Dressage Coach with Perspective - Carla Symader

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Monday, June 29, 2015

Carla Symader and Natalie Pai

For more than 40 years as a rider, trainer, coach and judge, Carla Symader has been building the strengths and confidences needed for a rider and horse to compete all the way to the international arena. Discovering Floriano, Steffen Peters’ Westphalen gelding, a horse who would become a superstar and USEF Horse of Honor, Carla has the knowledge and expertise to develop winners at the very top levels in the sport of Dressage, “It takes dedicated years for a rider and horse to achieve that success. I like being a part of that.”

To help riders achieve their goals of competing at the highest levels in the sport of dressage, Carla will often travel from her home in Germany to the USA, “Taking horses and riders to the top of the sport is my favorite thing to do.” Riders and their horses alike understand Symader’s clear, short exercises. Horse and rider easily grasp what become the building blocks to compete at the highest levels in the sport.

Teaching in Wellington, Florida several weeks throughout the winter season as well as coaching quite a few top riders in the Southwest part of the United States, Carla is able to see both from the rider perspective and from the judging perspective. She cares that each horse is a willing, proud athlete and that each rider develops the necessary clear communication. She shares that knowledge with the riders and horses who work with her.

Importance of Rider Position

Natalie Pai and her horse Fritz San Tino have a long mentor-ship with Carla Symader

“The rider’s seat is the first thing,” Symader emphasizes. “The positioning of the seat and body of the rider are paramount. It’s important for a rider to know how to coordinate working with the seat.” She described, “In order to sit well, the rider must sit deep in front of the saddle to feel how the horse moves. You sit upright with your head and neck pulling your body up so that your core muscles are ready to balance the horse’s gaits through transitions. When the seat is closed it means, for example, that the elbows stay on your hip so the horse cannot pull you away from your center of balance as very often the horse tries to fall on their forehand. This rider positioning takes a bit of conviction by the rider.”

Addressing the combination of aids that can only be given out of the right seat, Carla explained, “There is a circle of aids with the legs, the seat and the hands that depend on the energy from the horse. It’s a delicate balance in a hot horse; one that likes to run. And, it’s a strict quick leg aid balance with a horse that doesn’t want to go on his own.”

She continued, “Really, the aids necessary depend on the horse and each horse is so different. I once had an upper level horse that couldn’t handle too much from my back. When I sat back in the half-halt he just overreacted, which I immediately felt. So, I found a way to sit quieter for the half-halts and to just use the tiniest squeeze of my hand. It’s our goal as riders to make the aids work easily, positively, effectively and invisibly. I like to figure those things out and help with that communication so that it’s super positive and effective.”

She spoke more about the aids, “When competing, the aids should not be noticeable by the judge. Therefore, the rider has to constantly balance the aids quietly. But, during a clinic or lesson, I separate the aids for clarification and better understanding. That’s been an especially effective way of finding out if an aid isn’t quick enough by a rider or whether it should just be left out altogether. It’s a joy to watch the change, the skills and the comprehension by the rider. It really is a dance between the horse and rider.”

Teaching Clinics

The first thing Carla does in a clinic is assess both the rider and horse to best evaluate the most effective way to help,  “if it looks safe, I like to ride the horse myself to feel how the aids will work. Then, I can describe what I feel to the rider and help the rider separate the aids one by one to more effectively feel a horse’s reactions or changes. It’s the tiny things that make the difference.”

Carla loves training and coaching, and it shows, “I live to teach dressage riders, from beginning to Grand Prix.”

Available for instruction and clinics, contact Carla:   Symader@web.de