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Anky van Grunsven

October 4th at Linköping Horse Show

Questions, answers and comments during the clinic.

Master of ceremonies - Wiveca Schenholm

The riders were; Sofia Möller/Ufo, Jeanna Högberg/Liza Minelli, Caroline Carlstedt/Scarlet, Helena Larson/La Corona, Mads Hendeliowitz/Early Trick, Pether Markne/Nijinski, Per Sandgaard/Orient and Juliette Ramel/Melvin C.

"Communication is the most important thing. There are no secrets." - Anky

Anky likes sensitive horses. There is a difference between tense and sensitive horses. She likes to help other riders a lot, and time flies during her clinic. Three hours is too short of time for 7 riders, she tells. But really interesting for the spectators to see so many horses and riders in different levels get help by Anky.

She asks why the riders carry a whip. If there is a reason for it, it is ok. Otherwise don't carry it. The same goes for things like boots etc. "I always like to train with the same things as I compete with".

When I start working the horse I always work a lot on transitions, trot/walk. The aids to use is the legs, your weight, hands and your voice. It is good to use the voice in the transitions, especially on the younger horse. Don't confuse the horse by using several aids at the same time. "For me the hand means stop and the leg means go. Use no legs when you stop the horse, just your weight and hand. Make sure YOU are the one who decides the speed. If it feels like your horse takes over and runs from you, slow down or halt. Be fast to correct the horse, if it goes too fast, slow down, and when the horse does right, pet immediately. Sometimes you need the horse to be more round and deep than in the competition, to have control, but you need to play with it. When the horse is right, soften your hand. Use your lower leg to make your horse go forward. I want them to go, really go for the leg."

"Trot/canter I like to start on the horses easy side, just to give the horse the idea of what we are after. On a young horse you need to work the canter in a higher speed to help the horse keep the balance and the transition to trot just by the voice, if the horse still runs, make a circle.

If you let your horse relax on long rein between exercises the horse can work longer than we think. Horses have four legs and are made for walking all day long.

The flying changes was one of the things many had problems with. Do not bend your horse in the changes. The horse should be straight when you ask for the change. You can also work with transitions walk/canter and counter canter to prepare the horse.

If the horse doesn't listen to your legs, use the whip as a second aid. Use someone on the ground that helps you to see the changes.

In the end of you work relax the horse, trot on long rein and let the horse stretch his neck."

Anky and her husband Sjef Jansen met when they both tried to get onto the Dressage team for the Olympics in Seoul 1988. "Anky kicked my ass, joined the team and I had to stay at home", Sjef tells with a grin. "Have you gotten over it?" "-Never", he tells and laughs. They both competed on the Dutch team at the European Championships in 1993, Anky on Bonfire, who was only 8 years old at that time and Sjef on a mare called Bo. Now Sjef doesn't compete anymore and is Ankys trainer. "-Bonfire was very difficult as a young horse. She had lots of problems with him during this time. He was really talented but always had "speeding tickets" and was very, very hot. He was always too quick in the canter and Anky asked if I could help her fix the problem. On the question if Salinero is better then Bonfire he tells "–Yes, I think so" "But you did not like him in the beginning?" "-No, he couldn't do many things when he arrived and he was very, very strong and he was VERY ugly!"

When I train my horses I like to walk the horse for 10 minutes, then I always work in rising trot on a long rein. That is also how we want to finish. I really like them to relax and I don´t care too much on where the head is. I just want the horse to relax. I do the same in the canter, and I can also stand up in the stirrups so the horse can work with no pressure.

Then you can start to work in walk with a little collection. We can also make transitions in walk, slower, faster. Lots of variation. In the transition walk/trot we want to see that the horse really goes from the first steps in trot. When the horse is relaxed in the walk and waits for you it's the right time to make the transition to trot. When you use the leg, be quick, do not push the horse forward. Now we can do variations in the trot to almost walk, then forward again, even in shoulder in. Lots of variations all the time. I also like to see a lot of expression in the trot. To get there you first need energy and then, from the energy, you will get more expression. If horses are in competition I'd rather see an expressive, happy horse that makes some mistakes here and there than a boring horse that moves correct but without expression. If it gets boring to look at we won't get many spectators. Try to play with it, if it gets too fast, slow down a little.

Now is a good time to do some half passes. In the half passes you can play with frame of the horse, put him a little lower, up and forward and rounder.. Make your horse think forward, even if he canters it is a good thing, since it is forward. Do the half passes sharper, on different places, slower, faster and with a leg yield.

"How do you work young horses, and what do you look for in a young horse?" Young horses, like a 3 year old I don't like to work too much. I ride them short periods 3 times a week and not that much in canter. A 4 year old I ride 4 times a week. What I look for in a young horse is lots of hind leg activity. I think you have that a lot in the Swedish horses.

"How do you stay motivated to compete now when you have won it all?"

For me the competing isn't my goal, it is my daily work and to see how I can develop, to find my level, see how far I can go. But I do want to compete to know if I have done my homework well.

On the question of who is her idol she tells; I look at a lot of other riders, I like a lot to look at western riding and at the frame of lot of other riding disciplines.

"-What do you do in 10 years forward?" I raise my children, am expecting my second one now. I may not be competing in the highest level but I will still do a lot of riding and I will still help a lot of riders with their horses."

"-Who is your favorite horse?" To be honest, it is Bonfire. Because I have had him since he was 2 ½ and he is getting 24 now. We started at nothing and all the successes I've had over all the years are thanks to him.

Now back to the work and flying changes. "If you have too short changes or the horse want to change in front first, give more energy (go faster). Keep the horse straight, only change when you have a good rhythm and the canter feels right. If your horse is crooked you can go in the diagonal and leg yield to get the horse straight and then change."

Anky emphasizes that the transitions in the walk are as important as the ones in trot, and never let the horse passage or piaffe in the walk/trot transitions. Eventually the horse will get confused and start to use it whenever they want.

Also, when you put the leg on the horse we really need a answer, immediately.

In the working pirouettes we want the horses to think forward. If it doesn't think forward, get out of it. Do not use inside leg in the pirouette. When the horse go into the pirouette, relax and just enjoy the ride. You can also vary the speed and size of the pirouette.

You can also prepare the horse for a pirouette but go forward instead of making one, to help the horse think forward. This is a mental thing.

Sjef gets a question if he think the riders in Sweden train the horses like they do. "-I can not answer that since I know too little how people train here, but we really like to warm the horses long and on a longer rein." It seems to be one of the foundation things in Ankys and Sjefs philosophy, to have a relaxed horse with lot of action when asked, sensitive but not tense.

© Anne Erkkilä/fotostallet.se

Last updated on: 11/7/2006