On the International Trail

Austria Kicks Off the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps

Mississippi State University teaches at Long View Ranch for the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps in Austria.

Greetings from the gorgeous Long View Ranch in Wilhelmsburg, Austria, where Mississippi State University instructors kicked off the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps.

The horsemanship camp was led by Ashley Shiffler, the equine facility manager and head coach of the equestrian team at Mississippi State University, and assisted by MSU undergraduates Hannah Miller, Samantha Miller and Ashley Palmer.

About the Ranch

Long View Ranch is owned and operated by Gabriele Dautzenberg-Holzer and Gerold Dautzenberg. Long View Ranch has generously hosted the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps since the program's inception. This beautiful equestrian facility is home to multiple AQHA world champions and European champions and offers services of training, sales, breeding and boarding. The Dautzenbergs' impressive competition success includes Gabriele's more than 15 European championship titles and Gerold's 2009 year-end title in amateur reining with Shiny Fandango. Additionally, Long View Ranch has had extensive success in the breeding industry, which is evident in the high-quality show horses at ranch.

The Camp Gets Under Way

This year, there were 12 rider participants in the horsemanship camp, which was conducted over a three-day period. The MSU instructors began Day 1 with an analysis of each rider on the rail to assess each rider's skill level and strengths. Following the rail work, instructors led a group discussion with each rider about their personal riding goals for the weekend. Collectively, each rider was interested in developing more control over their horse's body and to specifically improve steering their horses and gait transitions. In light of the riders' goals, the MSU instructors developed a lesson plan that emphasized lateral and diagonal exercises to allow riders to control their horse's poll, hips and shoulders.

Exercise 1. The MSU instructors first discussed how the rider could use leg and hand aids to control the horse's poll and shoulders. Lateral exercises at the walk and trot were suggested to assist with steering. The lateral exercises allowed the riders to have independent control of their horse's shoulders and poll by applying rein pressure and asking their horse to bend at the poll. As the MSU instructors explained, the lateral exercises allow the rider to ask their horse to soften to the bit pressure through bending and counter-bending. The riders learned that when bending their horse, they should think about lifting the horse's inside shoulder with the reins and applying leg pressure as necessary to ensure that the horse continue to move laterally.

Additionally, the riders were taught that they should apply slight pressure to the bit to ask the horse to flex their poll, and then reward their horse with a release of pressure from the reins. Instructors discussed how the rider should practice and develop these exercises at the walk and trot before moving to the lope. MSU instructors explained that this exercise will physically develop a horse, assist with downward transitions and stops,  as well as allow the rider to steer the horse more effectively.

Exercise 2. Next, instructors discussed how practicing the sidepass can assist with  transitions into the lope  by allowing the rider to  move the horse's hip by applying leg pressure. Importantly, MSU instructors emphasized that once the horse moves diagonally one or two steps, the rider should should release his leg pressure and encourage the horse to walk forward as a positive release that the horse has correctly completed the exercise.

Once the riders were able execute the sidepass  at the walk and trot, the rider used the same exercise and applied it in the lope. Through the diagonal and lateral exercises, the riders were able to control their horse's shoulder and hip, which allowed the rider to correctly position their horse to pick up the correct lead for the lope.

Exercise 3. On the final day, MSU instructors provided horsemanship, ranch riding and trail patterns for the riders. The patterns included maneuvers that were taught to the riders on the previous days. Following completion of each pattern, each rider received individual feedback from instructors on their strengths and areas that need development.

We had a fantastic start to the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps this weekend at Long View Ranch. Each rider improved exponentially, and it was a pleasure to see their horsemanship develop each day of the  camp. We would like to thank each rider for their participation in the AQHA International Horsemaship Camp.  MSU representatives and I appreciated each rider's enthusiasm for the American Quarter Horse and their positive attitudes while learning new horsemanship techniques.  Special thanks to Long View Ranch for their warm welcome and generous hospitality during the horsemanship camp, as well as providing their beautiful equestrian facility for the camp.

Stay tuned for the next AQHA International Horsemanship Camp coverage; MSU reps and I will be traveling to Slovenia and Italy for the next horsemanship camps!