by Wendy Krebs, DVM
I doubt I am alone amongst my fellow dressage enthusiasts in that I would much rather spend my spare moments in the saddle or mucking stalls than watching cable TV, so my family doesn’t have it. I therefore battled mightily with NBC’s stingy Peacock app during the Tokyo Olympics and was ultimately rewarded with snippets of Sabine Schut-Kery’s rides on Sanceo. Shortly after that revelatory experience, I heard Sabine was coming to Oregon to be a clinician for the ODS 50th Anniversary Celebration in Wilsonville in October; being completely starstruck by the steamy images of their Tokyo performances, I promptly made plans to attend.
To be honest, beforehand, I wasn’t sure that any of Sabine’s wisdom would be intelligible or applicable to an amateur such as myself. However, within the first few minutes of each of the talented demo horse and riders’ sessions, Sabine’s almost magically astute observations allowed her to see what subtle but crucial improvements could take a lovely pair and make it phenomenal.
Even for these accomplished horse and rider pairs, Sabine’s diagnoses were not, in fact, complex or hard for the audience to understand. She identified in the demo horses and riders the same, albeit on a more subtle level, things with which we mortals struggle: a minor lack of true straightness here (corrected by leg yielding exercises, improved suppleness at the poll specifically, or haunches in on a circle): a slight deficiency of true impulsion there (corrected with a zippy whip and inside leg in ribs); or perhaps an unsteady connection with the snaffle (she believes the curb rein should almost always have some slight slack to it).
In her instruction, Sabine focused on the details of the basics and how they will influence more advanced movements in the future. For example, she noted, correcting a slight head-tilt at the trot during leg yields will help avoid head tilting later in the half-pass. Sabine’s exercises effectively and promptly brought up the shoulders, created reach and quickness in the hindlimbs, created cadence, eliminated minuscule amounts of resistance or evasion, and in every instance created a more harmonious and graceful pair.
I think my most essential memory of the clinic came when she was asked in a Q&A Saturday evening to describe her relationship with Sanceo; Sabine spontaneously teared up, causing a pang of recognition amongst us all of a rider who truly loves and respects her partner.