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2017 Carol Lavell Advanced Prize Recipient: Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo

Sanceo: Owned by Alice Womble-Heitman & Dr. Mike Heitman of Horsegate Ranch

I spent just under 60 days training with Jan Nivelle in Mönchengladbach, Germany. Jan's first observation after Sanceo arrived  to his stable was that Sanceo had really great rideability, straightness and was trained very equally on both sides. The areas he wanted to improve on was to increase his strength in the hindquarters, his overall strength, top line, frame and overall look of a Grand Prix horse.

We worked on Sanceo's piaffe to be more in place and developed more strength in the passage to get more equal and regular steps. In the canter, we want him to keep his outside hind foot longer on the ground, so I had to pay attention to give my rein aid the moment his outside front leg was on the ground. Catching the moment of when to push him more off the ground into a rein contact that allows ground cover but also keeps his front end (front legs and shoulders) from staying too earthbound.

We made lots of small tempo differences, making sure when riding the canter pirouette that he honestly stays in front of the leg and really takes the bit. I'm paying attention to start the upward transitions on the grounded straight vertical outside front leg. In the walk, I need to create more ground cover and get the front legs to reach more forward and walk more over a supple back. First, we slowed the walk down to the point where I could feel I was controlling to move EACH leg of the horse. I had to pay attention to keep the leg that is in the backward momentum longer on the ground. Once Sanceo understood to wait and let me be in control over each step , I started to push him forward again but had to make sure that he pushes forward on my aids instead of increasing speed/tempo ahead of my aids or get quick in the steps. Sometimes it helped when I got my seat up and out of his back to relax his back. I implemented the collected walk in between, paying attention that I maintain control over Sanceo's foot fall, his back and the connection. Jan encouraged me to walk my horse 20-30 min before starting actual work. He said a research study said that it takes that long to get all the fluids in the horses joints going. So another exercise we did during our walk time is to leg yield in a steep angle and slow steps and pay attention to have a lot of abduction from the inside front and hind leg.

In the passage, we worked on getting a more piaffe like passage by focusing on Sanceo the connection and staying connected to the bit. He used to be a little uneven and skipping in the hind legs. I really felt a HUGE improvement in the passage and getting the piaffe more on the spot as a result from getting Sanceo to work more off of his hind legs. When we practiced the passage from the walk, we had to teach him to start more vertically with his hind legs. The trot half passes need a bit more lift and air time (suspension) and I had to make sure that yet he stays fluid and forward. Canter piourette to the right needs more lift and Sanceo needs to bring his back more up. I felt like he was not responding well enough to my inside leg to push him more off the ground so I made a couple bigger efforts with my right leg to the point where he responded with better effort and then I walked and pet him and then repeat a couple times.

I did not practice the zig-zag with Sanceo because I felt that I had to first get better at it so I have been using another clients horse to practice. This has turned out to be a good decision because I got really nice scores in my last two shows with Sanceo for my zig-zags  Overall this trip was mainly about connecting hind legs over the back to the reins like the picture below demonstrates.