Conrad Schumacher Training Symposium:
An Electric Weekend of Dressage
by Stewart Underhill
(photos by Andy Richter)
On October 9 - 11, 2009 Alpine Farms in Medina, MN hosted the Conrad Schumacher Training Symposium. The Underhill family worked for nearly a year coordinating with Conrad to present an array of educational, exciting, and unique demonstrations from which everyone could learn. Many of the riders had ridden with Conrad before including Stewart Underhill (MN), Amanda Johnson (IL), Lindsey Fuchs (MN), Mimi Stanley (SD), and Kristina Wang (NE); a couple had never ridden with Conrad including Jennifer Schuck (MN), and Sara Travis (MN). Each horse rider combination was able to highlight a piece of Conrad’s training system and demonstrate how and why his system is so successful.
Photo by Andy Richter
To get things started, each auditor was greeted and channeled to the upstairs viewing lounge to be checked in. Personal name badges were distributed along with their very own Conrad Schumacher reusable poly propylene bag filled with goodies including a program for the weekends events, Alpine Farms coffee mugs, pens, and few other essentials. The ring was complete with bleachers on the short end, flowers decorating the corners, and SS Saddle Shop set up in the downstairs tack room. The stage was set.
Each day a series of horses was presented, beginning with a young horse working at training and first and finishing with the schooled Grand Prix horse. The first section of horses showed how to gain rhythm, relaxation and trust with the young and green horses. A short break followed, and everyone filled up on coffee and hot chocolate upstairs. The second section began to build on the first, showing impulsion, lateral work, and collection. Conrad’s system began taking shape, and the energy in the ring began to grow. By noon the first day the excitement in the air was felt by all. The upstairs lounge was packed, and the mood was electric. During lunch, everyone was excited to see what Conrad would do next. Not falling short, Conrad had wonderful exercises for the next group of horses and riders. Although his exercises are challenging for the riders, they also set up the riders for success. Conrad is able to help each horse and rider reach their maximum potential in a way that is simple, systematic, and easy to follow. Because of his personable manner Conrad worked well with everyone, and he made himself very available to the audience and helped them understand his system. By the end of the first day, everyone could tell this was going to be a fantastic weekend of dressage!
In addition to the horse rider combinations, a series of demonstrations was presented throughout the weekend. Friday’s demonstration included “Seat Training for the Rider.” This was shown on the lunge with a young rider. Conrad taught the young girl who was able to demonstrate the exercises he likes to use in order to develop the seat for the rider. Saturday’s demonstration included a discussion of conformation on a wide variety of horses including the Holstiener, Danish, and American warmblood as well as the Lusitano and Lipizzaner. Conrad gave a great lecture on conformation regarding the neck, hips, hocks, jaw, mouth, pole, and how this affects the performance of a dressage horse. A real treat to the audience was to see the three new weanlings and their mothers play as presented by Underhill Farm. Saturday afternoon’s demonstration was an Intermedaire 1 musical freestyle ridden by Amanda Johnson. Conrad discussed how a freestyle should be arranged in order to best highlight your strengths as well as his thoughts on risk in a freestyle.
After Saturday’s rides and demonstrations, 80 dressage enthusiasts engaged in an evening of food, drinks, community, and a Conrad Schumacher lecture on Mental Fitness, Working Patterns, and Preparation for the Show Grounds. With great charisma and humor Mr. Schumacher presented his theory through a host of mediums including power point, video, and personal stories. After his lecture he opened up to questions and answers to the audience. The audience presented him with an array of questions that allowed them to further understand his theory. It was an enormous day of dressage that climaxed with a thrilling evening with Mr. Schumacher and the rest of the Midwest dressage community. There was still one day to go, and everyone was eagerly anticipating the final day.
Sunday Mr. Schumacher wrapped up the three days by focusing on test riding at home, warming up on the show grounds, and developing warming up patterns for your horse. Each day had a unique theme that Mr. Schumacher presented to the auditors. Attending all three days allowed the auditors to see the transformation of each horse rider combination through his systematic training system. It was a wonderful weekend of dressage, and we have Mr. Schumacher to thank for bringing his experience to Minnesota. We were very excited to host him at Alpine Farms and help bring high-level training to Minnesota. It truly was amazing to see the community so energized by the good riding, good horses, and great instruction. Thanks to everyone who participated in the Conrad Schumacher Training Symposium.