August 2015 - Andreas Hausberger Clinic
Written by Nan Meek
Tuesday, 04 August 2015 20:28
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From Vienna to Carmel Valley, classical dressage training traditions continue.

by Nan Meek

On June 26th, the legendary Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria celebrated its 450th anniversary with a gala performance before thousands of spectators at Heldenplatz in the heart of the city’s baroque Hofburg Palace and municipal complex.

Lauren Billys rode two horses the first morning, 11-year-old Bavarian Warmblood gelding Marseille and 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Purdy, then immediately shipped out to the Pan Am Games where she is at press time representing Puerto Rico in eventing with Purdy. Photo: Rachel Saavedra

Volker Brommann, German-born and Auburn-based trainer who holds the German Equestrian Federation Pferdewirtschaftsmeister license and is the 2015 CDS Amateur Clinic Series instructor, rode the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Dominus, owned by Alexandra Duarte. Photo: Rachel Saavedra

Just a few weeks later, the Spanish Riding School’s tradition of classical dressage training came to Northern California’s Carmel Valley in the 17th Annual h Hausberger Clinic, held at the historic Stonepine Equestrian Estate July 7-9.

Connecting the two events is Andreas Hausberger, Chief Rider of the Spanish Riding School and Director of its new Training Center Heldenberg, where riders from around the world can attend courses and observe the Lipizzans in training or on their holiday breaks. Andreas combines his passion for teaching with his expert knowledge, the result of 450 years of classical training expertise passed down from master to student, generation after generation.

Andreas is also training the next generation in competitive dressage. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, who, with her brother Benjamin Werndl, has been Andreas’ student for seven years, won bronze at the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas with her magnificent Unee BB, and was recently selected for the German Dressage Team that will compete at the 2015 European Championships in Aachen.

Jennifer Roth, longtime Carmel Valley dressage trainer, Lipizzan breeder and USEF “S” dressage judge who recently relocated to North Carolina, began the tradition of Carmel Valley clinics with Andreas 17 summers ago. Early on, she noted his talent for training and his leadership, accurately predicting that he would one day become Oberbereiter. Their friendship and shared interests continue; Andreas now has a North Carolina clinic on his summer schedule.

Melissa Creswick, USEF “S” Dressage Judge, USEF “R” Dressage Sport Horse Breeding Judge, CDS Board Member and Fresno-based dressage trainer, rode her 12-year-old Friesian-cross mare Bravara. Photo: Rachel Saavedra

Bea di Grazia, President of the Monterey Horse Park, USEF Talent Spotter for the U-18 & U-25 Training Programs and USEF “r” Event Judge, rode the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Ringwood Isabelle. Photo: Rachel Saavedra

This year’s Carmel Valley clinic was organized by Paula Langan and Jennifer Nuckton, two longtime participants in the Andreas Hausberger clinics and friends of Jennifer Roth. Their roots firmly planted in Carmel Valley, they accepted the challenge of continuing the tradition begun by Jennifer and Andreas.

At Stonepine, Equestrian Manager Veronica Lothringer and her staff attended to every detail, from stabling in the newly renovated barns located near the race track’s infield dressage and warm-up rings, to daily gourmet lunches for clinic riders and auditors, and after-clinic receptions in the carriage house.

Less is More, Whisper Your Aids

Andreas has met and instructed just about every kind of rider during his many clinics in Carmel Valley. Junior riders on ponies have developed into NAJYRC champions. Professional trainers started world-class young dressage stars in the making. Adult amateurs with stars in their eyes and butterflies in their stomachs discovered light bulb moments.

Anke Herbert, also a Pferdewirtschaftsmeister, who came to Half Moon Bay after training in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, rode her 12-year-old Bavarian Warmblood gelding Fandango. Photo: Rachel Saavedra

Carole Hoffman, USEF “S” dressage judge and coach from Rolling Hills, trained and competed at FEI level since 1970, long listed for the USET 1987-1990 and First Alternate for the Pan Am Games on her Dutch Warmblood Rembrandt, rode her 9-year-old Andalusian stallion Isleno Arm. Photo: Rachel Saavedra

This year the “less is more” concept was a thread that connected ride after ride to the classical principles, with Andreas’ instructions demonstrating that riders can get a better response by “whispering” a soft aid than by blocking their horses with stiff hands, legs or seats. Picturing the textbook-perfect riders of the Spanish Riding School clearly illustrates the truth of that principle.

Whispering in no way includes clucking, even soft clucking. In fact, “no clucking” was heard many times as riders were instructed to use their legs not their voice. Another instruction Andreas repeated time and again was “clap your horse,” meaning to pat it on the neck as a reward.

Carrying a ready supply of sugar cubes in his red waist pack, Andreas was quick to reward the horses as he worked on piaffe with more experienced horses, or the half-steps that introduce the concept of piaffe to less experienced horses.

Every horse got a little bit of this important concept at some point in its lesson, not because they were necessarily expected to do piaffe in the moment, but because the idea of piaffe is part of the horse gradually learning to step under himself and lower the haunches in collection. There were some wonderful “real” piaffes and passages from some of the higher-level horses.

Tracey Lert, USEF “S” dressage judge, rode her 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Udo, who is currently ranked in the top 20 for the 2015 USEF Grand Prix Championships and 314 in the FEI World Rankings, and also rode her 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding Elysian. Photo: Rachel Saavedra

Rachel Saavedra, USDF Senior Faculty Member for the Instructor/Trainer Certification Program, former CDS Amateur Clinic Series instructor, and successful Grand Prix competitor, rode her 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding Sueno Hit. Photo: Avery Brown

Andreas introduced several horses to work in-hand, and worked from the ground with mounted riders on half steps and piaffe, in all cases using a variety of whips and sticks with incredibly precise timing and accuracy. This is not “whip” in the sense of using a whip to punish a horse – this is using the whip as a touching aid to encourage the horse to be more expressive and step with greater cadence or tempo or both. The sticks are hollow bamboo, which, depending on the horse and the goal of the aid, are used instead of, or in combination with, the whip – again, as a directing aid not a punishment.

One unique demonstration occurred when Andreas showed the difference between three whips that all looked pretty similar. One had a very stiff and slow flick, one was a little more flexible and quick to flick, and the third was very limber and fast to react to the flick of his hand. The comparison to Goldilocks and the three bears sprang immediately to mind. Andreas explained that the timing of the touch of the whip is essential to teaching the horse – the touch needs to be at the right moment to be effective and understood by the horse, and the quicker flicker was what he looked for in teaching piaffe.

Every rider took away gems of knowledge from this clinic, from their own rides and from watching other riders. Andreas’ empathy for horse and rider, and his ability to transfer the knowledge of classical principles into practical demonstrations, created a collaborative environment for riders and auditors alike. Spontaneous expressions of appreciation for the opportunity to learn from Andreas’ experience and the traditions of the Spanish Riding School were frequently heard.

Clinic riders this year included an accomplished group of professional trainers that were as exciting for auditors to watch as they clearly were for Andreas to instruct.

Adult Amateurs Take Home Knowledge and Enthusiasm

Author and clinic participant Nan Meek fell in love with Lipizzans as a teenager reading Col. Podhajsky’s books about the Spanish Riding School. She never dreamed she would be owned by two Lipizzans, ride in several Andreas Hausberger clinics, and visit the Spanish Riding School. When not practicing 20-meter circles, Nan spends her working hours on marketing and publicity projects for her Dark Horse Media Biz clients. Photo/Rachel Saavedra.

Adult amateurs arrived with horses of many ages, breeds and experience levels. Without exception they departed with contagious enthusiasm for continuing at home what they learned from Andreas at the clinic.

Amateur participants included: Kate Chilkott and her 17-year-old Arabian gelding Silver, Kate Emmett-Wilder with her 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare Terra Cotta and her 14-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding Louis, Suzanne Kramer-Morton and her 21-year-old Oldenburg gelding Watik Wadai, Paula Langan and her 14-year-old Friesian-cross gelding Monte, Nan Meek and her 23-year-old Spanish Anglo-Arab gelding Helio, Shelly Meredith and her 5-year-old P.R.E. gelding Dante, Clara Moehlman and her 11-year-old P.R.E gelding Casanova, and Suzanne Thomas with her 9-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding Boy Wonder.

Bright Future for Classical Dressage Traditions

Andreas predicts a bright future for the traditions of classical dressage in California. “In 17 years of teaching in Carmel Valley, I have seen riders in the U.S. becoming more and more interested in classical dressage. The standard of riding is getting higher and higher. From working with many professional trainers over the years, I have seen a good base of knowledge develop for the upcoming generation of dressage riders here in California.”


For more information about the Spanish Riding School, the Piber Stud, and Training Center Heldenberg, visit www.srs.at and the official Spanish Riding School page on Facebook, “Spanische Hofreitschule” which is in German with “See Translation” buttons on each post for instant English translation.

Special thanks to Rachel Saavedra, Jennifer Nuckton and Shelly Meredith for photographing the 2015 Andreas Hausberger Clinic. Note that in some photographs the horses’ tails are wrapped to keep them out of the way during piaffe work. There’s a purpose to everything in dressage!