Dressage Today OnDemand: Susanne von Dietze

Sharing my experience as I explore Dressage Today OnDemand!

The Dressage Today OnDemand Ambassador Experience

Please join me as I share feedback on my experience with Dressage Today OnDemand!

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I tuned in to JJ Tate’s Wine About It Wednesday last week and was surprised to see she had a guest! Susanne von Dietze was visiting in Florida and JJ was excited to have her share some of her knowledge during her live. I really enjoyed the talk and found Susanne to be passionate about creating a relationship with the horse. Her thoughts on how to connect to the horse were inspiring and I was interested in hearing more from her.

Before having my Dressage Today subscription, I would have gone to Google or YouTube and searched for whatever bits and pieces I could find on Susanne. Tonight, my first stop was Dressage Today OnDemand. I was so excited to find numerous videos of Susanne! A huge bonus was to discover they are from a clinic held at JJ’s farm!

There are 28 videos in this collection. Here is the description:

Physiotherapist, trainer, author of Balance in Movement and longtime Dressage Today contributor Susanne von Dietze conducted a three-day clinic at Grand Prix trainer JJ Tate’s farm in Landrum, South Carolina. In this series of videos, Susanne leads us through an unmounted session where she describes the use of the rider’s seat and leads auditors (and you!) through exercises. Next, Susanne takes to the saddle and demonstrates how the rider’s seat, balance and position affect the horse. Finally, we watch Susanne work with JJ and other riders on their positions.

These are the videos I have watched so far! Dressage Today OnDemand subscribers can click on the pictures to view the collection. A free bonus video is included for non subscribers!

In this video, Susanne gives an interactive lecture on how we use our bodies to communicate to the horse while riding.

She begins by asking the auditors to stand up, close their eyes, and find their balance. She points out that even though they are standing still, their bodies are moving to stay in balance. The audience is then instructed to begin moving one leg while standing on the other. They discover that the leg standing still was doing more work! She used this demonstration to show that riding really is a sport. Even though riders appear to be “just sitting there”, they are working hard. I definitely agree Susanne! My Fitbit will also back your theory!

The lecture continues with exercises performed in a chair to create awareness of the seat bones. I’m really glad my husband was not home to witness me following along with every exercise. He already thinks horse people are crazy. I don’t need to give him more reasons to think we are!

Susanne then performs a few demonstrations on foot, explaining how we can easily misunderstand where our weight should be in the saddle. I visualized how I ask for canter, if I allow my seat bones to tip backward, and how I ask my horse to turn while she pranced about the arena. I had a few things to tweak on my next ride.

I loved that she ended the lecture with saying that connection with the horse is not always physical, as it can be mental as well.

I really enjoyed this video as I was reminded that horses are such sensitive creatures and that as riders, we tend to over complicate everything to reach our goal. Seeing the reactions of the horse as Susanne demonstrated the importance of connection through the seat and ability to do everything in the rhythm of the gait, was proof that less is more!

The demo began with Susanne explaining that there needs to be positive tension in our upper body while our lower body stays relaxed and follows the movement of the horse. She transitions between a forward thinking following seat and a stiff seat. When her posture became stiff, her aids became abrupt, and the horse lost her forward motion.

The second focus was on rhythm. It was interesting to see that when Susanne moved out of the horse’s rhythm, the mare slowed down and eventually stopped. However, as long as she continued to move in rhythm with the horse, she could move all around! Susanne stressed how important it was to be become “a part of the metronome”.

She moves on to finding the middle position of the pelvis and using the breath to find the correct tension in the body. With every outbreath, the legs are stretching down and the rider can connect further with the horse. Susanne was able to change the trot from a longer stretchy outline to a more collected, cadenced trot just by different breathing techniques. I found this part to be so interesting! Horses are just so amazing.

Next, she breaks down the motion of the walk, trot, and canter to explain how the seat should follow each gait. In the walk, she demonstrates how the upper body stays tall and the lower body follows in a figure 8 like pattern. In the trot, the motion is up, down, forward, right, and left. The seat should be sitting in the highest point of the trot, similar to dribbling a basketball. By sitting in the highest point, the rider is encouraging the horse to lift it’s back and step under. In the canter, there needs to be more elasticity in the lower back. She creates the image of two balls sitting on top one another rolling in the opposite direction.

Many riders create tension when they try to position their shoulders back and down. If Susanne encounters a rider that needs to work on shoulder position, she will have them move their shoulders around to show that the shoulders and hands can move independently of one another. She comments that there should be positive tension between the hands which allows the rider to feel where mobility and stability are.

I loved her comment that what you feel is history. You can’t change the past. As riders, one of our biggest struggles is that we are not fast enough. If we learn from the past, we can change the future. Thinking in this futuristic manner allows us to ride from the seat to the hands. The hands are presenting in a forward/future manner, successfully setting the horse up to have better moments.

Susanne finally discusses the rider’s legs. She states that she purposefully leaves the legs last as they are not as important as you think. Her focus on the legs is that they must have the ability to release. Many riders ride with too much thigh pressure which does not allow the horse to move forward. She demonstrates riding without stirrups and maintains a proper leg position. She reminds the audience of the triangle seat and that the connecting point of the leg is the calf under the knee. She uses a bicycle motion with her legs to help release the thighs and open the hips. She was even able to ask the horse for sideways motion while her legs were bicycling in the air. So cool to see how responsive the horse was to her seat!

She also addresses how toes out relate to tightness in the hips. (This right here is my BIGGEST struggle right now!) Interestingly enough, if just one toe is pointing out, it is due to asymmetry in the seat.

I found Susanne to be so pleasant to listen to and full of great information. I have many inspiring tips to carry over to my over riding that I’m sure Josie will appreciate! One of my favorite comments Susanne made in this video was that we should enjoy the mistakes when you make them because that is how you learn.

Don’t have a Dressage Today OnDemand Subscription? Here’s a free bonus video!

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Happy riding!


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