"My first meeting with Thomas was when I attended one of his clinics, during which he established fundamental building blocks that have shaped my riding practice ever since. The results of three days of lessons were so good that I “followed him home,” so to speak. I spent a month training with him and Shana in 2009 and subsequently began taking a weekly riding lesson by Skype, which I continue to this day.
The effects of this relationship have been profound: I began to develop as a rider, and my “unsuitable” horse demonstrated the capability for upper level work both physically and mentally. My skinny thoroughbred developed dramatic muscling across his topline and changed his posture both under saddle and in the pasture. As he began to trust that the demands placed on him would be progressive and fair my cranky and untractable horse became happy and co-operative. At the end of the first year of training with Thomas the same people who had said my horse was untrainable began to ask where I got this new horse.
Thomas is a very systematic instructor who does an excellent job breaking movements into small increments and helping the rider to understand the purpose of each one. Since we began working together I have marvelled at the way he begins a session with the most basic exercises and then develops them progressively into upper level movements.
As a rider, prolonged exposure to his method has meant that I understand both how to train new movements and the ways that dressage movements can be used to progressively strengthen and develop the horse. Under his supervision for the past four years I have been developing and competing a young horse with the goal of competing at FEI level."
- Kristen Guest, Canada
"Before I had the opportunity to work with Thomas, I was an autodidact. There was a lack of suitable riding teachers, and I could not identify with any of the available training methods. I studied the methods of several riding masters and picked out the most plausible explanations. When I bought my Lusitano stallion 6 years ago who was 5 at the time, I realized quickly that he takes me to my limits as a rider. He does not “function” according to any rigid riding method. I hired various riding instructors, from Spain and elsewhere. None of them found the right strategy to teach my stallion upper level movements. When Thomas returned from the US to Germany in 2010, I had the opportunity to hold clinics with him at our facility. It quickly became obvious that his way of working with horses is exactly what we needed. Since then, his clinics are a fixture at our facility.
The result is that the horses become supple and move with self confidence and grace. They enjoy dressage and always give their best. Due to the thoughtful combination of gymnastic exercises the horses are now able to perform advanced movements. Their understanding of the biomechanics is very much improved. They come out of each training session mentally and physically stronger. My seat and aids are becoming finer and more specific. I have a closer bond with my horses, and our communication is much finer and more differentiated than it used to be.
I have to emphasize one effect of the lessons in particular: Riding takes on a different meaning than before. The focus is less on the level you have reached, but much more so on the road that takes you there. The effective communication between horse and rider is much more important. Riding is more fun. It is meditative and deeply relaxing, not “training” in a rigid sense. As a result, you find success as a rider without stress or pressure. This is how it should always be."
- Bianca Oster, Germany
"Working with Thomas and Shana was transformative. They have huge stores of knowledge which they share with anyone who is willing to learn. They were supportive and compassionate towards me and towards my horse. I don't think I have ever heard them raise their voices in anger. They brought us along in a way that made me lose my fears, by not asking me to do anything I wasn't truly ready to do. There was a focus on every small success so we could continue on to bigger success. They helped me change my position and learn to communicate with my horse. They were always finding ways to make things clearer/easier and did so with humor and kindness. The only thing they ever asked was that I be willing to "do the homework" that needed to be done so that we could make progress. I have never heard them ask for anything more from any student. Their hard work allowed my horse to become stronger, more supple and very happy in her work with me. Their stress on riding as a partnership between horse and rider created a thinking rider and a desire to learn as much as possible to make that partnership the best it can be. My riding will always be a work in progress, but having worked with Thomas and Shana I now have a seat that functions for communication between my horse and me. I am "uncoiled" from the fetal position and can now use my legs, weight and seat to have a conversation with my horse. I am also comfortable that I am not going to fall at the slightest reaction of my horse.
My horse has become calmer and less reactive. She trusts me to make decisions for us in situations where she is uncomfortable. She is a willing partner in our rides and demonstrates the potential that was there that simply needed to be brought out through correct riding."
- Candace Kimbell, USA
"My biggest problem was that my horse and I were working against each other more and more instead of with each other. This culminated in an injury to his nuchal ligament, which dramatically increased his crookedness through a combination of protective posture and pain memory. I was unable to help and develop my horse. Instead, I was blocking him more and more. In addition, many trainers who I took lessons from at the time, focused too much on movements and competition patterns, while neglecting work on the basics. Instead of gymnastically developing my horse, they practiced movements like flying changes, and kept increasing the pressure. Nothing was working any more, and we were both getting more more and more frustrated. My horse became fearful and suspicious, and more and more resistant, which often ended on his hind legs.
Working with Thomas was very relaxed from the beginning. He was always honest and explained a lot, but without sugarcoating anything. From the beginning, the main focus was placed on gymnastics and keeping the horse sound. The purpose of the exercises was transparent, so I was able to practice them at home because I understood what was important. Suddenly, it was not the flying change that was important any more, but the prerequisites that the horse has to fulfill in order to be able to perform a flying change at all. I started to feel what an uphill canter feels like, and suddenly the horse casually started offering flying changes, half passes, and half pirouettes here and there. After being initially suspicious, my horse became increasingly relaxed and more cooperative. He realized that nobody was harming him, and started trying harder for me. Thomas is always able to build the tasks for the horses in a way that they understand, thus motivating them to cooperate.
The result of working with Thomas is that my horse and I are working together in harmony again. Feeling how you are becoming one with the horse, how the gaits become soft and practically floating through the arena is absolutely brilliant and unlike anything else. Although there are many things that are not confirmed yet, there are moments that feel simply perfect, even if they only last for three canter strides, and once you have felt that, you never want to ride differently any more.
For me, the highlight of my training with Thomas to date is that my horse who was basically unable to canter is now doing canter pirouettes and applies himself so much that it warms my heart.
What’s even better is that after a successful training session, he literally wants to run over to Thomas and be praised and petted, and then he stands there beaming with pride.
I thank Thomas for his clear words and the infinite effort he makes with us every time, for not treating me, as a western rider with a quarter horse, any differently than the dressage riders with their dressage horses. I am happy to be able to work with him and I hope very much that he will accompany us on our journey for a long time."
- Virginia Weber, Germany