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English/German Training Combined

Roanne Froh has brought her European Approach to the U.S.A.

By Kristin Hermann

Horseplay magazine, March 1989

(Kristin trained for a while with Roanne Froh, where she and her horse, Blythdale, were partners. Roanne married John Winnett.)

Argentinus and Roanne Froh Winnett
Horse of the Year USDF/AHSA International Test 1.

Presence is what dressage is all about, believes Roanne Froh, and Froh's presence doing dressage is certainly worth observing. Talent for dressage encompasses this equestrian. When you see her at a show, do not be surprised if she competes with not only one FEI-Level horse, but perhaps six horses, all competing at varying levels. Froh had numerous wins in 1988. Her horse, Argentinus, recently sold, was Horse of the Year for the USDF/AHSA International Level 1.


Reared in London, she schooled the flat work for Princess Anne's event horses at the age of 17, and competed the Queen's horses.


"Event riders, however", she explained "only compete up to third level, and with my talent for the flat work, I decided to specialize in dressage. A judge who was a friend at this time (the year was 1977), arranged an interview for me in Germany, the country I was told dominated the world in dressage. I always knew that I wanted to train horses, so accepting a position in Germany was an easy decision. Ironically, at the time of my decision to specialize in dressage, my own horse, named Waterwheel, qualified for an international three-day event at Badminton."


First Job in Germany


"I interviewed for a job breaking and training young Swedish warmblood stallions in Bremen, Germany, for the former owner of Electron (Ellin Dixons breeding stallion). My employers arranged for me to have lessons with Herbert Rehbein, one of Europe's top trainers. Rehbein was five times champion professional trainer in Germany.


"I trained these stallions up to Fourth Level and even won a championship at M Level (equivalent to Third and Fourth Levels here) at the Bremen International Dressage Show. I decided I wanted to learn how to train a horse to Grand Prix, so I took another position in Trier, Germany, where the horses were older. I continued my studies with Rehbein despite the extra distance. I have adapted many of Rehbeins methods, although I combine training tactics from England, too, where I had a lot of experience riding Thoroughbred horses."


Froh rides from the leg, not from the hand and this, she says, is the good German method, despite what many believe here. "Americans also think that, in Germany, riders sit too far back, with their leg out in front. This, too, is an inaccurate concept of the German method." Froh believes proper position requires that the ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles are not only aligned, but relaxed in order to feel and communicate with the horse, sharing the same center of gravity.


"Upon preparing to take the national riding examinations in Germany", explains Froh, "in order to become a professional woman trainer there, I was invited to visit America and give a few riding clinics. Straight away, in December of 1984, I was offered a job in Ohio, ironically training imported German warmbloods."


Moved to America


Froh decided to veer course and move to America. With her, she brought a disciplined, yet "firm and sympathetic" approach to training, plus a "royal British presence" to her dressage. "America was getting more interested in dressage, and they needed trainers", explains Froh, "so I thought the timing was right to introduce myself."




What Froh has found in America, especially at the shows, is that riders are inaccurate. An example would be a rider that has a beautiful halt, but she is not on center line. "This is throwing points away", explains Froh. "Accuracy comes from practice, and I let it become a habit, always.


"With dressage, you are teaching a horse a more disciplined and more concentrated form of the equine's movements so that he will perform when you ask", states Froh." A horse has to be happy in his work. I will push a horse up only if he is physically ready and remains happy."


Her Training Methods


"In one month, a green-broke horse in training with me can walk, trot, and canter on the longe and under saddle, and be started on the bit as well. This is easily possible, provided there are no problems along the way. After about three to six months under saddle, the horse is on the bit, advancing to Training Level. I begin lateral work when the horse stays on the bit at a sitting trot; can do 10-meter circles without losing rhythm; and can canter 15-meter circles.


"Every so often, I give a demonstration where I present the levels of dressage with various ages of horses. Quite a few eyebrows are raised when people see how disciplined and relaxed my young horses are in training", explains Froh.


Froh does her training, "by circling, plus lots of serpentines". Rarely does Froh ride up the long side of the arena without at least three 10-meter circles or smaller at the trot or canter. Of course, the size of the circle depends on the horse's age and ability to use itself.


The only movement Froh believes takes a year to train is the flying change. She says, "The horse is very quick to realize what the trainer is asking and will anticipate. It takes a long time to teach the horse to do a flying change on command. I learned to do flying changes from Rehbein, who has a reputation in Germany for being able to teach a cow a flying change, he is so good at it."


Froh carries her disciplined character with her not only in the show ring and in training, but in teaching her students as well. She believes in training horses, then riders to their mounts; thus the rider learns from the horse. Froh begins each lesson with, "May I have a seat on your horse?" As she trains the horse, the rider observes. She then instructs the rider on what she has done. Since the horse knows what to expect, the progress between horse and rider is rapid.


Sensitivity is Key


"Training horses is not like working with machines", states Froh. "Animals have feeling. I think with each horse, you must develop a relationship. A trainer needs to be receptive to how a horse feels. For example, if I ask a person 'how are you', they reply 'fine' or 'tired', but if I ask the horse the same question, he does not answer me. So, by being sensitive to its character, I must know if the animal has an off day. A relationship must be developed."


Froh and her husband live outside Cleveland on their Seiger Hof farm (in German, this means winning farm). A regular schedule for Froh entails overseeing the training of about 15 horses daily. She has two of her own and six to eight others to ride daily. An assistant is always available to keep training maximized.


(See article on "Teaching the Flying Change", which Kristin wrote with Roanne (Froh) Denny-Winnett.)

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