BROOKE Lodge, Stepaside, Dublin was lucky enough to have one of the world’s leading judges and coaches visit Ireland for a two-day clinic and evening seminar, Germany’s Christoph Hess.

Both the clinic and seminar were organised by Liz Frayling and her family business, Toorala Equine Performance, and kindly hosted by Iris Walshe at Brooke Lodge. Christoph, whose accolades are too numerous to mention, is undoubtedly unique in both his positive attitude and ability to instill confidence in both horse and rider.

Hess has the ability to explain and break down his training methods in a clear and concise way, making it easy to understand for everyone.

His expertise and knowledge comes from over 30 years of heading up the German Equestrian Federation, and from countless clinics, seminars and demonstrations around the world. His knowledge is unsurpassed yet he is most unassuming, a real gentleman, a kind and intelligent individual.

The Friday evening seminar attracted a good attendance, of upwards of 45 people. The focus was on training the young horse, with a horse in each of the age groups, four, five and six years old. At each level, Christoph assessed the way of going and used simple but effective exercises to achieve a better way of going and harmony between horse and rider.

He focused on the basics with the scales of training, rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness and collection at the centre of everything. Each session had a clearly defined goal with specific exercises that allow horse and rider to achieve a positive, clear outcome in a fun and educational way.

Attendees heard, “leg, leg, leg” as he constantly encouraged the rider to achieve a more forward way of going, the horse stretching down with their neck and out with the nose in all three gaits. He encouraged all riders to use their position and weight aids to help the horse, whether it was during a downwards transition or through a half pass, taking both reins in one hand and riding more from the leg and seat. Each and every exercise is to encourage horse-friendly riding with a relaxed and happy horse.

Riding from leg to hand

Hess works with both the German and British eventing teams and is a real advocate of riders from all disciplines, including dressage using the light seat to allow the horse to relax and move freely over the back, using the power in their hindquarters to really push, all the while the rider staying in perfect balance and harmony with the horse.

This is a real test for the rider to ride less with the hand and more from their leg and weight aids, using their body language to influence the horse. The image is then one of harmony with a happy horse and rider moving effortlessly. To conclude, with possibly the best quote of the night or even of the two days: “the inside hand is just for decoration”.

Wise words from a master.