Uta Gräf

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Uta Gräf
Not your typical
dressage rider

Dressage

“It means a lot to me that riding is fun, not just for me but my horses too. And riding is only fun when we can communicate with our horses using the lightest of aids”

A loud joyful laugh and a wild head of hair. It is quickly obvious who we mean: Uta Gräf. She has an easy-but not necessarily simple- credo, that impresses her many fans.

“It means a lot to me that riding is fun, not just for me but for my horses too. And riding is only fun when we can communicate with our horses using the lightest of aids. Communicating as finely as possible is my absolute priority when riding and educating horses. Naturally as a competition rider one sets certain goals that you want to achieve but if and how fast we reach these goals is always set by the horse”

Everything Uta does revolve around the relationship with her horses and every horse is treated as an individual.

Her success reflects this. In 2004 she gained the attention of Germany, winning the bronze medal on Duvalier at the German Championships, just behind Hubertus Schmidt and Rudolf Zeilinger. More success at the National level followed with the Hanoverian stallion World Magic. And then came Le Noir. A stunning licensed Holsteiner stallion that Uta Gräf was extremely successful with internationally in the small tour as well as success at Grand Prix level at shows such as Wiesbaden and Aachen.

Her riding talent was not inherited, growing up in a family that had nothing to do with horses. Despite this, she began riding when she was 7 and then when she was 12 had her first ever horse. Whilst studying Social Pedagogy it never even occurred to Uta Gräf to turn her hobby into a job, this decision came a few years later. At the age of twenty-four, Uta started her riding apprenticeship, winning a scholarship from the Federal Association of Professional Riders and completing her training at Gut Neuhof in Hessen, under the watchful eye of the Dutch Olympic medallist Ellen Bontje and her trainer Conrad Schumacher. This was followed by the final examination, Uta Gräf being awarded with the Stensbeck medal.

Today she lives with her partner Stefan Schneider on their farm Gut Rothenkircherhof, in Kirchheimbolanden in South-Western Germany, training dressage horses of all levels.
Together with co-author Friederike Heidenhof, Uta has produced numerous DVDs and books. Uta gives her strong support to “Partnership for Africa”, founded by Friederike, helping children and families in need in Tanzania.

For more on Uta Gräf go to her website here.

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Related videos

Working with long reins part 2: Reinsetting & first long reining exercises for the horse

Saskia Gunzer

Working in long reins is a fascinating possibility to school your horse in all the movements without the weight of a rider on his back. With the necessary preparation work in hand, teaching the horse these long reining exercises should be easily achieved. Once the first step forwards and the first turn have been achieved a serpentine through the entire arena is not far off.

Duration: 26:09 Minutes

The first steps of the training of a young horse

Ingrid Klimke

At the beginning of his training, a young horse needs to learn to focus on the rider’s aids. The first steps will be for him to move with suppleness, in a steady rhythm in all three paces. In this video the young Danaro, a 4-year-old stallion is presented to us by Andreas Busacker, Ingrid Klimke’s husband.

Duration: 09:15 Minutes

Working with long reins part 3: Lateral work, collecting and Spanish walk

Saskia Gunzer

In the same way that the training of the lateral work under the rider plays a big role in gymnasticizing the horse, so too does the same work in the long reins. Saskia Gunzer shows us how she trains the lateral work, piaffe, passage and the Spanish walk, all in long reins.

Duration: 25:46 Minutes

Ingrid Klimke works with student Laura on correct use of the rider’s aids

Ingrid Klimke

The 5-year-old Saint Ledger has only just started his basic training. In this lesson, we concentrate on familiarising him to the rider’s aids and despite being in an unfamiliar environment, relaxing in his body and mind.

Duration: 09:08 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 5: Canter transitions, flying changes, pirouettes

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl gives us not only a theoretical understanding but also explains how to put this into practice, today teaching a horse the canter transitions. He uses various arena figures and lateral work to help the horse. It is interesting to watch how the French Master teaches the flying changes, from working canter to counter canter on a circle. A high degree of collection is necessary before commencing the canter pirouettes.

Duration: 21:19 Minutes

Videos from Uta Gräf

Riding your horse with one hand Part 1: Prerequisites & differences in aid provision

Uta Gräf

Riding a horse one-handed means acting fine. Among other things, in Working Equitation free trials are ridden with one hand. Riding with one hand requires enormous precision and fineness of the aids. Katrin Huber, who rides one-handed after an accident, reports on her experiences, the changeover and the differences with ambidextrous riding.

Duration: 14:59 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Lenny Part 3: Improving the Contact while Riding Dressage

Uta Gräf

The gelding Lenny tends by nature to become rather tight in the neck and light in the hand. Uta Gräf shows you how she helps him step by step to find a way into the right position by improving the riding contact. You will also see how an active hind hand is important for the horse to swing in the body. Benefit from Uta's tips and improve your riding contact.

Duration: 20:15 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Deliano Part 2: Riding correct transitions and improving the canter

Uta Gräf

Deliano is between the ages of 6 and 7 and continues to grow. Uta Gräf practices transitions with him before riding different canter exercises. The aim is to deepen the basic "riding over the back to the hand" and introduce the exercises in a playful way.

Duration: 18:16 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Deliano Part 1: Improving expression starts at the warm-up phase

Uta Gräf

Deliano is a very big and equally talented horse that was stable with the contact, balance, and style right from the start. As Uta Gräf carefully promotes the basic disposition of the gelding and helps him to express more, she shows you in this film - from the warm-up phase to the canter work of the horse.

Duration: 22:21 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Lenny Part 2: Improve the neck position through flatwork exercises

Uta Gräf

After a few months under the saddle, Lenny learns from Uta Gräf, step by step, to seek the support of the hands and drop his neck from the withers. Look at how the flatwork exercises are used to get him more open and forward in the neck while keeping him active with the hind end.

Duration: 30:17 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Lenny Part 1: Basic training of a green horse

Uta Gräf

Uta Gräf and her team are now starting with the basic training of a very green horse, the 4-years-old Lenny. It is now time to gain confidence, get used to new tasks and be ridden for the first time. A few months later, Lenny learns how to respond to riding aids.

Duration: 11:31 Minutes

Collection - the dot on the i of the training scale

Uta Gräf

Necessary for many movements, to elevate the forehand, and simply for an incredible feeling when riding: collection. In this video, Uta Gräf shows us how she introduces collection with a young horse and how she improves the collection when working an older horse already established at Grand Prix.

Duration: 13:48 Minutes

The joy of dressage Part 4: Caring for your horse goes beyond the training

Uta Gräf

For Uta Gräf and her husband, Stefan Schneider, fine riding is not only a question of riding technique but the result of the “whole caring package” of husbandry, feeding, and training that keeps the horse healthy and happy. Keeping competition horses in a herd in the field is a fairly unusual practice, as is riding without a standard indoor in summer and especially winter. This video lets us experience Uta Gräf’s training and husbandry concepts.

Duration: 20:13 Minutes

The joy of dressage Part 3: Improving performance in dressage with fine aids

Uta Gräf

Uta Gräf is of the opinion in order to improve performance in dressage, the aids need to be continually refined, until barely visible. She makes sure that she takes enough time with the young horses so that they learn to be ridden with a fine contact to the rider’s hand. This helps her later with further training and is a result of communicating with almost invisible aids.

Duration: 15:31 Minutes

Helios journey to becoming a dressage horse Part 4: Training strength & self-carriage

Uta Gräf

Since our last video, the 8-year-old horse has developed even further in his dressage training. In this video Uta Gräf starts with exercises for the half steps, as preparation for the piaffe. The goal here is to activate and increase the strength of the hind end and encourage more bending of the joints.

Duration: 12:12 Minutes

The joy of dressage Part 2: Keeping a horse motivated

Uta Gräf

To allow a horse to enjoy his work and stay motivated, it is essential that the training is adjusted accordingly to each individual horse. Uta Gräf shows us with the 6-year-old Damon Jerome NRW and the 12-year-old stallion Le Noir, what she is aware of when training in order to keep a young horse happy and interested and maintain the motivation of an older, more experienced horse.

Duration: 21:54 Minutes

The joy of dressage Part 1: Fine riding begins in your head

Uta Gräf

When it comes to dressage, harmonic riding and riding with fine, minimal aids begins in one’s head. To always be thinking in a horse-friendly manner means, for Uta Gräf, to see the horse as a partner and both have fun doing the work whilst riding and for her, is the basis for mutual trust, fine riding, and success in the competition arena.

Duration: 13:41 Minutes

Helios journey to becoming a dressage horse Part 3: Riding with a double bridle

Uta Gräf

Helios is now 8 years old and Uta Gräf has started getting him used to the double bridle. The well-known dressage rider makes sure, both in the warm-up and the working phase, that Helios accepts the bit and goes to the hand.

Duration: 13:58 Minutes

Helios journey to becoming a dressage horse Part 2: Trot work & half pass

Uta Gräf

Half pass is the next step of the training for Helios. 3 months after the first training videos we can see that the contact became steadier and that the horse is ready for more difficult exercises. In this video you will see how Uta progressively builds up her training session, using leg yielding and transitions as preparatory exercises for the half pass.

Duration: 09:21 Minutes

Helios journey to becoming a dressage horse Part 1: Collecting the horse

Uta Gräf

For this training series, we follow Uta Gräf being filmed at regular intervals, as she trains her 7-year-old gelding, Helios. Collecting work is a very important step to prepare to horse for more technical dressage movements. In this first video, we see how lateral work and flying changes can be prepared with various collecting exercises.

Duration: 16:24 Minutes

Overcoming spookiness in the dressage arena

Uta Gräf

Spookiness is part of the natural behavior of horses. For success at competitions as well as for harmonic riding at home, the horse needs to learn to trust his rider and stay relaxed even in unusual or worrying situations. Uta Gräf shows how she prepares her horses at home in their everyday training for such circumstances.

Duration: 13:08 Minutes

Related videos

Working with long reins part 2: Reinsetting & first long reining exercises for the horse

Saskia Gunzer

Working in long reins is a fascinating possibility to school your horse in all the movements without the weight of a rider on his back. With the necessary preparation work in hand, teaching the horse these long reining exercises should be easily achieved. Once the first step forwards and the first turn have been achieved a serpentine through the entire arena is not far off.

Duration: 26:09 Minutes

The first steps of the training of a young horse

Ingrid Klimke

At the beginning of his training, a young horse needs to learn to focus on the rider’s aids. The first steps will be for him to move with suppleness, in a steady rhythm in all three paces. In this video the young Danaro, a 4-year-old stallion is presented to us by Andreas Busacker, Ingrid Klimke’s husband.

Duration: 09:15 Minutes

Working with long reins part 3: Lateral work, collecting and Spanish walk

Saskia Gunzer

In the same way that the training of the lateral work under the rider plays a big role in gymnasticizing the horse, so too does the same work in the long reins. Saskia Gunzer shows us how she trains the lateral work, piaffe, passage and the Spanish walk, all in long reins.

Duration: 25:46 Minutes

Ingrid Klimke works with student Laura on correct use of the rider’s aids

Ingrid Klimke

The 5-year-old Saint Ledger has only just started his basic training. In this lesson, we concentrate on familiarising him to the rider’s aids and despite being in an unfamiliar environment, relaxing in his body and mind.

Duration: 09:08 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 5: Canter transitions, flying changes, pirouettes

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl gives us not only a theoretical understanding but also explains how to put this into practice, today teaching a horse the canter transitions. He uses various arena figures and lateral work to help the horse. It is interesting to watch how the French Master teaches the flying changes, from working canter to counter canter on a circle. A high degree of collection is necessary before commencing the canter pirouettes.

Duration: 21:19 Minutes