July 8, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Dressage Gains Momentum at Las Campanas Equestrian Center

'Dressage is considered the highest expression of horse training with graceful movements at every pace.'

By Susie Morgan

Hoof Prints in Santa Fe

Susie Morgan is a lifetime lover of horses, the outdoors and lives for adventures. She lives in Las Campanas, and is reconnecting with horses after working 27 years in New York City.

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The number of people interested in dressage has increased at Las Campanas this year.  In addition to dressage trainer Allen Swafford, the Equestrian Center has brought on board Leslie Apfel as a dressage trainer.  With enhanced programs, there are now 15 dressage horses, including school horses for those interested in getting into dressage. 



The New Mexico dressage community was alerted that USDF Medalist, dressage trainer, and clinician Volker Brommann would hold a three day clinic in June at Las Campanas Equestrian Center.  This makes the third year Clinician Volker has come to Las Campanas.  These Clinics are open to anyone that wishes to participate, and all sessions are open for audit.  A few people hauled up from Albuquerque and Corrales to participate.

Volker, described by one participant as ‘a national treasure’ says, “When I look at a horse and rider combination, I assess the natural ability of the both of them. My goal is to enhance these abilities so that the horse understands what the rider is asking and is therefore confident in his own ability to do the requested physical tasks.”



Dressage is considered the highest expression of horse training with graceful movements at every pace.  To be a top dressage rider takes years of training and hours of practice.   A horse and rider must move as one, with just a gentle pressure with knees or reins as communication. Dressage is sometimes referred to as ballet on horseback and rightfully so.

Volker works with any skill level student on any horse.  For example, Level 3 rider Gloria Moss (owner of Moss Outdoor in the Railyard) rode a reining western cow horse for her dressage equitation session.  Gloria says, “Volker has a very calm way with horses and he is very relaxing to work with.  Over the three day period, every horse/rider team improved.” 

Eric Lange said, “My big take-away from the clinic was that I have to ride in a more neutral way (like Volker himself) and not push so much onto the horse.”  Eric is a FEI coach and trainer himself from Albuquerque.  This is what he said about his experience, “I am very grateful to Allen and Las Campanas for making Volker available to a wider group of riders... It has me seriously considering moving my horse to Las Campanas to train on a permanent basis... It's a great environment to do REAL things.”
The participants also included LCEC Dressage Trainer Allen Swafford and Bronze Medalist Heather both of whom have very high aspirations for showing and achieving the highest levels of dressage.  Heather worked both of her horses in the clinic each of the three days.  She said, “I found Volker to be approachable and available for dialogue during the lessons and intent on not just teaching me, but teaching me how to train my horse.” 



Allen riding Romantic, jointly owned by Lisa Darling and Allen drew the biggest spectator crowd.  One person said that watching Allen ride is really poetry in motion.  Another said that it is a privilege to be able to watch such a talented rider on a talented horse.  Allen is a Gold, Silver and Bronze dressage medalist who has been working with Volker for about five years.  Allen says, “I appreciate Volker's understanding of the horse and rider combination.  His attention to detail is one of his many gifts.  And through all the hard work we all have a good time.”  Clearly, Volker made a lasting impression on every horseman.  From Allen’s comments, the technical difficulty of these maneuvers can be appreciated.   

More Clinics to come:  Las Campanas plans to have more dressage clinics in the upcoming months.  On the drawing board is another clinician Sharon McCusker, and there is a possibility that Volker will return again this year.  Sharon is another impressive rider. Sharon and her horse, Wrigley, were one of 16 combinations selected to compete at the USEF Grand Prix National Championship / U.S Dressage Festival of Champions for a slot on the short list for the FEI World Equestrian Games.  She operates Souhegan Farm in Massachusetts.

For more information, or to be put on the list to be notified when these clinics are scheduled, call Las Campanas Equestrian Center at 505-995-8700.

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