The USDF Symposium with Jan Brink

The USDF Symposium was held in Austin the first weekend of December. It was the first time it’s been in Texas in a very long time. A friend and I planned to go. Who knew the morning we were to make the 3-hour drive, it would be SNOWING in Houston!  It rarely snows here, and NEVER so early in the season. It was quite surreal driving with big fat flakes swirling around! Driving wasn’t hard or treacherous – just WEIRD. 😉

Jan Brink is best known for his long-time partnership with the Swedish warmblood stallion Briar. As a team, they competed internationally, in multiple Olympics and World Cup competitions. I was lucky enough to see them twice at the World Cups in Las Vegas – most recently at their last performance this past April when Briar was officially retired.

I was disappointed in some of the demonstration riders. I had hoped that some more of the top riders in our region would be part of the symposium, but it was not so. I felt several of the riders were not quite advanced enough to really be able to demonstrate some of the exercises Mr. Brink asked them do.

I took notes sporadically during the two days – when my fingers weren’t too frozen to write! The facility was ‘climate controlled’ but that meant 60 degrees inside instead of the 45 it was outside! In general, Mr. Brink was very sympathetic to the horse, patient with the riders, and even got on several of the horses, which surprised and impressed me.


In a circle, ask the horse for shorter steps, then longer steps. Start on a 20 meter circle and ask for longer steps. Go down to 15 m circle and ask for shorter steps, then decrease size to 12m and ask for yet shorter steps…then go back to 20m circle and longer steps again.

For Flying Changes:

Canter across the diagonal and come to walk at corner. Turn around and do it the opposite direction. When the horse is doing the exercise well, and not anticipating the flying change, do a flying change before the corner. When you can do one flying change on the straight line, then you can try to do one flying change in the first half of the diagonal line, then another one at the corner. Note: Do NOT pull on the inside rein of the new direction before change. Use the ‘new’ outside rein. Otherwise you’ll make your horse crooked.

Canter exercise:

Do 5 strides of half pass in canter, then do five strides straight, then do five strides of half pass. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Canter Pirouette Exercise:

In shorter steps, do travers on 15m circle, then down to 10m circle, then 6m circle. Don’t turn shoudler, just ride haunches…then out to bigger circle again in longer steps. Be sure to keep the horse round in the neck.

Simple Change Exericse:

ON centerline, pick up right canter, then walk. Do leg yield in walk 5-6 steps, then take left canter.

Random tips:

Do not drill the horse on things she does very well, OR things she doesn’t do well.

Be sure and work long and low during your session – do not ask the horse to be ‘up’ and collected the entire ride.

If the horse is tense in the walk, take many walk breaks and just let them walk on a long rein.

In trot, keep the same trot stride length, but slow the rhythm, then make quicker. This leads to passage, wher the energy goes up instead of forward.

Make use of the centerline and quarterlines to school. It will help you make sure your horse is truly and honestly straight.


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