(This blog was previously posted on September 21, 2016)
Charlotte Dujardin Dressage Symposium at LAEC, March 2014
Photo by Sara Fogan
On March 8, 2014 and March 9, 2014, I audited a dressage symposium at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, California. Charlotte Dujardin, the Olympic 2012 and 2016 Olympic British individual gold medalist in dressage and reigning world champion in the sport, was the featured clinician. She and her former trainer, International Grand Prix champion Judy Harvey, shared their expertise with six accomplished equestrians and their equally impressive horses to work through specific training issues. Following are some tips and training insights about what to look for in a young horse/competitive dressage prospect that Ms. Dujardin shared during these clinics, which you might find helpful too.
- Temperament: Desire to please and work with you (the trainer/rider)
- Will and adaptability to challenges. “A champion horse has three long tests to do over three days. He must be fit and willing to fight through,” Ms. Dujardin said.
- Quality of gaits. The walk and canter should be good, but the initial quality of the trot is less important. “Don’t worry about the trot; this can be [improved] as it gains more suspension,” she explained. “Gymnastic education develops the horse.”
- Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily want a horse with a very big movement: “They actually don’t last as long as it’s very hard to keep these horses sound,” Ms. Dujardin said.
- Limit the time you spend training a young horse to about 20 minutes, focusing on giving clear leg and rein aids. “Look up, sit up and keep your hands still.”
- It is very important to give the horse plenty of breaks at the walk on a long rein. “When you ask the horse to stretch, his neck and back [will] lengthen but he should stay moving and balanced. The horse has to walk on his own. The rider shouldn’t have to do anything,” she said.
- Ms. Dujardin also advised against sitting the trot on a young horse in order to help strengthen its back for the work to come later in its career. A loose and swinging tail is a great indicator of what the horse’s back muscles are doing, she said. Plus, there is still plenty you can do when practicing a rising trot: “Trot as fast as you can to encourage the horse to build strength—push and suspension—in the hind legs.”
- “Get a clear rhythm and good activity so the horse carries you,” Ms. Dujardin counseled. If your horse tends to be lazy you should take your legs (leg aids) off him, whereas you want to keep your leg (aids) on a hot horse. “You are there to teach the horse, not micro-manage him. You want the leg and reins aids to be clear.”
I will share more of her horse-training and riding suggestions in future blogs.
Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.