If one word could be used to describe Yogi Breisner, it would be ‘delightful’. But he is deserving of many more: humble, articulate, amusing, positive, insightful, brilliant, generous, disarming, visionary, and inspiring.
I was fortunate to join attendees from Chicago, Utah, Arizona, all over California and the Pacific Northwest for the Trifecta Event at Galway Downs, January 17-19, which hosted the USEA ICP Interactive Symposium with Yogi Breisner. Those of us who attended were so fortunate to be treated to his wealth of knowledge, both in theory and in practice, in all three phases of our sport.
Yogi started the day with his power point presentation which provided a mental ‘file box,’ as Judy Klus described it, in which to put all that we observed for the remainder of the weekend. He began his lecture with his coaching philosophy, acknowledging that everyone develops their own over time and experience.
His vision is to see a horse and rider combination that work together so that the horse can utilize his natural ability through the rider’s balance, seat, and feel. He views the pair as one athlete, with six legs, two arms, two brains and four eyes, and each part of the combination must be trained for the mental and physical requirements for the sport.
The riding sessions followed, he emphasized rideability: riding on a loose rein and maintaining rhythm, building a foundation by making sure the horse responds to the aids, varying the strides in all gaits, bending inside and outside. He equated dressage work to going to the gym. Riders should work on different parts of the body to create the big picture.
The jumping groups followed the building blocks of the flat work. Yogi talked about the evolution of the show jumping phase of our sport and how the modern courses require more rideability; the rider must always be able to go, stop, and turn and adjust the canter stride between short, medium and long.
He wanted the horses to be able to learn from their own mistakes, always remaining calm in the face of a problem. More than emphasizing looking for distances, he stressed that if the rider presents the horse to the jump with the proper canter, straight through its body, and stays out of its way, the horse can handle the jump.
As the cross-country session began, Yogi likened the cross-country horse to a race car with 5 gears, using the fifth gear for galloping and simple single fences. Gearing down is needed for combinations and ‘problem’ fences, but always keep the engine revved. He explained why the departure from fences is as important as the approach, as that will set the horse up for the next question.
At day’s end, when we gathered for a question and answer session, Yogi was honest and amusing but also self-critical. Even though he coaches the British Eventing Team, steeplechase riders and flat racing trainers, he was willing to tell us that he felt nervous and excited the morning of the Symposium.
The Symposium was only a part of an amazing weekend, which followed David O’Connor’s High Performance training session with the 25 and under Developing Riders. The Trifecta Event also hosted the 16th annual Galway Downs Fundraiser Eventing clinic, in which 20 Area VI instructors and 240 horses participated, taught by Pippa Funnel and Ian Stark.
The third portion of the Trifecta was the Area VI Annual Awards Banquet, which was attended by a record breaking 300 people. In addition to Silent and Live Auctions, the keynote speakers were Yogi, Pippa and Ian. It might as well have been billed The Brit’s Comedy Hour. Aside from being amusing, they were very receptive to everyone’s questions.
An enormous thank you goes to Robert Kellerhouse for making Galway Downs available for such a unique opportunity. Also, thanks to Wendy Wergeles, Bea Di Grazia, and Beth Cannon and their helpers for bringing the Symposium to the West Coast. Thanks also to the demo riders, and David O’Connor for speaking with us at the end of the day on Friday. And lastly, a huge thank you to Yogi Breisner, Pippa Funnel and Ian Stark for a weekend long to be remembered.
Plenty of event riders have chosen to cross oceans and base themselves thousands of miles away from “home” in pursuit of their career dreams - look at the likes of New Zealanders Sir Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson, and now Tim and Jonelle Price, while Andrew Hoy, Clayton Fredericks and of course Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton have set sail from Australian shores. Not many American riders do it, though, probably because the sport is big enough and competitive enough in the U.S. not to make it necessary.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
Strides for Equality Equestrians and the United States Eventing Association Foundation are proud to announce the first recipient of the Ever So Sweet Scholarship. The scholarship, which is the first of its kind, provides a fully-funded opportunity for riders from diverse backgrounds to train with upper-level professionals. Helen Casteel of Maryland is the first recipient of the bi-annual scholarship.
Tomorrow is Juneteenth, which marks the day in 1865 when the federal order was read in Galveston, Texas stating that all enslaved people in Texas were free. This federal order was critical because it represented the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederate States. Although Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed all people enslaved in the Confederacy almost two and a half years earlier, Union enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent, especially in Texas. Slavery would continue in two states that had remained in the Union— Kentucky and Delaware — until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.