Steffen Peters Clinic | February 6, 2021

We were beyond lucky to host the four-time Olympian, three-time USEF Horseman of the Year and one of my absolute favorite riders to watch in person. We had a fantastic day learning from the best and it’s safe to say that our expectations of ourselves are firmly elevated. We’re all still basking in the glow of the enlightenment . Where do I even begin?

Let’s start with expectations.

If you’re enthusiastic enough to watch a full clinic with any trainer, you’ll generally notice that there is a common message that applies to every ride, no matter the level. With Steffen, it was undoubtedly that our expectations need to be elevated.

When I say that he elevates your expectations of yourself and your horse, I mean it in the truest sense. He was by far the most exacting coach I’ve ever ridden with. He didn’t expect us to be perfect, but he expected us to keep trying until we got it perfect. He said, “if you accept less than perfect, you will continually get less than perfect.”

An almost-perfect transition is not perfect, so try again. There was no bark to this demand, simply the fact that we should all expect more than we were. He was e x a c t i n g.

In the best way possible. He forced us to refine aids, transitions, movements, that we didn’t even realize could be refined to that level. Each rider expressed to me that his standards were eye opening. Our ‘good enough’ has flown right out the window. He mentioned more than once that the horse might break or show confusion multiple times, that is the actual training moment. Don’t be afraid of the mistakes, use them to train. Eventually they will realize, ‘oh ok, she’s going to be a stickler about this’ and rise to the standard we have set. He said, “it’s all in your expectations and your standards, how you expect them to listen to your aids.” For me, it was that I was continually asking for forward whereas I should ask for forward and expect the horse to continue without constantly nagging. For another rider, he reminded her not to carry the horse when he was heavy or long. He said, “I absolutely refuse to push him every stride.” Show him what you expect and tell him to keep it there. Set your intention and have high expectations for the response. When you don’t get the exact right response, try again, don’t accept almost-right.

“It’s all in your expectations and your standards, how you expect them to listen to your aids”

– Steffen Peters

Do you guys realize how much almost-right we all were accepting? I find it hard to explain how inspiring this new standard of expectation feels without it sounding like we want to be drill sergeants who suck the fun out of riding. Because that’s the opposite of what this feels like and what we intend. So here’s the thing… absolutely nailing it is SO MUCH FUN. It’s so fun to feel the difference in the perfect transition compared to the prior not-so-perfect transition. It’s SO fun to feel the difference in the perfect collected canter versus the really hard to maintain collected canter. There’s no ego, there’s no getting mad at the horses when they’re taking an easier way, it’s just the absolute dedication to nailing it. Every time. And being so proud and appreciative to the horse when you do. Hurrah.

We’ve all heard it before that every moment with horses you’re training, but he cemented it as he said to one rider, “every time you pick up the contact you’re training.” Every time, guys. He said, “we should teach our horses every single day. We should train them. Dressage at the end of the day is teaching.” He told us that they are entitled to their opinions, entitled to tell us that the work is hard or that they don’t understand, but they don’t need to argue about it. So we maintain consistent expectations for responses to aids and then the horse has clarity in our consistency.

He also reminded us regularly to ‘make a difference’ with the aids. He repeated to several riders that we should make a difference when we use the spur in particular, don’t just use it to maintain the movement. When one horse needed to move off the right leg and then had a very clear reaction when the right spur was applied well, he said, “make a difference with the right spur, yes! That to me is training!” A clear concise aid was given, and a clear concise answer was received. It was beautiful to see lightbulbs flicker all day.

The same thought about making a difference applied within the gaits as well. To one rider he said, “Never have the feeling that you’re struggling through a movement, make a difference.” Meaning, don’t just say this is hard for us, let’s just get through it. The point of this adventure is not to struggle through.

I was struck that for every pair, he worked with us to find what worked for that horse in particular. He told one rider, ‘we want to find for every horse the most appropriate frame where they say ‘here I can carry myself here I get a little bit lighter’. For my mount in particular, I hadn’t even realized how long he gets from the base of the neck. We are generally well connected in the bridle and seemingly through, but he was consistently wanting to stretch. Steffen told me that the stretch is (of course) a good thing at the right moment, but for this horse it’s where he wants to go constantly but it isn’t best for his body. We worked diligently to find a new balance where he can take weight off his forehand. As Steffen said, the horse as a creature is not designed to carry weight on the forehand. So if we teach them to carry behind, we’ll preserve them and do their bodies a service.

Expectations, it turns out, are everything. When I went from (what for me was a difficult to achieve) collected canter back out to medium, I kept encouraging him forward with my hand rather than keeping the neck up where it needed to be to keep him loaded behind. This very basic but difficult task brought everything full circle for me. Insert lightbulb here. If I’d had higher expectations of our level of forward from the beginning, it would have been lightyears easier to achieve a balanced forward out of the collection.

There is so much that I’m not touching on, but I can confidently say that all of our riders (and hopefully our auditors) all walked away from our day with Steffen with exceptionally raised expectations of ourselves and the clarity of our aids.

We had better do our homework because we’re insanely lucky to have Steffen returning to us for a half day on Saturday, February 20th! Somebody pinch me, I can’t believe our good fortune! We would love to invite friendly, socially distant, eager to learn auditors to join us again. Can’t wait to see you all soon!


Some of my quick notes:

  • Every time you pick up the contact you’re training.
  • To me it’s all about two things; the horse can either accept the bit and respect the bit or they spend the rest of their life working against the bit. They have to accept the leg aid seat aid and just as much they have to accept the rein aid. 
  • You don’t want to use the whip to punish him but you can use the whip a little bit the next time he goes against you when you pick up the rein.
  • Make a difference with the spur, don’t just use it to maintain the movement. 
  • We should teach our horses every single day. We should train them. Dressage at the end of the day is teaching. 
  • Never have the feeling that you’re struggling through a movement, make a difference. 
  • It’s all in your expectations and your standards, how you expect them to listen to your aids.
  • We want to find for every horse the most appropriate frame where they say ‘here I can carry myself here I get a little bit lighter’.
  • You can check in there, did my horse yield to the leg and yield to the rein? At the end of the day they should use their. muscles to carry themselves, not your muscles. Use your strength briefly to make a difference.
  • That needs to sink in, this giving in the top line (Proper connected halt walk transition) 
  • Stay on top of it. He’s entitled to an option about the contact but he doesn’t need to argue about it. 
  • A half halt in the most simplistic way needs to be totally understood and respected – in that order.
  • They have to understand the meaning of the half halt and the result of the half halt.
  • Make a difference with the right spur. Yes, that to me is training! 
  • They learn to offer the movement – if you have to force the rein back it’s always trouble. 
  • When you squeeze into the bridle he needs to respond.
  • When I have a horse that wants to dive a little, I do lots of transitions within the gait.
  • Don’t be too tough on yourself, if you give the right aid he should respond behind.

2021-02-20T12:55:00

  days

  hours  minutes  seconds

until

Steffen Peters returns to Copper Light!


About Steffen:

Memorably, at the Atlanta Olympic games, Steffen won team bronze on the U.S. Olympic team with his horse Udon purchased by his father as a three year old. In 2009, he rode Ravel to win the FEI Rolex World Cup finals, then swept the Grand Prix, the Special and the Freestyle at Aachen – a feat no American had ever done. That same year United States Dressage Federation named Ravel horse of the year. He earned both Individual and Team Bronze at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, in 2010, also on Ravel. Steffen won Team and Individual Gold at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games (on Weltino’s Magic and Legolas 92, respectively).

Most recently, at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI4*, Steffen and Suppenkasper landed at the top of the leaderboard in both the Grand Prix and the Special, which he told Chronicle of the Horse is his favorite test with its “beautiful transitions from extended trot to passage.” For more information about Steffen and his training, please visit https://www.spetersdressage.com

Cliff Schadt Clinic this winter

We are thrilled to welcome a bevvy of world class equestrians to the farm this winter, including renowned horsemanship expert Cliff Schadt!

Cliff focuses on developing horses for anywhere from the ranch to the Grand Prix. Drawing on experiences with horseman such as Martin Black, Craig Cameron, and Pat Parelli, Cliff has built a solid program that tailors to fit horses and humans of any age, discipline, and skill level. The 2021 SEFHA Colt Starting Champion, Cliff’s core belief is that when we make a horse feel safe and confident, we can build a solid foundation to ensure success for the rest of the horse’s career. “Rhythm creates Relaxation, Rhythm and Relaxation together create Understanding”

There’s just something about a real cowboy that helps a horse find their confidence, so it’s no surprise that top dressage and jump riders are seeking out master horsemen like Cliff to help start their young horses and give them the best foundation possible, as well as develop deeper bonds with horses already in training. Cliff and his team offer a variety of training options during clinics; from colt starting to advanced applied horsemanship. So there is something for everyone to learn and develop that you can take with you to every horse you ride.

Interested in working with Cliff when he’s at Copper Light? Email ride@copperlightfarm.com or call 772-212-1328

Here’s a little bit about what you can expect from working with Cliff at our clinic this winter:

Intro to Horsemanship

Take both horse and rider to new levels of performance. This session is designed for the developing horse and rider team. Participants will begin with ground work exercises to develop communication, balance, and leadership with their equine partner. Participants will then continue their experience by transitioning these fundamentals to under saddle work that will advance performance across any discipline by developing rhythm, balance, and understanding.

Applied Horsemanship

Building on Solid Foundations. This session is designed for experienced horse and rider teams who are looking to sharpen their skills to further develop their horses. This session is more tailored to the group needs as horses begin to diversify in their chosen fields of performance. From masters of the trail to the grand prix this session is designed to integrate more advanced maneuvers while still integrating the foundations of horsemanship and clear, fair communication.

Foundations of English Riding

Improving performance with Rhythm, Balance, and Understanding. This session is designed to improve riders of all levels across English riding disciplines. Improve your communication skills and send clearer messages to your equine partner while instilling confidence in both horse and rider.

Foundations of Cowhorse Riding

Giving purpose to arena work. Horses thrive when they have a job to focus on. Cow work provides meaning to maneuvers and skills practiced in “dry” work. This encourages free, determined movement and learning from the horse instead of traditional arena drilling.

Colt Starting

Need a confident first ride for your young horse? We specialize in preparing and developing horses for their first experiences with a rider. Let us set a great foundation for you to follow up on.

Have several horses that need to be started? Not a Problem! Want them to have a solid foundation to grow off of? Even better. We offer custom colt start options to provide young horses with the best options to be successful in any future discipline. Let us tailor our approach to fit your program!

Visit his facebook for loads of info:

https://www.facebook.com/CliffSchadtPerformanceHorsemanship/

https://www.cliffschadt.com/

Breathe Deep

It’s late afternoon on a balmy Saturday, the farm is busier than you’d expect for such a hot August day. But the barn aisle is breezy enough to make stable chores tolerable and riders are smartly enjoying the shade of the covered arena. 


I returned from a rare weeklong trip fully expecting a little bit of chaos or discontent. Yet to my delight,  our boarding clients at the farm this afternoon are full of welcomes home and encouragement for taking a break. The barn is neat and orderly, the hay and feed is overflowing yet organized, and most importantly the horses are happy and gleaming. 

{Insert sigh of relief here}


We’ve all seen the blog posts about barn ownership woes, but here’s the thing; as much as you hear or read about it, you can never really understand how nonstop farm work is unless you live it. 

I can tell you that I lay awake at 4am thinking about nutritional changes for your horse, or that instead of chatting with my hubby during our few moments of solace while walking the dogs, I stare at the paddocks wondering if a horse will settle. You might see said hubby dragging the arena and hand raking edges at 11pm the night before a clinic because riders finished late… but until you’re the one laying awake researching grain in the middle of the night or holding your personal life together with a thread because you don’t have the brain power for anything outside of horses, you can’t fully understand how epically all-consuming farm life is. 


I don’t write this seeking sympathy, simply to illustrate that at some point, your horse care team needs a mental reset. They need to leave the farm and have conversations about something other than manure output or fly control. To be a whole person, they need to have more than the four walls of a barn. It shocked me how much I didn’t realize this. I hadn’t seen my family in three years, I hadn’t been on a vacation with my fella in six. It was time to leave the farm. Simple as that. 


So I overstaffed, over ordered, over planned, said a prayer and off we went for a week in the sun. 


The best advice that I didn’t take was to not look at my phone. There is no true way for me to vacate this job, but you know what? Checking in at home between dives to help keep things running smoothly was a small price to pay for dinners with friends and days on the boat.  As I realized our planning was paying off, the guilt melted away like frost on a margarita. I inhaled the breeze as we sped through the bay, and I came back to life one deep breath at a time. 


But as we pulled into the drive, the worry crept back in. Would everything and everyone be alright? Did anything not get relayed? My fears were quickly assuaged. Not only was the farm still standing, our clients were beaming and sharing in the joy of my adventure. 

What an absolute gift.

To realize that we are surrounded by a group of people who understand our need for a little R&R was completely overwhelming. I am so grateful for these lovely people, and the most wonderful staff that handled the extra work with such professionalism and grace. 


After a long journey home, I happily dug into evening chores with a newfound sense of self. I can be both fully committed to the care of these horses AND find time to be a real person. So can the rest of our barn staff, and the staff at your own barns. When they leave the farm, let them leave it behind to relax their minds. When it’s the weekend and you have a question for the farrier about hoof polish, leave it until Monday.  I promise you, your horse will only benefit.


I’ll keep grinding, but will say goodbye to the guilt of the grind, and know I am better at my job for it. I’ll always be a perfectionist, even now I look out at our gorgeous property and see only the things I want to improve. But I will try not to let stress consume me about perceived imperfections. Continue improving, continue learning, but allow room for some mental quiet and find joy from all the good.


So here’s to equine professionals everywhere, may you all have clients as wonderful as mine, who also understand the benefits of breathing deep from time to time.

EAT | Pot Roast

Hey Barn Babes!

We have a little something different for you today. We’ve been sharing recipes at the barn and I thought, why not share with all of you as well?! A little different than clinic notes and horses for sale, but hopefully one of these dishes will bring a little fun to your day.

So today enjoy this delicious pot roast recipe that we’ve tweaked from Cafe Delites (originally recipe here: https://cafedelites.com/slow-cooked-balsamic-pot-roast/)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 pounds chuck roast, boneless and trimmed of excess fat (I used a top round because I wanted a lean meal)
  • 2 yellow onions chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic minced or smashed with the back of a spoon
  • 1 pound baby potatoes halved
  • 4 large carrots, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (splurge on the good stuff, it makes a difference)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons crushed bouillon (or one packet)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 – 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, to serve

DIRECTIONS :

  • Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Season roast all over with a good amount of salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a dutch oven or oven-proof pot over medium-high heat.
  • Sear roast until brown on all sides, anywhere from four to ten minutes per side.
  • Transfer roast to a plate.
  • Sauté 2 chopped onions onions until transparent, then add 8 cloves minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add 1 cup stock and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar to deglaze your pan, scraping up any browned bits.
  • Whisk in the 2 tablespoons of flour and let cook for about 4 minutes (don’t worry about any lumps, they will cook out).
  • Add the potatoes, carrots, 2 tbs mustard, 1 tbs brown sugar, 2 tsp thyme and 2 tsp bouillon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir about.
  • Transfer roast back into the pot.
  • Bring to a simmer, cover with lid and transfer to the oven. Roast for 3-4 hours until the meat is tender and falling apart. (Check roast after 1 1/2 hours. If the liquid has mostly been absorbed, stir in 1 cup of extra broth and continue cooking.)
  • Transfer the roast, carrots, and potatoes to a warm plate.
  • Cut the roast into thick slices, and serve with the vegetables. Spoon pan juices

I served with a salad but would be great with grits too mmmm. Or fresh crispy green beans!

The original recipe called for celery which I would omit when cooking again, and I had given all the big carrots to the horses so I used carrot chips but for sure use the proper carrots if you can. The flavor is perfectly decadent without being too much. And there’s basically nothing ‘bad’ in the dish so it was nice to have a comforting treat without being too rich! Five stars.