Guenter Seidel a Multi-Olympic Medalist CDI Winner and Coach on his Systematic Training
Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Training - Friday, June 1, 2018
Ascending to the international Grand Prix and working earnestly toward 2016 Olympic qualification with 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Zero Gravity, Guenter Seidel uses the same techniques he has developed through the years to top wins in CDI competitions and high standings on the FEI World Ranking List. “I approach all horses with a systematic method, whether I’m riding or coaching. It’s how I learned to ride and it’s clear the horses like it, too.”
He spoke of the importance of a horse warming up at competition in the exact same manner as it warms up at home because it quickly gets comfortable at shows, “The more a horse becomes used to a routine, the more at ease it becomes and, of course, the more successful it will be.” Guenter‘s impressive victories support his system. He has won bronze team medals in three Olympics and has won and always placed high in the USEF Festival of Champions competitions, as well as scored well in the California CDI and Florida CDI international competitions.
When his student Erin Boddaert, with whom he worked to the Intermediare II level, became pregnant with her third child in 2014, she and Zero Gravity’s owners (Erin’s parents, James and Charlotte Mashburn) asked Guenter to continue on and develop him to the top of the leaderboard. In December, the pair placed 7th overall in the USEF Dutta Corp. Festival of Champions held in Wellington Florida. “He’s really surprised me in how quickly he’s coming along,” Guenter said proudly.
It has become evident to Guenter that, while Zero Gravity has confidence at home, he may need a little more time in the ring at shows. “His piaffe and passage were more fluid and better at home than this past December in Florida,” acknowledged Guenter. “He gets a little insecure, but it’s not a problem. It will all come correctly in time. Again, everything has to be systematic, safe and secure.”
Strongly emphasizing the importance of developing a horse’s mind for competition, Guenter stated, “The best riders understand that each horse has a different thought process. While there are lots of good horses out there, understanding how they look at and process their training is key to being successful.” Giving an example, Guenter described, “For instance, if you have a nervous horse, it’s important to know what frightens that horse, especially if it’s an aid from the rider. Then, it comes down to doing things more slowly to develop that trust. Trust, that’s really the main thing.”
A native of Germany, Guenter moved to the U.S. in 1985 and resides in Cardiff, California. Guenter and Zero Gravity have four more CDIs coming up there this winter, “They’re all spread out enough not to overface anyone’s horse,” he explained. He competed at the Los Angeles Winter CDI-W from January 28-31st. This week is the Mid-Winter CDI-W from February 25th to 28th, then the Dressage Affaire CDI3* from March 10th to 13th at the Del Mar Horse Park, and the Festival of the Horse CDI3* at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano from March 30th to April 2nd.
Using each time in competition to build a horse’s confidence and strength, Guenter said, “It can be funny sometimes at home between competitions. Just when one thing’s been conquered something else will come up. It can be pretty easy to get whatever it is corrected and the horse relaxed and confident again while, at other times, it can too quickly go overboard and then there just isn’t enough horse to handle that comfortably. Those are things learned over time with each horse and that’s where experience comes in. I try hard not to make that mistake.”
Guenter continued to describe his systematic training approach in more detail, “As I’m riding, I’ll ask myself a whole bunch of questions. For instance, if I put my leg on the horse or if I pull on a rein, I’ll ask myself, ‘how is the horse reacting’ and ‘what is it doing?’ I really want to understand how the horse thinks and communicates. I’ll walk around and see if the horse feels heavy, and then I’ll relax. I’ll try a little more leg and a little less leg, just being careful to find how it best reacts. From there I take little stepping stones. And, when the horse is really comfortable and I know what it likes and doesn’t like, then I know just how to develop a specific approach to the training of that particular horse.”
He was reassuring of the system, “That’s what every good rider needs to learn to feel. That it’s important not to be too demanding or apply too much pressure, especially before tackling whatever issue’s been discovered, from straightness to a test movement.”
“I’m always trying to minimize my aids and concentrate on just what to ‘ask’ the horse that I’m competing,” said Guenter. “It helps the horse listen to me even more in the arena.”