Thursday, Jul. 4, 2024

Fender In Focus

Poor Fender. With Ella and Midge and Tres taking up all my training time—and, let's be honest, my training money—he's had to take a backseat to his older "siblings." But this weekend is the Young Dressage Horse Trainers' Symposium at Scott and Susanne Hassler's unparalleled Riveredge in northern Maryland. And Mr. Fender and I were asked to come as a demo pair.

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Poor Fender. With Ella and Midge and Tres taking up all my training time—and, let’s be honest, my training money—he’s had to take a backseat to his older “siblings.” But this weekend is the Young Dressage Horse Trainers’ Symposium at Scott and Susanne Hassler’s unparalleled Riveredge in northern Maryland. And Mr. Fender and I were asked to come as a demo pair.

Symposium, as it is called, is a three day long conference, for a lack of a better term, open only to invited riders and trainers of young horses. No press, no owners. Just those of us in the trenches, working with young horses either because we work for breeders or are trainers out on our own. The closed-door-ness may seem elitist, but it’s really to provide us all with a comfortable opportunity to get real about training. In years past we’ve had wonderful discussions about the ups and the many, many downs of young horse training, and all with high spirits and fun among friends.

This is, of course, an educational opportunity first and foremost, but it’s also a consortium of trainers from all over the continent, and even Europe—my dear friend Eiren is here from her job at Morten Thomsen’s in Denmark. (Eiren rides Fender’s mother and was the one to put me in touch with him and his breeder, Donna, so I owe Eiren quite a few beers.) I love Symposium because it’s a great balance of work and play, and I get to see all the folks I don’t get to see during the year.

In addition to Scott and his wealth of knowledge, Symposium also always has an outside guest trainer. In the years I’ve gone we’ve had Ingo Pape and Michael Klimke, and Ulf Moeller did one of the first Symposiums, before I started participating. This year we’re graced with Steffen Peters, who certainly needs no introduction, and I’m really excited for his perspective on training. I’ve never had the chance to work with him before.

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Fender heard that something big and exciting was coming, so he’s spent the better part of the last two weeks being a chump. “Oh, the opportunity to look like an idiot in front of some American dressage legends and 100 or so of your peers? Excellent!” Fortunately, when the chips were down, he stepped up. He settled in like an old pro yesterday, and other than some very charming extra enthusiasm, he was a superstar to work and made me look awfully smart. Good boy!

We’ll play over the next two days, and then Fender gets to go on a little road trip. This weekend will be my last trip up to Michael’s this year, as he and his staff are starting their Floridian pilgrimage. I’m guessing Fender’s going to be pretty schnookered, so he’s just going to hang out, but I’ll get in two more lessons on Ella before bringing her home. And Michael comes to my place next weekend for a clinic, so with any luck I won’t get into too much trouble on my own.

But until then, it’s all Young Horses, all the time. Here’s to a terrific educational weekend, and Fender continuing to be a good boy who doesn’t try to unload me in front of my friends.

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