Manolo Mendez Dressage Testimonials

From a clinic in the USA in 2010 at Wildfire Farm:
I have worked with many international trainers and coaches and Manolo has the best understanding of the horse from the horse’s point of view. I have complete trust in his training methods, totally agree with them and they compliment what I try to instill in my students as well. The horse’s best interest is never compromised and at the same time the potential of the horse can be fully reached.

Mary Flood is a USDF Certified National Level Instructor and Trainer. Past winner of the prestigious Grand Prix at Devon and Festival of Champions. USDF the Bronze, Silver and Gold medalist, she made the USET Long List and competed in the 1992 Olympic Screening Trails on Daktary. She has won numerous USDF Horse of the Year Awards at each level from 2nd Level thru Grand Prix, including HOY Freestyle at 3rd and 4th Level, Intermediare 1, and Grand Prix, notably on Latour, Dutch Royale and Daktary.  VADA Horse of the Year Championships at FEI, Training, Third and Fourth and also High Score PVDA Show of over 700 rides, High Score FEI, and many Grand Prix wins. She also earned ‘Best Horse” at the Dressage Derby at Gladstone. 

“In May this year, I went to Manolo’s clinic in Denmark, with my young jumper mare. I could write half a novel about the things that happened before, during and after the clinic, but I will make it short.

Meeting Manolo changed everything for us – for the first time, I felt like someone else understood my horse and her unique personality. At the time, getting around the arena in trot was a big challenge, because she would suddenly refuse to turn or go forward, and transitions into canter were impossible.

The 3 days we worked with Manolo, changed my entire perspective and gave me new ways to handle our challenges.

After the clinic, riding my mare has turned from frustration into my greatest joy! We can trot and canter anywhere, and today we had our first jumps; my big dream come true!

I am happy as can be, and I want to thank Manolo for the great help – Your knowledge about, and approach to, horses is absolutely amazing! With great gratitude.”

Malene Dam, Denmark

Every time I watch Manolo work, I learn something more about how my new horse’s mature body (he’s an 18 y.o. “schoolmaster”) functions, and how I can help him stay sound and healthy for the remainder of his life, which I hope will be LONG because he has so much more to teach me!  

Specifically, Manolo showed me how many years of being ridden in the double bridle had caused my horse to become a bit “disconnected” from his hind end, and how riding him truly FORWARD, with a lower neck [forward and out], helps him begin to fully use his hind legs again. I learned which muscles to look for in his neck when it is in the correct posture to facilitate the flow of the energy generated by his hind legs throughout his whole body, and how important it is not to stifle that flow through a too-strong contact with the bit.  

Manolo also showed me where to look for the sweat that indicates my horse is using the muscles he’d “forgotten” for so long. He even told me what kind of work to avoid for now, so that my horse doesn’t fall back into old, less functional movement patterns until the new, correct patterns are re-established. And last but not least, he encouraged me by saying that my horse has a good body for his age!

Lynne (Sprinsky)-Echols ( Egon Von Neindorf student and Graduate Balimo Instructor)

I have been riding at Wildfire Farm for several years now. Over the years I have seen flyers for Manolo clinics and have heard much about him. I always felt that I wasn’t a good enough rider or had a talented enough horse to clinic with him. 

This year, Mary convinced me to bring my new project pony to the clinic. I have a lovely 13.2 hand 6 year old Quarter Pony X Welsh. She is a big moving mare with tons of personality. Our struggle over the years has been RELAXATION, because my little girl loves to go bigger and better with the Tim Allen thought process of “MORE POWER.” As a result, she really doesn’t always use her body the way she should.  I was aware of some of this, but Manolo really showed me how it has affected her muscle development.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have looked over my mare everyday for the last six years. I try to make an effort to cross train and work all parts of her body. Manolo took the time to explain and physically point out the knots, and problems in her development that affect our performance. 

I was SHOCKED by what I saw and also shocked that I hadn’t noticed it before! In order to help my pony Manolo took the time to watch my horse move at all three gaits. He watched her go both directions, on straight lines, circles, transitions. I was really impressed by how much he watched her before doing anything at all. Manolo then spent the next hour and a half slowly working on my pony. 

He was AMAZING! I have never seen my mare be so relaxed and cooperative while someone is stretching and moving her legs and body into different positions. Nothing Manolo did was forced, he waited for the horse to relax (something she isn’t known for) and allow him to stretch and move them.  He also gave her plenty of walk breaks in between. During those times he was always watching and observing her to see what else he needed to do to help her. 

In the end, Manolo took the time even at 7:00p.m. to show me some exercises to help my mare improve her development, he also had me look at her again (the same way I had when we had started), I was shocked to see how her body and muscles had changed.Manolo spent a lot of time working with my pony, 

I was the last ride of a three day clinic and it was already 5:45 p.m. when we started. He put every bit of effort and knowledge he had into my pony like she was the first one of the day. He also took the time before and after to show me the problems and solutions. Manolo was a real miracle worker! Thanks so much for all you did.

Katie Brunson

Thank you for including me this weekend. Silco can be tense and nervous so I am always hesitant to work with new clinicians.  Manolo was extremely patient and kind with his expectations.  I wanted to experience Manolo’s knowledge of in-hand work and found his unique techniques very useful in the enhancement of passage and eventually piaffe.  I am looking forward to developing Silco’s piaffe through Manolo’s skillful methods.  I have appreciated this opportunity.

Holly Wilmoth

It was a great clinic. I am always humbled by Manolo’s knowledge of “the whole horse.” He is a vet, trainer, chiropractor, farrier, optometrist and everything all wrapped in one. But most of all he has the gift for teaching and explaining in a way that everyone understands. His passion is ever present! This is not your typical clinic. What I get personally out of his clinic that I do not get from other clinics is the insight to each horse’s way of traveling due to its conformation and bio mechanics. But most importantly the horse’s way of  thinking.  Combining these aspects makes it clearer the best approach to take in order to better train each individual horse.  It is definitely not a “cookie cutter” type of clinic.

Manolo’s use of the bamboo sticks for the in hand work is amazing and his timing is impeccable.  The confidence he has in this work can only come from many years of experience.  Which in the end experience is the best teacher when it comes to horse training.

I have changed my way of training. I no longer just want more angle, more impulsion, more, more more…I try to see the natural beauty of each individual horse and try to make their natural way of going the best it  can be without trying to make gold out of silver. I have always  treated the horse with respect,  but I have attained a higher level of respect after seeing Manolo’s clinics.  Every horse has limitations that need to be respected.  Pushing harder than they can give breaks their spirit and bond with us.  I now try to make the silver as shinny as it can be without falsely  thinking I can make it into gold. Thus maintaining respect and trust with my four-legged partner.

Becky Lamas, Dressage instructor, Florida

Although I was very fearful of riding in a clinic after many years of raising children, I was amazed and relieved to become a beneficiary of Manolo’s insights in this clinic. I have watched Manolo’s clinics previously, and, tried to adjust to his  accent, and bamboo sticks from the sidelines It was interesting, but sometimes difficult for me to fully comprehend his intent.

What I did understand as an auditor was the changes in the horses as they became more relaxed, freer, happier as the lessons progressed. As an active participant, (rider) I was amazed at how personal the clinic became as Manolo addressed the needs of my horse and myself. He mentally rode with me every step, encouraging me in the good things I was doing, making suggestions on how to make it better and giving a thorough and complete physical and psychological profile of my horse that was 100% accurate and that many ( actually most) would have  missed.  ( And I do mean complete – he even trimmed my horses feet, which have been a source of concern for several years). 

I feel so fortunate to have been exposed to his methods, which seem so right, so natural, so unforced and so beautiful. At one point he asked, “What is so beautiful about forcing your partner to dance with a whip?” I think it is a telling comment for anyone involved in this sport – it is not about domination – it is about harmony and freedom. I am very grateful to Mary for making these clinics possible.

Sharon Matthews

 I was very impressed with Manolo’s complete commitment to the horse and rider during the clinic.  I found his unique combination of classical dressage training and equine biomechanics to be refreshing and insightful.  With my young mare, he emphasized the need for soft, supple contact.  He used several analogies to explain the feeling I should have in my hands, such as pretending to hold a small bird or dance the tango.  He explained the I want to hold the bird just firm enough so that it cannot fly away, but not too tight such that its tiny bones break.  When dancing the tango, partners have a light, consistent contact until a difficult move occurs (e.g., a dip or fast turn) in which the contact becomes firm for just a few seconds in order to increase the degree of communication to guide each other through the move.  

Manolo also stressed the need for straightness in the young horse.  He noticed that my 5 year-old mare tends to have too much flexion to the right, which he explained could lead to tension in her neck and body.  We worked on the circle and straightaway to both right and left concentrating on keeping her nose directly in front of her chest and stretching downward to work her back.  I very much enjoyed observing the other rider pairs and our working session, and feel like Manolo gave us great material to work on at home for continued improvement.  I was also thrilled to meet Manolo and the other riders at the rider’s dinner .

Torrey Wilkinson

I found this clinic helped to take me to a new level in my riding by encouraging me to trust my abilities in communicating with my horse.  Manolo patiently worked me and my horse as a team.  He let us find our own feel for effective communication.  It was really a unique experience.  His efforts focused on training me to communicate on a more subtle, quiet level – less hands, more reach, more power from behind with balance.  Never too much of any one thing!

Patti Psaris

Since I have an exciting, beautifully trained new horse, I’m eager to jump in and start working on everything he knows.  Before we even brought him home the week of the clinic, I had already started mapping out a show schedule for the fall and early next year!  What resonated for me was Manolo’s urging to take my time and slowly build a relationship with Tico:  give him plenty of opportunity to adjust to me while I adjust to him.  The horse’s happiness and comfort is the foundation for everything Manolo teaches, and I appreciate the reminder that my first and most important goal is our partnership.  Everything else comes after that.

Liza Lyons
From Nov. 2013 after Equitana Melbourne

Dear Manolo, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your presentations at Equitana this year. I was a low level rider when I was younger in dressage and Eventing but have not ridden regularly or competitively for about 10 years due to work and family commitments. My hobby is breeding Hanoverians which I love. My aim is to breed nice performance horses with ultimately a temperament that is conducive to enjoyment for the rider as well as success in the arena. After many years absent from the dressage world I have started over the past couple of years to study it a little more and to be honest I felt a little jaded with what I found. Horses being made to work in “frame” for extended periods of time, having their heads jammed in and generally looking unhappy. I started to question my “hobby” and whether this was how I wanted to spend my spare time (of which there is very little) and more importantly, is this the life I wanted for my “babies” when they are sold.

I went to Equitana 2011 and attended all the dressage clinics and displays and whilst i was respectful of the work required to train and compete a horse to the highest level I also walked away feeling I had made the wrong call on wanting to train in dressage again when the time came that I could find the time to ride again regularly. I found myself drawn to the natural trainers and have done a clinic with the Double Dans and love their training techniques. Until now! The way you approach the training of these magnificent creatures who put such trust in us to do what we do to them and the respect in which you treat your horses and the respect and trust that Clint obviously has for you. To see his body moving so freely and relaxed in such an overwhelming atmosphere and the look in his eye that was that of a horse who was enjoying what he was doing and had 100% trust in his rider was a real treat for me and my sister who was with me. It made me think that if i can possibly get to what ever level is possible for me doing it that way then I would definitely enjoy it and walked away feeling enthused and relieved that there is someone out there working with the horse instead of against him who I could copy. I was a veterinary nurse for 15 years before having my daughter so am fascinated with the science of how the horse works and the best way for us to work with his body rather than against it. It was just a shame the sessions were so short! Anyway, congratulations on what you are doing for the horses of Australia. I am definitely on the Manolo bandwagon! Kind Regards”

Tiffany H, rider, breeder and veterinary nurse.

August 3rd, 2013 in Australia. Ardverness Dressage Centre Clinic in Pakenham, VIC

Manolo ensures that you get an all round picture of your horse. So even though it was an in hand or riding lesson – he pointed out that he wanted one hoof cut a bit differently for next time, gave a very thorough stretch and massage of areas he thought needed it, discussed how he wanted my horse treated in hand, when ridden and general handling. He pointed out how these things will affect movement – both forward or in lateral movements and for longevity. He gave this extra ordinary personality description of my horse, which from his limited contact over the last couple of lessons was so accurate it was uncanny. Manolo has such a sense of quiet and patience that the horses just relax – the silence and calm in his lessons is lovely.

Melissa Farrell

A large part of my therapy work over the past 16 years has focused on improving movement and performance in horses that do not have any obvious injuries or other issues that warrant veterinary attention. Despite some minor differences, there has been a common theme of overall braced musculature in most of these horses, regardless of breed and the type of work for which the horses are used. Generally, the primary cause of most issues can be traced to one or more of the following four points of origin; dysfunctional feet, teeth problems, poor saddle-fit and inappropriate training methods.

If the horse is uncomfortable anywhere in his body, he will respond by tensing, or bracing, muscles in an effort to relieve the discomfort. Once the hoof, teeth and saddle problems have been resolved it is essential for the horse to be handled and trained in a manner that allows him to be fully relaxed mentally and emotionally. An anxious or frightened horse will brace his muscles in the same way as a horse feeling pain or discomfort; neither horse can carry a rider effectively or safely.

For nearly 20 years I have seen that keeping the horse relaxed and happy is a priority for Manolo Mendez as he understands that no progress can be made in training and building a strong horse unless the horse is comfortable and free of all tension in mind and body. Manolo also understands deeply the functional anatomy of the horse; he knows how each horse should move within the limits of its individual conformation and structures his in-hand and under-saddle training to meet the needs of each horse. The softness and feel that Manolo employs with all horses results in a relaxed, strong, free-moving animal whose full potential can be reached.

Pauline Moore, Performance Horse Therapy

Manolo’s in-hand and under saddle work is effective for rehabilitating horses with muscle, bone and ligament/tendon injuries and issues. Since learning of Manolo’s techniques, I have shared many of the ideas with my clients, to benefit the strengthening, straightness and balance of their horses. The in-hand work, I have found especially beneficial for the resulting hindlimb angulation abnormalities, especially those not tracking straight with medial hindlimb muscle shortening. By placing the bamboo between the hind limbs and asking for a bend to the opposites side to which the handler is working, this helps convey to the horse, movement that has been ‘forgot’ due to injury, conformation or bad training. The way he works with previously abused or mistreated horses and establishes trust, is inspiring for those with horses with these issues – they become willing participants and interested in learning and developing their potential again.

Manolo’s understanding of how to enhance the natural beauty and bring the best out in the horse, shows in his ability and techniques to get the horse stepping through and under more. There is only so much as a veterinarian /bodyworker can do in the rehabilitation process, the rest is up to the trainer. Rehabilitation not only of individual muscle groups in affected areas, but also the whole horse, is something Manolo reiterates – you are not training a part of the horse, but the whole horse. To have insight to share with clients, from one who has studied and worked with horses at Manolo’s level, leaves the client feeling they have the ability, or at least where to investigate further, for strengthening and rehabilitation/training, that is effective and beneficial in the long term to the horses.

Dr. Fiona Mead, DVM and Veterinary acupuncturist (IVAS and AVAG affiliated)

Having had the pleasure and opportunity to meet and watch Manolo at work, it is clear to me the immense benefits and great depth of knowledge that this individual has in the field of equine health.

It is essential as a practitioner in my field that we not only treat the stationary spine but also ensure measures are put in place to support, strengthen and train the athlete to further prevent musculo skeletal dysfunction.

Manolo has an innate sense of understanding in the way the horse should move freely and unencumbered. This knowledge allows him to recognize even the smallest amount of tension in the body and correct the horse enabling him to train with the least resistance possible.

His training approach aims for quality movements over quantity preventing damaging compensatory patterns from developing.His unique mixture of hands on body work and demand for correct body alignment and balance make him a stand out in the field of equine health. It is this eye for detail and approach that prevents horses being pushed way beyond their limits and having to be retired far too early

We owe our equine friends respect and an approach to training that ensures their long term health over short term results.It is my strong belief that Manolo’s training in all its forms, in hand and under saddle, encompasses all this philosophy and more.
Dr Julia Kline
DVM, Bvsc Diploma of Equine/Animal Chiropractic