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

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Videos from Uta Gräf

Riding your Horse with One Hand Part 2: Test your Own Riding

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"When a horse is classically well ridden, it is just a small step to riding with one hand" says Stefan Schneider. He and his wife, Uta Gräf, ride with one hand regularly, in order to test their riding. Does the horse react sensitively to the leg and weight aids? Or does he fall apart as soon as you ride with one hand? We then see on what we really need to work on!

Duration: 00:14:59 Minutes

Riding your Horse with One Hand Part 1: Prerequisites & Differences in Aid Provision

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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.

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Uta Gräf & Deliano Part 3: Improving the Flying Changes

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On his way to FEI level, Deliano solidifies his flying changes and learns how to carry more weight behind. Uta Gräf shows us which exercises she finds most helpful for the gelding. With her commentating as she rides we get to see exactly how she applies her aids.

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

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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: 00:20:15 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Deliano Part 2: Riding Correct Transitions and Improving the Canter

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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: 00:18:16 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Deliano Part 1: Improving Expression Starts at the Warm-Up Phase

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Deliano is a very big and talented horse that was comfortable with the contact, naturally balanced and stays in a rhythm, right from the start. Uta Gräf is careful to support the gelding's natural characteristics and help him move with more expression, which she shows you in this film - from the warm-up phase to the canter work.

Duration: 00:22:21 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Lenny Part 2: Improve the Neck Position Through Flatwork Exercises

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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: 00:30:17 Minutes

Uta Gräf & Lenny Part 1: Basic Training of a Green Horse

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Uta Gräf and her team are now starting with the basic training of a very green horse, the 4-year-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: 00:11:31 Minutes

Collection - the Dot on the i of the Dressage Training Scale

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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: 00:13:48 Minutes

The Joy of dressage Part 4: Caring for Your Horse Goes Beyond the Training

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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.

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The Joy of Dressage Part 3: Improving Performance with Fine Aids

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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.

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Helios Journey to Becoming a Dressage Horse Part 4: Training Strength & Self Carriage

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Since our last video, the 8-year-old Helios 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: 00:12:12 Minutes

The Joy of Dressage Part 2: Keeping a Horse Motivated

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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.

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The Joy of Dressage Part 1: Fine Riding Begins in Your Head

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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: 00:13:41 Minutes

Helios Journey to Becoming a Dressage Horse Part 3: Riding with a Double Bridle

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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: 00:13:58 Minutes

Helios Journey to Becoming a Dressage Horse Part 2: Trot Work & Half Pass

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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: 00:09:21 Minutes

Helios Journey to Becoming a Dressage Horse Part 1: Collecting the Horse

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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.

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Overcoming Spookiness in the Dressage Arena

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

Duration: 00:13:08 Minutes

Related videos

The School of Légèreté Part 1: Theoretical Principles

Philippe Karl

This video is an introduction to the philosophy of Philippe Karl and his School of Légèreté. The balance of both horse and rider in every gait and every situation are at the core of his training methodology. The accuracy of the rider’s aids are of utmost importance.  

Duration: 00:10:59 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 5: Canter Transitions, Flying Changes, Pirouettes

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl explains in great detail both the theory and practical application of teaching the horse a good canter transition. He uses a variety of arena figures and lateral work. Interestingly, the French riding master teaches the first flying changes by having the horse change from the true canter into the counter canter. In order to do pirouette work, the horse has to already be able to show a high degree of collection.

Duration: 00:21:19 Minutes

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In her dressage training, Ingrid Klimke received regular coaching from her mentor Major Paul Stecken. In today’s training session, they work with the 4-year-old Trakehner mare Eternity on developing impulsion according to the classical training principles.

Duration: 00:20:01 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 10: Piaffe and Passage

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The desire of the horse to go forward, along with the ability to lower the haunches, are the prerequisites for a good piaffe. Philippe Karl uses a variety of exercises to develop the piaffe with his horses and to enable them to work in perfect balance. The renowned French master has shown time and again that any horse can learn to do a good passage when we sensibly combine the Spanish walk and the trot. 

Duration: 00:21:17 Minutes

Work in Long Reins Part 3: Lateral Work, Collection, and Spanish Walk

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Just as in the training under saddle, lateral work also plays a crucial role in the gymnastization of the horse when long reining. Saskia Gunzer demonstrates how she develops the different lateral movements, piaffe, passage, and the Spanish walk in the work in long reins. 

Duration: 00:25:46 Minutes