Holger Münstermann: … and that’s how I analyse the problems and work with the rider to find the solution.
Editor: On to something completely different now… As an active rider, what was your big eureka moment when you were training?
HM: I can remember that very well… I had just been showing Gabriella (Grillo – Ed.) what my 7-year-old Ferano – who had mastered everything up to Grand Prix level – could do, when she suddenly stopped me and… asked me to continue in rising trot.
Editor: You’ll have to tell us more than that now.
HM: Of course. However, I’ll have to go back a bit further for that… A few years previously, I had been talking to a well-known Canadian vet about how horses don’t move in a straight line out in the open, they move forward with on slight, evasive diagonal like a sheepdog – a natural asymmetry. Some tend to go left, others tend to go right… It’s more pronounced in some than others. This is probably determined by the position of the embryo in the mother’s womb, much like right- and left-handedness in humans.
Editor: And what does that have to do with your training with Ms Grillo?
HM: I wanted to ride at GP level, and she was only asking me for rising trot (smiles). However, rising trot can significantly improve work in a straight line.
Because there is no “absolute” straight line, we only ever achieve a “relative” straight line – and we constantly have to re-evaluate what that is. When it comes to rising trot, you can get a lot right, but also get a lot wrong too.
Editor: What defines a correct rising trot, and what should you watch out for?
HM: First of all, rising trot is part of your warmup. In rising trot, the rider lightens the load on the horse’s back during the moment of suspension and returns that load when they sit back down. The rising action is the momentum. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.
The guidelines all say that you should rise with the inside hind leg. As everyone knows, the rider watches the outside shoulder. Just before (!) this rises, the inside hind leg should do the same. What’s more, watching the outside shoulder is very important for optimising cadence and rhythm. From this, I can read when I should be rising.
A common mistake is not riding consistently and rhythmically on the outside rein. Instead, the trot is hindered by pulling and releasing the inside rein too soon. This means that the horse can’t swing properly and loses its extension. However, it is important to increase extension, which is why my tip is to keep loosening the inside hand, especially if it is the non-dominant hand, so that it doesn’t tighten.
I’d like to quote Gabriella Grillo here: “Loosen the hand, as if you’re playing the piano.”
So… Leave the inside rein alone… Keep your eyes on the outside shoulder (especially when changing the rein)… And keep the outside rein dynamic… Make every correction in a forward rhythm.
Editor: That’s really impressive. Are there any other relevant points regarding rising trot that you’d like to share?
HM: (Laughs) I’m not going to give away all my tips… Although you’re welcome to book a lesson with me…
There is one thing I’d like to add though. Another key aspect is weight distribution in both stirrups. Riding in a straight line, the weight should be distributed evenly through the balls of both feet. Correct upper body positioning is essential too. It sounds easy, but it really isn’t. “It is helpful here to push the breastbone up towards the ceiling,” (Quote from Willi Schultheis)
Lastly, I have one more tip for a correct rising trot: only rise as far as the horse pushes you out of the saddle. If you’re up out of the saddle for too long, you land too late which means that you lose the swing and dynamism of the trot because the horse is unable to bounce. This leads to a short, flat movement.
Once again, so you can take notes (laughs) … good rising trot = better trot = better lessons.
Editor: I think I really ought to have some lessons with you (laughs). Which takes us perfectly to our next topic. The Weidenhof …