… he’s a man, can’t do two things at once” (horse pooping in the ones lol) When the horse wants to take over, shoulder in, round and loose in front of the saddle but using shoulder in, they must step further underneath themselves more. Turn from the outside – 2 reins and push them round. Keep wiggling the fingers to keep them from holding against you.  RIDE WITH YOUR HAND BRAKE OFF! There must be bend in the pirouette towards the movement but it must not be too climby. Over collection results in the climbing and up/down rocking horse. Make it easier and break it down for them. Keep them on/in contact on 2 reins equally. Travers on a diagonal line is essentially a half pass. Push the neck away. Keep on making transitions within the elements/movements. Shorter vs more forward, larger passage etc. Ride the speed control in the passage; it MUST be small to transition to piaffe.

100s of transitions in any ride, speed, forward, quicker, longer etc.

Piaffe – when learning let them travel a bit and keep it easier for them.  Always praise, don’t tell them off… keep them happy in their work. Better to make a mistake while being forward!  Keep them straight; head and neck in front of their chest (this seems straightforward but is deceptively hard! *my addition).  When you ride, have a PLAN. Don’t just go ride test movements, GP movements etc. all the time, the horses won’t last. Think about the future and school them with the thought of years ahead. MAKE THEM LAST BY KEEPING THEM HAPPY.

Straightness – use the wall to help them be straight, then on the diagonal they should stay straighter.  When riding a test, make a good first impression. Forward into a square halt makes the judge start you off with good marks and keep wanting to give them to you.  Core is where your control is. Stay in control of the shoulders. If you back off something and worry about your mistakes, you will never fix them.  Changes are a personal thing. Charlotte can’t get them on Carl Hester’s horses and Carl can’t get them on Charlottes. Nothing inherently bad about this, it just IS.  YOU CAN RISE TO THE TROT ANY TIME YOU LIKE. It gets you off the back, the horse more forward and rising to the trot in half pass is FINE. Dressage is not about the “tricks”, it is about the suppleness, submission, straightness, bend and collection. If you can do that, the tricks are easy.

Rising trot – relaxes them, bend them and move them around. Keep them happy and relaxed (this was in regards to E Strasser’s horse who was getting very tense and tight). Open the rein to keep them bent around your inside leg. Keep pushing the neck out to take your hand.  Vary the stretch: pick them up, stretch them down, pick them up, stretch them down. Up to bit, think forward, then stretch down to hand.  If they get tense and tight, go rising trot. Play with them and take all the pressure off. It may not be expressive, but it will be more correct and the horse will relax.  Emphasize going back to the basics to reassess and to deal with any tension in the horse. Go back and make sure it is correct and not just flashy.

charlotte dujardin

Photo source:

October 20, 2016 |

Charlotte Dujardin Clinic – Day 1

charlotte dujardin

Janet Rowe has graciously submitted her notes from the past weekend’s clinic with Charlotte Dujardin at the Caledon Equestrian Park.  It sounds like this wasn’t a clinic to miss and there was tons of information to take away (so much in fact, that we have to do a separate post for day 2’s notes!) If you would like to submit clinic experiences, horse show results or local stories, please email them to

Charlotte Dujardin Clinic Day 1 Notes

Forward, forward, FORWARD is the theme of the education. When you put your legs on the horse MUST react by going FORWARD.  The main job for a youngster is to learn to GO. You can let them learn about life by going to shows, hanging out, schooling in the warm up but they do not need to show to learn how to deal with the atmosphere of shows and to see the sights. Make it a good experience and they learn from that. A bad experience (such as going into the ring to show too soon) will decrease their confidence and create a bad experience which translates into further stress onto a youngster. Repetition = learning for youngsters. Do NOT tell them off, just carry on and let them learn via repetition and praise when they get it right. Give them a walk break after correct attempt. NO SITTING TROT ON YOUNGSTERS!!! They are not developed enough through the back and it hinders that all important FORWARD motion. You can sit later when they are stronger.  Let youngsters have lots of breathers and breaks. They are learning and need to stay relaxed and forward. Happy and forward equals no soreness and stiffness from overworking.

Downward transitions are STILL FORWARD MOVEMENTS.  GOOD transitions are the foundation.  Allowing sloppy transitions equals bad habits that will create holes that need to be corrected in the future. So do it CORRECT right from the start. TRAINING IS ALL ABOUT MISTAKES. MAKING THEM, CORRECTING THEM, LEARNING FROM THEM. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES.

It does NOT need to be perfect at this point, just forward. Keep the TRY and good feelings about their work, this will pay dividends later for you.  DO NOT ACCEPT BAD TRANSITIONS!! Not good? DO it again!!

Stay away from working on the walk with a youngster. They need to learn about moving forward and loose. To work on it too soon creates a pacey walk. Let them learn to WALK by hacking out and letting them use themselves over uneven ground etc.  20 minutes of work is PLENTY for a young horse. . You can warm up in canter if you like, doesn’t have to be trot or walk (NO SITTING TROT!!).

When working on flying changes, the horse must be straight and collected in the canter, quick and active in the hind leg. Think walk with the reins and canter with the legs.   When the horse does something correct, give them a breather. If they give you a great ride, don’t keep drilling, let them stretch then put them away. Keep a happy outlook in their work. Think UP and FORWARD. The same rhythm must be kept for the flying changes. No rushing into it, no speeding up, no slowing down. SAME RHYTHM and COUNT IT. 1 – 2 – 3 – CHANGE. This keeps the quality of the change.

Lateral work must have the same rhythm as other work. Do not lose the impulsion and FORWARD. Play with aspects of the angles, rhythm but always keep everything forward.  Shoulder in is the flexion through the poll, NOT the neck. Finish straight in the corners. Short reins to push towards, NOT to pull back with (“Short reins win gold medals”).

Leg yielding down the wall to teach the horse to get off the leg, then ask for the bend for the travers (haunches in). Always riding BACK to FRONT to push up into a contact is especially important in a horse that likes to be overly light in their contact.  You can vary the bend and the angle with lateral work, there are no set prescribed angles that you must hit. Play with it to keep it all interesting for the horse and keep him sharp.  Your corners and short sides set you up for everything!! Use them well!  If you need more bend, you can achieve it via an opening leading rein, NOT through pulling or pulling back.  Shoulders first (ride shoulder fore) then asking for hind end in half pass. DO NOT LOSE THE IMPULSION and keep your weight slightly in the direction of travel.  One has to ask for the half halt through the body, NOT through the reins (half halts are close to my heart, almost no one knows how to ride or install them properly *my add in*).

As you bend, always support though the outside and give the reins occasionally to ensure the horse is in self carriage.  LOTS of transitions (in and out of gaits) with lots of half halts to get them waiting and shifting their balance.  Use a vibrating rein, NOT a hold. Use the diagonal line to the wall to get a relaxed bend and not from the centre line and this will decrease resistance and stiffness in the horse.  RISING TROT TO REINFORCE FORWARD ALWAYS!  Again, think UP and FORWARD.

LOTS of posting, no sitting on youngsters or horses that have the tendency to suck back or curl up. LET GO AND GO FORWARD!! Many half halts to rebalance and continually get them to shift the weight to the hind legs.  On a horse that tends to lose balance on the laterals, use BOTH reins to *push* the shoulders off the track, NOT pull on one rein. This enhances the imbalance in the horse.  Uphill rebalancing is always half halt, half halt!! If the horse isn’t totally forward, install it. Leg equals GO!! If they start to ignore the leg, re-establish this, go for a YEEHAW and KICK!!! And GO!!!  A lazy horse needs to be ridden with legs OFF and a hot horse needs to be ridden with legs ON.  Riders need to be BRAVE enough to LET the horse go forward. Kick forward and LET THEM GO, don’t snatch them in the mouth, allow the forward.

Prepare the walk before the canter. All transitions (up and down) are all forward thinking. You only get the quality in the next gait, transition etc. if you set it up properly and RIDE.  Your legs are to be loose on the horse’s sides, but still THERE. Continually freshen up the gait by ensuring the horse is continually working forward. A horse that is built uphill and can curl, you can ride shoulder fore in the canter as this tends to push the bum DOWN. A good exercise for a horse like this is to leg yield in the canter to push his bum down. Push him away from the leg and get the forward helps collect the canter. Continue to freshen up the gait by working straight and forward, quick off the leg.  Canter to walk is to shorten the step, collect then allow them to walk FORWARD into the walk (evidenced to be much harder than it seems as all riders had issues with this and were *back* in their transitions downward). Let your hip go to your hand to encourage yourself to not be stiff.

***TAKE CREDIT AS A RIDER FOR YOUR FAULTS*** Work to correct them but do not be AFRAID of them. Correct WITHOUT HOLDING the horse.  NEVER BE SLOPPY. ALWAYS ride the quality. Horses get habituated to what we teach, and sloppy downwards end up with horses falling on their forehands and plopping out of the FORWARD we want.  Play between the half pass and leg yield, this keeps them bending and flexible. If the horse is not forward, go for the YEEHAW! WINNERS MAKE AND TAKE RISKS – BE BRAVE!!!!!

charlotte dujardin

Photo source:

October 18, 2016 |

Ingrid Klimke Clinic at the Caledon Equestrian Park December 2015


This past December, DMF Productions hosted an Ingrid Klimke clinic at the newly built indoor arena at the Caledon Equestrian Park.  Klimke, a German eventing rider, is a very accomplished equestrian. She is a gold medal Olympian as well as the second woman ever to receive the title of “Reitmeister (Riding Master) from the German Equestrian Federation. Her list of accomplishments include:

  • 1992, member of the elite team from which riders were chosen to represent Germany at the Olympics in Barcelona.
  • 1998, winner of the World Championship for young 3-day event horses in Le Lion d’Angers, France.
  • 1999, 2000 and 2001, German champion in 3-day eventing.
  • 2000, member of the 4th place 3-day eventing team at the Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. Had the current rules been in effect, her personal result would have earned her the silver medal in individual competition.
  • 1998, 1999, 2003, 2006 and 2007, champion of German professional riders.
  • 2002, competed in the World Cup Final in dressage at s’Hertogenbosch and achieved an outstanding 7th place finish.
  • 2004, competed in her second Olympics in Athens, Greece as a member of the 4th placed 3-day eventing team.
  • 2005, won the individual bronze medal in eventing at the European championships in Blenheim, GB.
  • 2006, 2nd at the CCI**** Badminton, GB; the best result ever for a German rider.
  • 2006, won the World Championship for six year old dressage horses.
  • 2006, member of the gold medal winning 3-day eventing team at Aachen.
  • 2007, the highest placed rider on the German 3 day eventing team finishing 10th in the individual standings at the European championships in Rome, Italy.
  • 2008  As a member of the Eventing Team won Gold at the Hong Kong Olympic Games and came second in the Final of the Nuernberger Cup. She was presented the Silver Laurel Leaf award for the second time, by the State President, Horst Koehler.
  • 2009  She was second place in the Final of the Medien Cup
  • 2011  Won team Gold at the European Championships, 2012  In conjunction with the K+K Cup in Münster she was awarded the Title“ Riding Master“At the Olympic Games in London won Gold as a part of the Eventing Team.  In November State President Joachim Gauck presented her with my third Silver Laurel Leaf award.

The clinic attracted approximately 200-250 auditors each day and attracted top riders, such as Canadian Olympic eventer, Selena O’Hanlon. In this video, you will get to hear from some of the riders as they discuss their experiences with the clinic and what their plans for the show season are.  The January/February 2016 issue of On The Horse ( has a fantastic clinic recap that covers tips and exercises if you wish to try them at home.

We also get a chance to talk with DMF Productions Founder and CEO, Danny Forbes and hear who he would love to bring in for a clinic if time and money were no object. Stay tuned to the DMF Productions website for announcements and to purchase riding or auditing spots for upcoming clinics.

March 18, 2016 |
Skip to toolbar