Three-time Olympic Champion Anky van Grunsven came to Canada to give a clinic organized by DMF Productions in Burlington, ON this weekend. Dressage rider and trainer Aliy Brebner, who runs Northern Equestrian Centre in Osgoode Ontario (near Ottawa), went to audit and kindly sent us this report. Thanks Aliy!
Anky van Grunsven’s Clinic Report – May 3-5, Burlington, ON
When I heard that Anky would be coming to do a three day clinic in Canada, I knew it was a great opportunity to see one of the world’s most decorated dressage riders in action. For years, Anky has been the subject of debate with her controversial training methods and I was very interested to see how she would convey her theories and system to a North American audience.
We arrived at Iron Horse Equestrian Complex on Saturday to a packed house of three hundred auditors. The day began with the less experienced horses and riders, with the more advanced groups in the afternoon. As a coach of primarily adult amateurs and juniors, I was very interested to see how this world class coach and trainer would relate to the non-professional on very typical horses.
I was very pleasantly surprised. Anky brought a wonderful sense of humor to her teaching that was quick to put the riders at ease (even while riding in front of a multi-Olympic champion and hundreds of auditors!) Her exercises were straight forward, logical and allowed the riders to clearly explain to the horses what they were looking for: go forward, don’t pull,use your outside rein!
She wanted riders to step out of the box and think about what would be the simplest way to train the horse, from using your voice in the downward transitions to minimizing the aids so that the horse can hear you. Consistently during the lessons, the horses improved and the riders looked thrilled at the results. Many times, the riders were told to reward quicker and for less than is typically satisfactory from the horse, to build confidence and understanding. My favorite quote of the day was “reward the flying change, even if it is not perfect, reward that they did it”.
As the day progressed and the small tour and grand prix horses came out, we were able to see the extent of her expertise, that has clearly come from riding and training many horses to the international level. Her exercises were designed to set the horses up for success so that they could learn in the most positive way possible.
The big message, which lightly touched on the elephant in the room of the rollkur and hyperflexion debate that she has been targeted for in the past, was to simply be able to put the horse where you want him (deep, very deep, up) and to move him gymnastically through his body so that he stays fit and is not schooled every day in the same frame without allowing his muscles to stretch thereby treating the horse as an athlete.
As a trainer, it was the most interesting clinic I have seen in years, because you rarely see such a range of horses and riders finish their rides with so much success, from a professional of that caliber. I thought her method was anything but controversial and her obvious respect for the horse as a partner was refreshing.
Many thanks to DMF Productions for hosting such a great event. Hopefully Anky will be back!