The Eilberg Family

Horse Hero offers a fascinating insight into the Eilberg family's growing success through videos we have made with Maria, Mike and father and trainer Ferdi since 2008. These include working at home with youngsters such as Rochelle and the World Champion 5 year old Woodlander Farouche and rising stars Worldwide and Woodlander Rockstar. Maria trains her Olympic partner Two Sox and there's a series on the making of Mike's new Kur. We also go behind the scenes with the Eilbergs at top Championships including the Hickstead Masters and the National Dressage Champs', plus there are interviews with Maria, Mike and Ferdi. With their classical and empathetic training system, the Eilbergs are the dressage family to watch! Find out all about them in the videos below.

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Mike & Ferdi Eilberg train the champion mare Farouche Mike & Ferdi Eilberg train the champion mare Farouche
Four year old Woodlander Farouche is quite simply astonishing! Ferdi Eilberg says she has the ideal combination of rhythm and relaxation, coupled with natural energy. She has won all major young horse champs' in 2010 and Mike is careful not to exploit her talent. Instead, the focus is on 'consistency in all things'. Beginning on the lunge allows Farouche to use her excess energy safely and avoid potential issues under saddle. In her ridden work, Ferdi asks Mike to vary the length of her neck and make small changes to the tempo within the gaits to increase her elasticity and balance. Trainer Ferdi says he could watch Farouche all day!

Mike Eilberg tactfully trains the 4 year old Rochelle Mike Eilberg tactfully trains the 4 year old Rochelle
After lunging Rochelle, four year old daughter of Rockstar (in another video), Mike is ready to ride. There are three things he likes to be in control of with young horses, namely speed, direction and outline. Rochelle is a dominant mare and Mike is tactful in the way he asks her to do things, choosing his moments carefully. In reacting to her mistakes he says, "responding correctly when a youngster makes a mistake is vital to creating a positive experience and avoiding a set-back". Rochelle is co-operative and works calmly in this training session, but Mike also explains how he uses her excess energy when she is in a different mood!

Maria Eilberg & Ferdi work on Woody's balance and carriage Maria Eilberg & Ferdi work on Woody's balance and carriage
Working with father and trainer Ferdi, Maria rides the 8 year old stallion Worldwide who started life as a show jumper. Attention to detail in the transitions is vital. "From the first step, the trot has to have enough engagement", says Ferdi. In the free walk, Woody naturally carries his head and neck low, indicating the need to change his balance so he can carry himself in a higher frame for medium work. "Energy in the trot must be turned into lift and fluency", says Ferdi. In the lateral work, he asks Maria to look after the carriage but ensure the hind leg remains active. In the half pass Maria must prepare early and show the direction with the head and neck.

Maria Eilberg trains Rockstar on transitions Maria Eilberg & Rockstar work on transitions
National dressage champion, Maria Eilberg, works at home with her stallion Woodlander Rockstar, fresh from a successful Sunshine Tour where he won all the Owner classes! Maria uses transitions to keep Rockstar on her aids and to create energy but, conversely, she also uses them to ensure the forward going seven year old 'waits for her'. As lateral work is easy, the emphasis is on straightness and self-carriage. Maria explains how she explores Rockstar's boundary for collection in canter and shows the start of pirouttes. Stretching is a reward but it's also a useful exercise to ride on the buckle without losing the connection!

Maria and Ferdi Eilberg work on building Rockstar's trot Maria and Ferdi Eilberg work on building Rockstar's trot
Rockstar is an 8 year old stallion aimed at Prix St Georges with GB team rider Maria Eilberg. Father and trainer Ferdi helps Maria increase the expression in Rocco's trot and make a start towards passage. "It's about building the hind leg to do a bit more and transform energy into cadence," he says. Ferdi explains that if Rocco can hold himself behind, then he can hold his neck as well and Maria can let go. "This is a grown up trot". Once energy and balance is created, Maria puts it to good use. "Timing is everything", says Ferdi. "You need to put the horse in the place where he can say no problem and let the music play!"

Maria Eilberg & Two Sox work on suppleness Maria Eilberg & Two Sox work on suppleness

Two Sox (Eddy) has been at Grand Prix for 5 years. He was travelling reserve for the Olympics and British National Champion '08. Eddy knows all the moves so Maria spends time at home 'keeping his mind and body happy'. A typical session is largely stretching which Maria demonstrates masterfully! Working on the buckle end, 'the professor' shows a complete understanding of the stretch, which takes years to achieve. With transitions, Two Sox begins to swing through the back. Maria then shows a few moves. "It's amazing that a horse with plain movement can, through his personality and correct training, become extraordinary", she says.


Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 1 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 1

Up and coming composer Tom Hunt begins work with rising dressage star Mike Eilberg, on an original score for Mike's new Kur. 15 year old Monty (owned by the Bechtolsheimers) is a powerful horse with a big presence. Mike shows Tom footage of Monty's current Kur and talks about what he wants to achieve with the new one. Mike then rides Monty for Tom to highlight his strong points including piaffe, passage, extended canter and changes. They decide on an inspirational or emotional score to maximise transitions and the strong beat of Monty's step. Next, Tom needs to write some musical ideas for Mike to try, while Mike creates a new floor plan.


Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 2 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 2

In Part 2, composer Tom Hunt revisits Mike Eilberg and Monty to see how they have been getting on with his musical ideas for each of the basic gaits. The aim is to establish what Mike likes and what suits Monty in walk, trot and canter so that Tom can develop the theme for variations such as half pass, extensions and changes. Helped by father and trainer Ferdi Eilberg, Mike and Monty test the music out before spending time working on more difficult new moves they are planning to introduce to the floor plan. Mike says, "it's all about calculated risk!" Now Mike and Ferdi must complete the choreography so that Tom can write the entire score. More to follow!


Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 3 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 3

Having tested choreography ideas with some of Tom Hunt's music in Part 2, Mike tells Fiona Price about the challenges he faced in completing the floor-plan for his new Kur. Monty (brother to Laura B's Mistral Hojris) is more lively at a show which created problems in gauging timing at home. After shortening the original freestyle, Mike took Monty to a show environment to run through the test and film the routine for Tom to finalise the music. Mike talks us through the changes he made in the final version, and we get a sneak preview of his test with Tom's music superimposed. Wow! Mike will debut the Kur at the National Champs' 2010.


The debut of Michael Eilberg's new Kur, Nationals 2010 The debut of Michael Eilberg's new Kur, Nationals 2010
In the final part of the series on making Mike's new Kur, Mike is at the Nationals for his debut performance. But disaster strikes when Monty tweaks himself in the stable and isn’t able to compete. Mike’s second string (who is new at top level, but finished 2nd in the Grand Prix the day before) is the last minute substitute. Never having ridden Marco to Monty’s tailor-made score by Tom Hunt, the pair rise to the occasion, and the music is simply stunning! Fiona Price interviews Mike before the competition and finds out about Marco's unusual origins. Afterwards, Mike is delighted with their performance. What a hero! All’s well that ends well!

Michael & Ferdi Eilberg at Windsor '09 Michael & Ferdi Eilberg at Windsor '09
Show jumper turned dressage rider, Michael Eilberg, is following in his father's footsteps and hot on the heels of his more famous sister, GB team rider Maria. Now a member of the World Class Squad, Mike rides Torino in the Potential International Dressage class at Windsor Horse Show '09. We are privileged to listen to the comments of renowned trainer and father Ferdi during the warm up which offer an insight into this family's success. Mike's class performance earns him 68.17% and 3rd place in a strong class. He then talks to Fiona Price about his switch from show jumping and mastering the tricky art of sitting trot!

Maria Eilberg aims for selection at the Dressage Masters Maria Eilberg aims for selection at the Dressage Masters
Maria Eilberg and Two Sox (Ed) have been reserve for the British dressage team three times including the World Equestrian Games '06, European Champs' 2007 and Olympics '08. So a lot hinged on her performance at the Hickstead Masters which would determine if she got the final team place for the European Champs' '09. We see Maria warm up helped by her father Ferdi, watch her test and catch up with her afterwards. Maria tells Fiona Price that a great round was marred by a couple of expensive mistakes in the changes, for no apparent reason! But after a nail biting few days, she got the phone call and made it onto the team!

Maria Eilberg defends her title at the Nationals Maria Eilberg defends her title at the Nationals
Maria Eilberg and Two Sox had a great 2009, the highlight being team silver at the Eureopean Dressage Championships. A few weeks later, Maria is defending her National Champion title at the British Dressage Champs'. Ed tries his heart out for Maria and they finish second to team mate Carl Hester in the Grand Prix and the Freestyle. Fiona Price talks to Maria before the Kur and finds out how she prepares for the test, also why it's Ed's favourite event. Maria talks about the values she had inherited from her father and trainer Ferdi. We are a fly-on-the-wall of her warm up with Ferdi, watch the test and find out later why Ed was so eager!

Maria Eilberg's final WEG preparation, Nat' Champs 2010 Maria Eilberg's final WEG preparation, Nat' Champs 2010
GB team rider Maria Eilberg and Two Sox (Ed) use the National Champs '10 as their final practise for WEG. Ed has gone from strength to strength and Maria tells Fiona Price what's at the heart of the Eilberg training philosophy. As part of the silver medal team at the Euro's '09, Maria has plenty of experience. Nonetheless, father and trainer Ferdi doesn't mince his words in the warm-up. He tells Maria to "practise commitment to power in the test" and to "gain respect outside so the horse is in attendance in the arena!". Ferdi and team captain Richard Davison narrate Maria's practise test and Maria tells Fiona what's left to work on before the Games, when she finishes.

Meet Maria Eilberg, National Dressage Champion! Meet Maria Eilberg, National Dressage Champion!
A hugely insightful interview with Maria Eilberg, 25 year old National Dressage Champion. Trained by her mum and then her dad, Maria claims she does not have as natural feel as Ferdi which is why she is much more analytical. Also, she says her top horse Two Sox is not the flashiest mover. But through correct training and a strong bond between horse, rider and trainer they have got to the top, culminating in being reserve for the Olympics '08 and winning the National title. Maria talks about dealing with pressure, being a perfectionist and insights from teaching. Also, why she favours a hands on approach with her horses.

Maria Eilberg at home with her horses! Maria Eilberg at home with her horses!
A unique insight into how dressage National Champion, Maria Eilberg manages her horses at home. Two Sox (Ed) is Maria's Grand Prix partner. He's 15 and she's had him since he was 3 so they are old buddies! Her stallion Rockstar, is the young upstart. Ed is tight in the back (he's not keen on being girthed either), so Maria explains his management which includes massage before work and a solarium afterwards, plus hind leg stretches. Ed's a real character and 'top dog' on the yard. Maria says it's taken time to get to know him and being hands on has really helped to gain his trust and respect and know what routine suits him best!

Dressage interview with the Eilberg family Dressage interview with the Eilberg family
A priceless interview with one of the best known dressage families in Britain! Father and trainer Ferdi has been to most Olympics since the 70's either as a groom, rider or trainer. Maria was travelling reserve for Beijing and British National Champion in '08. Michael started life as a show jumper and is now riding Grand Prix dressage. Ferdi talks about their training philosophy and creating maximum power with minimum control. Mike explains how he and Maria share their rides, and Maria talks about the Olympic Games, and the difference between riding a baby and a finished horse. Fiona Price also asks the Eilbergs about their views on Rollkur!

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