Thursday, October 1, 2009

Walter Zettl Dressage Clinic-Kerrville, Texas

Walter Zettl and moi


Scott and his Perch/Andalusian cross Sky High Scotty

Caren with Walter getting wired for sound....

Cindy on Unity- Dutch Warmblood

Jackie riding Caesar

On Tuesday I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a Walter Zettl dressage clinic and get some learnin' in! Since Kerrville is only about 45 minutes from my house and the price was right, my friend Linda and I were quite thrilled to get the opportunity to see a master at work. Above are only a few of the riders (there were 7 total) and I learned from each one. As we arrived, craning our necks, to see if we were in the right place (only seven cars?), we went to check it out. And let me tell you. This was spot on cool to see this guy teach. As soon as I arrived and placed my chair ringside (2 chairs down from Walter) beside a to DIE FOR covered arena with MIRRORS (OH!!! I dream of having mirrors...) and incredible footing with tire entrails and sandy loam, Walter took a moment to come up and give me a HUGE bear hug! This was one of about three or four I received that day, and I tell you, you GOTTA LOVE a German hug!!! :) And folks, this was a more private clinic, or not advertised, or well, lets face it, dressage riders in Texas are just not as common as the cactus we grow! The entire day there were never more than 20 folks watching, and this included the seven riders who were participating in the clinic.

Linda tried to get us spots as riders (without my knowledge) and when I heard that I almost died! HELL NO!!! I have had exactly 10 dressage lessons in MY LIFE (as I used to equate dressage to watching paint dry at the lower levels, but as I see what it does for your overall riding, I am HOOKED!)
Only 6 of these lessons have been on Jackson, my own horse. We will be considered for next year apparently, and that would suit me much better, because my horse and I are doing SO well with only six lessons under our girths!

The wonderful thing about watching these riders was that no MATTER how accomplished many of them were, I could see them working at the exact same stuff that I do. At a bit of a higher level perhaps, but the same issues still arose. I would lean over and say to my friend, "she is riding really forward", or,"watch, he's going to tell her to increase her contact", and lo and behold, Walter would be right there with me giving the same advice!

Most of the rider's were working at late first to somewhere in the second level, with one by the name of Sandy Whistler (who BLEW us all away with her horse Papillion that she has trained and started herself as a 3 yr. old and is now ONLY 7!), and is in LATE 2nd level, easily to be 3rd very soon. She got so much applause (hardly anyone else did until the end!), b/c Walter pushed her to do more and she did it flawlessly with things she had never even attempted before. She doesn't want to compete, she does it all for her own rewards, and sadly I did not get a pic due to battery issues, but she sat beside me after she rode and I got TONS of great advice from her. She asked what my riding background had been before I started dressage, and when I said strictly jumpers, she had all kinds of great tips and advice. SHE was awesome!!! I tend to ride quite forward while keeping my lower legs rock steady(as I noticed some of the riders with jumping and eventing experience tended to), and she gave me easy tips to put into practice. (And they WORK oh, so well, as I found out while riding the next day!)....

A BIG thing I realized is that we will all ALWAYS be working on our weak spots. I had always thought that at a higher level of dressage and with tons of practice these would just magically go away. Stupid, I know. But after seeing these ACCOMPLISHED riders still making MY mistakes, well... It helped. The forwardness and my lower legs will improve, but will they always be my nemesis? It appears that this is very possible. Or my wonky left hand and bat wing shoulder that never want to behave?.... :)

Walter talked to me about how he used to ride 8 horses a day, all having to be immaculately groomed and turned out for presentation, clean the stalls, and then, only then, he MAY have had time to watch his instructor ride and teach. Being German-- at the top in most world competition--he most likely did have it very hard. MUCH harder than any working student today in the U.S. It was almost like hearing how our parents had to trudge 6 miles each way in the snow, right? NOT. I told Walter I would take that over my current job ANY day, any time. He chuckled and seemed to give that some thought. He also told me that he is having an ABSOLUTE ball touring with the Parelli's and that Linda P. is really coming along as a student.

I was happy to see and learn at this clinic, but honestly, since my own trainer is VERY Europeon, it wasn't that different from her teaching AT ALL. In fact, it was a mirror image in many ways. They are both the same age, from Europe (she from England) and teach dressage with the same mind set; at times even the SAME sayings. OPEN THE DOOR. That's a big one. This was great because now I KNOW I am learning from the right instructor, the RIGHT WAY!! Parallel teaching. Almost, if not better than taking lessons from Walter. AND, Allison's accent is much easier to understand! LOL!

We felt SO compelled to put into practice ALL that we had learned, we didn't attend Day 2. It was going to be the same riders and I was itching to get my butt on my own mighty Jackson. Walter asked if we were coming back, and I said, "I would love to Walter, but I feel like I need to ride tomorrow. Priorities you know." His blue eyes lit up, and he said, "Oh, yes my love, I DO understand...."

What an awesome experience.


  1. Wow!!! Wow WOW!!! Sounds like you had a wonderful time at the clinic! How great that there weren't that many people there and you could talk to Walter. I can't wait to start riding Gilly again, had so much time off because of the horrid horse flies here.
    I got to ride in a great covered arena the other day on a friends horse. Wonderful horse, trained really well but it was a little scary for me because I don't know the right cues for her so we just walked! LOL But still it was great to ride a horse that has a lot of forward movement; Gilly is a slug! LOL That's OK we will get there in our own time. If you check out my blog you can see Hess and some of the indoor arena, a Cover-All, really nice....oh, I wish!
    And so post how your work with Jackson went after the clinic!! :-)

  2. So that is where you have been!?!?!?! WOW!

    Way awesome! Glad you had such fun and learned so much!

    I wish I were only 45 mins from ANYTHING that is awesome and horse related! Alas, I must drive a good 2 hours to get to anything!!

    Glad you had fun, and learned so much!

  3. Wow! and he says Linda Parelli is "coming along"?

    Woo hoo! I'm glad you got to go!

    Pick a weekend in November for our ride (I think I'm snake bit, let's see if you have better date karma. :) ) We've got to get our red boys together.

  4. That sounds like such a great learning experience. I am looking into some reining lessons myself... its the western version of dressage!!!

  5. That is Yeeeowsa! you couldn't wait to try out your new knowlege there!
    Cool happy for you. I LOVE amazing you got so mnay you hugable lovable girl you!

  6.! He is a gift to the horse world, an amazing man with such vast knowledge of the horse. He is so dang sweet too...nothing like a Walter hug. So glad you got to meet him and experience his teaching.

  7. OHHHHH! What a wonderful opportunity :) I think Walter Z is one of the best. I have not yet been able to attend one of his clinics but I would love too!
    You must have so many things to try, enjoy!!

  8. Sounds like a truly magical experience for you! I bet you were starry eyed and floating on a cloud all day...and then on Jackson the day afterwards :)


  9. Golly gee - I have dreamed of being able to audit a Walter Zettl clinic. I love his teachings, from his books an dall, and would adore to meet him but it probably won't happen. Good for you to have an instructor who is on the same wave-length as this great master.


Please leave your comments here! I am always happy to hear from all of you in the form of advice, encouragement or questions!
~Slainte' Mhath!