Producing Young Event Horses: 4 Questions with Kai-Steffen Meier

Kai-Steffen Meier and TSF Karascada M at Badminton 2014. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kai-Steffen Meier and TSF Karascada M at Badminton 2014. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Kai-Steffen Meier is a four-star German team rider with an impressive reputation for producing young event horses, finding consistent success at the Bundeschampionat in Germany and the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion d’Angers in France.

He has been invited to the upcoming USEA Evaluation of the Young Event Horse Symposium in Ocala, Florida as a clinician and will teach in the classroom sessions as well as give instruction from the saddle during live demonstrations.

If you’re at all interested in breeding and riding young event horses, check out EN’s preview of the Feb. 22-23 USEA Young Horse Symposium here and get more information about the schedule and registration here.

EN caught up with Kai to get a behind-the-scenes look at what we can expect to see from him at the symposium.

EN: What do you plan to discuss and teach in the classroom sessions, and what sorts of qualities will you focus on during the riding sessions?

Kai-Steffen Meier: “I’ll explain the German system of Bundeschampionat, how to qualify, the horses needed as well as the training way to bring them there. I’ll try to compare the German system with the U.S. system and to find the significant differences and their pros and cons. During the riding session I will show ideas and exercises for how to train young event horses but also explain what a future event horse should have regarding natural talent.”

EN: What are the most important focal points of developing young horses for eventing? What are the primary qualities your successful young horses have shared?

Kai-Steffen Meier: “For me the most important things are a good canter, a good jump and a good head. Especially the mentality of the horse is very important, as a horse which is willing to learn and has fun doing its job will, at the end, be a good pupil and will be much more easy to build up. Another aspect for sure is the conformation of a horse; the better it is built, the easier it is to work. Although you always should keep in mind ‘they win in all shapes.'”

EN: What do you believe makes the German system for developing young horses for eventing so successful, and what are the real benefits of championships like the Bundeschampionat?

Kai-Steffen Meier: “The biggest advantage are the so called ‘Gelaendepferde.’ These are classes for 4- to 6-year-old horses where they do a short cross country (approximately three to four minutes). They can run more often, they learn fast to go to shows and tackle new tracks and challenges.

“The level of difficulty grows over the season, and the best ones finally compete at the Bundeschampionat, where they have to run some very big courses already, so its not only about winning or top 10 finishes. All my horses which competed at the Bundeschampionat grew up over the season and made their final exam at Warendorf, so it has always a big educational value.”

EN: What sort of advice would you offer to breeders and riders attempting to bring up successful young event horses?

Kai-Steffen Meier: “I think it’s very important to start the horses early enough in their work. We start with our 4-year-olds already with some small competitions in spring before they have a little holiday and then come back for a second half of a season from mid-August to the end of September. Like that we have a lot of time to play with them, to school them cross country and to get them used to traveling to shows and just let them grow up.

“Time is a major factor as every horse develops differently, and if you start them early enough you can give them the time they need. Some are ready to go when they just got 5 years old, others need until they are 6 years old to learn all the skills needed. For me this is not really a question of quality; I had horses which were real super stars as 5 and 6 years old while others just went to shows with average results and as a 7 or 8 year old they could put everything together and were just amazing.”

If you missed Maren Engelhardt’s excellent EN series explaining the Bundeschampionat, be sure to check out the links below!

Bundeschampionat 2015: An Intro to Germany’s Young Horse Championships

Bundeschampionat 2015: Meet the German Young Event Horse Champions

Bundeschampionat 2015: Comparing German & U.S. Young Horse Programs