The Koschels Train German Junior Rider Felicitas Hendricks to be a Complete Rider

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Monday, February 15, 2016

Felicitas Hendricks and Faible AS Photo: Betsy LaBelle

Felicitas Hendricks, a 15-year-old German Junior Division Rider embraces the work within a very successful hard-working dressage training business.  A few years ago, Felicitas and her family moved from Dusseldorf to Hagen to be near the site of the 34-stall facility called Hof Beckerode. The Koschel Dressage training stable, overseen by Jürgen and Christoph Koschel, use a comprehensive, systematic approach in their handling, care, management and training of the horses. One-third of the 34 horses are owned by the Koschels, one-third of the horses are ridden by their owners coached by Jürgen or Christoph, and one-third of the horses are in dressage training for competition or sale.  

Being mentored to become a complete rider by working exceptionally with all sorts of horses, Felicitas fully comprehends that her family will not make it easy for her by riding one specific type of horse in competition to become a top rider, but a professional. The Koschels put Felicitas on hot horses, lazy horses, large horses and smaller horses for her to get used to feeling the differences between them. She is also being taught that when a rider ‘listens’ to a horse, the pair work more effectively together. To the Koschels, a dressage rider is considered to be “complete” if astute enough to work well with any horse.

Although each horse is handled differently, Felicitas never pushes, kicks, presses, or would forcibly hold a horse together even if she could. “For a small person like me, it’s very hard to ride a big horse.” While, indeed, her 12-year-old Westfalen bay gelding Faible (by Furst Piccolo) is a big horse, he is also very sensitive to her. She acknowledges, “I’ve learned that I have to keep my legs on him all the time and then he knows everything is okay. When I relax, I try to put my hands more forward and then he knows it’s his time to relax.”

Felicitas recognizes that she already has developed a well-balanced seat, “With Faible,” she says, “I really need to have a strong core to hold him together while he’s moving forward. And, if I balance him, I can do everything, like the flying changes and getting him on his hind legs.  I don’t really need to think on my seat, but I do think on my core.”

Ambitious and eager, Felicitas appreciates all she is learning. Working and training with Christoph, who is in Wellington with 18 horses in quarantine, Felicitas and the entire team arrived in Wellington on January 9th for this year’s Adequan® Global Dressage Festival. Felicitas continues to train and show in the remaining CDIs of this season’s 12-week series while Christoph keeps a balance in the competition schedule with all the horses and riders including the Portuguese Grand Prix rider Ricardo Wallenstein.

The first show at this year’s AGDF for Felicitas and Faible was the Gold Coast 1*CDI. She said, “Even though there were a couple of mistakes in the flying changes, I could feel he was happy and relaxed even with the heavy rain and heavy wind. He can get nervous when he knows it’s a show, but he was okay here.“Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén congratulates Felicitas Hendricks on her win in the Junior division Photo: Betsy LaBelle

They next competed in all three Junior tests, the Junior Team Test, the Junior Individual Test and the Junior Level Freestyle (76.8%), “We didn’t make any big mistakes,” Felicitas said relieved. “We found little things, like a little more shoulder-in. Still, we had our best scores so far. It was great.”

Felicitas first began performing with Faible at the Junior level last year at the 2015 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival with the goal of going to the German National Championships in September. After appearing in Germany’s Preis der Besten qualifier in May and then Wiesbaden CDIO Nations Cup in May, and Future Champions held at the Kasselman farm in Ankum in June. They placed 8th overall in the September German National Championships in Zeiskam and in October and they placed 2nd in their first ever “S” Dressage class (equivalent to the USDF 4th level) later in the year in Weisbaden.

Felicitas has been enjoying her time here in South Florida, “The weather has been nice, and the people, the horses and the atmosphere have also been great. I’ve been really developing my riding here. It’s so good to have these national shows between the CDIs. It’s really good for the World Rankings, which is so important.

She has also been keeping up with schoolwork, “I’m at Wellington’s #1 Education Place, like I was last year. I really do like it. I can do all my German schoolwork there and if I have any questions, I can ask a teacher to get the help I need. It’s a very good system.”

Felicitas’ goal this year is to become part of Germany’s 4-member team for the European Junior/Young Riders competition taking place July 19-24, 2016 at the Oliva Nova Showgrounds in Spain. Becoming part of this team will be difficult because of the many high scorers vying for a spot. While remaining optimistic about qualifying, she will be competing in Germany’s May 13-16 Wiesbaden, May 19-22 Preis der Besten followed by the June 7-12 Future Champions in Hagen. The top 8 qualifiers are called the Bundeskader, there is a prospective group who could move into the Bundeskader, and then there are the regional teams called the Landeskader. The first group of 8 will be chosen in Wiesbaden and the second qualifier will be in Hagen.

She wholly appreciates and thanks her Mom, Carolin Hendricks, her Aunt Patricia Koschel and especially Christoph for the wonderful opportunity.

To conclude, Felicitas shares a tip of wisdom for up-and-coming youth riders in the North America, “You have to see your horse as a partner not just an animal or a machine and really spend time with him to learn the best way together. If you really love him, he’ll do his best for you. I think that’s the most important thing.”