Thursday, March 2, 2017

Jeremy Steinberg: A lecturing clinician

Living in an affluent equine area might have a few drawbacks (the price of veterinary care, for one!), but one huge plus is the easy accessibility of excellent clinicians to audit. Jeremy Steinberg, past USEF Dressage Youth Coach and prolific clinician, has become quite popular in my area. In the last 6 months, he's been out three times and I have been lucky enough to audit his clinics.

While I would love to ride with Steinberg when he comes, my finances have not allowed me to splurge on such a thing. At first I believed my horse and our work not to be worth such a clinic, but I am starting to change my mind. With our work towards 4th improving monthly, I do think it's time to bite the bullet and sign up. Of course, that means eating less, cutting the fun budget entirely, refusing to turn on the heat, and no driving except to the barn. Oh, the joys of riding and training dressage on a budget!
Plus his tattoos are pretty stellar!
Thankfully, Steinberg is an amazing clinician to audit. I am able to take what I learn from auditing and apply it to Pig, getting plenty of bang for my auditing buck. If you get the chance, I would highly recommend sitting in on his teaching. As expected from someone who spent a great deal of time instructing young riders on the theory of dressage, his lecturing skills are fantastic. He is comfortable guiding a young rider through the how and why of developing contact, asking pointed (but kind!) questions to discover the depth of the rider's knowledge. At the same time, he is comfortable working with an upper level rider on refining the aids and balance for Grand Prix work.
Working with a rider on developing consistent feel in the piaffe
As an audience member, I feel Steinberg always has an awareness of his auditors. His style is definitely to lecture-heavy. In fact, riders might feel that he talks more than they ride! In some cases this might be true. However, he is so analytical in his teaching that riders are put through their paces to discover exactly where the training holes are in their partnership with the horse.

Most ride more than once in multi-day clinics, adding to the fun. While not always to easy catch from a time management perspective (damn you real life and your responsibilities!), it is fun to see a horse and rider pair change over the course of the weekend. Jeremy holds his riders to a high level of accountability. A pair is expected to have absorbed the lessons from the day before and not need the same lesson two days in a row. While he is content to call out a reminder of the work from the previous day, it is clear he expects to be able to move on an work on other concepts. The message is clear: "Riders! Do your homework!"
Steinberg lecturing a rider on the relationship between bend and power generation in the canter.
When it comes to style and approach-ability, Steinberg is a master. He cracks jokes throughout his lectures, and maintains a light and easy demeanor with riders and auditors alike. He is very friendly and open to questions. During his teaching, he often draws comparisons between riding and other parts of daily life. This makes his teaching memorable and easy to visualize. Some of his favorite comparison topics are weight lifting, cars, and Finding Nemo seagulls (mine!).

A rider warms up while another lesson finishes.
A few gems from recent clinics include:

- "You're the personal trainer for your horse. Personal trainers have to be a little tough. If they aren't a little greedy, they'll never get their client results. But, a good personal trainer has to balance that greed with an awareness of the emotional and physical abilities of their client. You can't push your horse past what he can take emotionally, nor should you wear them out working on an exercise."

- "Think of the horse as a seagull from Finding Nemo. They are simple minded creatures, with a tendency to get fixated on something. If you spend too long trotting around to the left, they might develop a fixation on that outside rein thinking 'MINE! MINE! MINE!'. It's best to avoid that whole fixation in the first place by mixing up the work before they can latch on to something. Changes of direction, tempo, and gait should come more quickly with a horse who tends to zone in and fixate."
Steinberg, explaining his theory of horse psychology.
Often Steinberg will mix up these comparisons with some delving into horse psychology. "If horses were people, they'd be psychopaths," he said at a recent clinic. "They have no ability to regret. They don't understand human emotions. You can't train them like they do." That said, he obviously has a lot of love and respect for the animals he works with, advocating often for fairness in training. His belief in understanding horse psychology seems to come from a desire to do right by the animals.
Steinberg explaining why a horse pushed to go too fast in a gait may struggle and fall off balance.
When it comes to working a horse through a tough spot, Steinberg's focus on psychology really comes out. "Horses are pathological liars. You'll ask for something and they'll tell you 'I can't do that. It's too hard.', 'my leg doesn't move like that!', or 'there isn't enough room for my body to do that.' The interesting bit of pathology is that they believe their own lies." Moving forward, he went on to explain the rider has to show the horse that their belief is a lie, but the approach to the issue differs whether the problem comes from emotional or physical problems. Either way, "You want the horse to take ownership of his own mistakes. If the mistake comes from a resistance from the horse [the example in this case was a horse swapping leads rather than sitting more in the collected canter], don't fix it for him. That was his mistake, and he has to figure out how to resolve it."

Obviously Steinberg doesn't put all the blame on the horse. "Now, you have to be careful with this. It's the job of the rider to know when a mistake is their fault. It's a partnership, you both need to be responsible for your own balance and actions to work together effectively. Neither you or the horse can hold each other's hand through the work."
Rider and horse working to maintain balance in increased collection.
Steinberg's style is straightforward and tailored to the horse and rider pair he works with. His breadth of experience seems to make him a good fit for most, which seems rare to me. I tend to take copious notes during my time auditing. I'll throw some of those notes up on the blog in the coming months to share the knowledge! That'll just take some editing as I go through them.

I know some California bloggers recently had the pleasure of auditing and riding for Steinberg. Does anyone else have experience with him or want to tell me about any other dressage clinicians you love?

21 comments:

  1. I've seen him riding around at one of the barns I took lessons at.

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    1. Oh, California. You know everyone. :)

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  2. He is coming to Lville a few times this year. I am def going to audit. But yes, his fees to ride with are way beyond what my little budget can handle. Sidenote: That arena in your photos. *drool*

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    1. I think I saw that IDS has a clinic with him coming up again, too? You should definitely go!!

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  3. He sounds amazing. I am really jealous of the clinics you have available in your area.

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  4. One of these days I'll be able to get my butt down there to audit!

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  5. The one clinic I audited was a little high level for me (but I was also fairly exhausted that particular day.... Can't even remember why now tho haha, so maybe I was just tuning out) but it was pretty cool seeing all the pretty ponies do fancy things!

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    1. It was hella hot that day, and we'd already sat through Stephen's clinic with Liz and I!

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    2. ohhhhhh that's right. i thought so but couldn't figure out what i would have done with the horse.... but of course that was the time i rode Shen. ahh memories haha

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    3. Miserably hot that weekend. And I had no AC in my car on the ride home. That memory alone is impetus enough for me to find a truck sooner than later. I simply cannot handle another summer dealing with heat like that without AC in my car. BLECH.

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  6. He sounds very interesting. I am also drooling over that arena. Wow!

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  7. So not only was your post lovely, but I find myself getting lost and daydreaming in that indoor

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  8. holy crap, he sounds AWESOME. when runkle and I are doing a bit more I'd love to come down and ride with him.

    In the meantime, I need to stalk his schedule and start auditing...

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    1. Yessss!! I think he's back out here in April?

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  9. I'm looking forward to the clinic notes!

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  10. LOL at "If horses were humans, they'd be psychopaths". So true, and so many people don't get that!

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  11. Interesting take on horse physcology - I like that he is still very fair and forgiving as well.

    As a sidenote, I just wanted to let you know I have changed my blog name, so it may not show up in your reader list anymore. The new url is www dot twoandahalfhorses dot blogspot dot com. You may have to re-enter it into your reader list to follow again.

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  12. And now I must come audit him. I need more of this in my life. Wish I could have stayed that day this summer, but alas, between the weather and my drive home, it wasn't meant to be. (And wow, recalling that drive...yep still to fresh in my memory. Blasted heat!)

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  13. Oooh! Great write up! I definitely enjoyed his manner of teaching and how is able to break it down into simple chunks. Easier for my brain to compute LOL. I'm posting my clinic write up of my lesson with him tomorrow!

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