The Horse Rider's Journal

Five things we learned from Patrik Kittel’s clinic in Herning

Patrik Kittel by Lyndal Oatley

Number three had us in total stitches. SPOT ON.

TEXT Anne Ulrikke Bak PHOTOGRAPHY Lyndal Oatley

There was barely an empty tribune seat when Patrik Kittel entered the massive arena at Herning Stallion Show this year to do his first ever clinic in Denmark. The attentive audience kept its eyes on the ring from where Kittel instructed his student and rider Malin Nillson who sat on top of the magnificent Honnaiser SJ, a 6-year old chestnut dream.

Besides guiding Nillson, Kittel gave out valuable knowledge on everything from how to improve your leg yields (make them long and keep the horse as straight as possible) to what to look for when buying a new horse (don’t go for the horse with the biggest gait, but one that is easy to ride).

During the introduction Kittel asked everyone to note down five things during the clinic that they found useful and would take home with them. We followed suit and although he asked us to pick up (disturbingly much!) from the showjumpers we are immensely grateful for his advice and thought we’d share some of the wisdom.

1. Everyone can ride Grand Prix

It’s all about educating the horse. “The one that wins the test is not the one with the best horse but the one that does the best test,” Kittel emphasised. “Prepare yourself, be accurate in the exercises. No matter if you ride L or Grand Prix you still have to get up at five in the morning. And your partner, who wants to sleep, still has to get up to hitch the trailer,” he jokingly added.

2. Reward the horse

“Always reward your horse for the good things and forget about the bad. Mistakes are unavoidable and will happen no matter what you do. Forget about them, horses are so smart and they will learn anyway.”

3. Relax!

“Ride out on your horse, take it with you. Let it see things, it will make it more calm. Look at the showjumpers – they are always riding around with loose reins. They have a cigarette in one side of their mouth and they are talking on their phones. Their horses walk around like camels. Every time you see a dressage horse there are four people around it trying to calm it down. Don’t be so tense around the horses. Relax!”

Patrik Kittel by Lyndal Oatley
“Look, mum! No hands!”

4. When training flying changes learn from the showjumpers

“I’m not good at flying changes,” Kittel claimed and continued, “but I have learned a lot by watching the showjumpers. They always do it so blasé. They might not do it correctly or with great detail but they do it casually. You can even practice them over a little jump, then the horse is in the motion. Dressage riders prepare so much for the change that they end up making it more complicated. Changes are not a collecting exercise. You can start doing it when the horse is three years old if it is balanced.”

5. Stand in the saddle – like showjumpers

“Dressage riders have to sometimes lift their arse up from the saddle a bit. It always has to be so correct, but try for once to do a little bit of easy canter. Let the horses open up their bodies, let them stretch a bit, jump a bit. I always say that the day the horse is not allowed to buck a bit with me, that’s the day I’ll stop.”