carel eijkenaar dressage horse training trainer horses equestrian FEI judge

Carel Eijkenaar is an FEI Dressage Trainer based in New Jersey.

He currently travels to training sites in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Please contact him at 201-266-4968 if you wish to learn more.

Carel’s student Michelle LaBarre expresses their joint philosophy of riding and training:

I met Carel Eijkenaar in January of 2004, about 4 months after I had returned from a working student position at the Reitinstitut Von Neindorff in Karlsruhe Germany. Returning to the United States, and to Western New York in particular, meant I had left the heart of dressage training and culture that defines Europe — and Germany in particular — for a place generally lacking in awareness about training up the levels in the discipline of dressage.

Before I rode with Carel, I watched him teach a lesson to a friend of mine on a school master. I was skeptical of dressage instructors and typically watched them work before letting them have a turn with me and my horse. Early into the ride, Carel asked his new student to do some warm up in the canter and then after a bit to do a lead change and warm up the other lead. The thing I will never forget and that has kept me training on a weekly basis with Carel ever since, is what he said when the lead change was performed. After a small silence, “Yah, that was a lead change, but it was a garbage lead change.”

Carel went on to explain what was wrong with the lead change and proceeded to teach a very helpful lesson where tremendous of progress was made. But the reason that comment was so important to me was Carel’s quality of ‘calling the kettle black’. It was refreshing to hear a clear and honest assessment of performance and then, watching the rest of the lesson unfold, to discover that Carel was easily able to analyze the source of the issue and then educate the rider in a manner where measurable progress was clearly made. Carel’s directness combined with his ability to explain and teach the rider how to resolve issues was exactly what I was craving as a young and developing trainer.

When my turn came to get in front of Carel, I did my warmup and demonstrated my topline stretching skills I had worked so hard at in Germany and kept trotting around waiting for coaching and then the line came: “Yah, there is a good rider sitting there, why don’t you do something with it?” That line still reverberates in my skull. The comparison between sitting there and doing something became a personal challenge. I wanted to be a rider that did something, that trained horses and my response: “Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it” has defined my relationship with Carel ever since.

What I trusted from my very first ride with Carel was that he was able to teach me how to train. What that meant to me was how to analyze a horse’s character and conformation. How to decide how hard to push and when to back off. How to teach a horse something new. Carel taught me priorities in my training decisions and he taught me how to use the training scale effectively. He helped me understand that the road to success is dependent on the flexible mind of the trainer; that the trainer must be willing to look at each horse as an individual and not one of the characters we read about in the books.

Over the next few months with Carel, I learned that his passion for teaching extended beyond the dressage arena: he coached me on my own teaching, on my lunging, he spent time explaining nutrition and shoeing decisions. I began sticking pictures of horses in front of him and listened as he analyzed their conformation and their breeding. As months grew into years, Carel’s mentoring has spread into facility management, showing and general business practices. All of those things were unexpected bonus. The one thing that has remained at the core of Carel’s work and the reason I have stuck with him for these last seven years is that horse after horse, Carel has proven that he does not compromise on the classical approach to training. His focus on riding a horse back to front has never wavered, even as his approach from horse to horse is as varied as the conformation and character requires. Carel’s honest, direct and effective approach is what makes trainers, and it is what makes dressage horses.