The Ups, the Downs, the In-betweens.

It can honestly be said there is never a dull moment in Wellington’s winter show season. This week was the CDI 5* (Concours Dressage International) at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. I started at the warm up ring.


The warm up ring is like being backstage at a big musical production. You can see dancers stretching, singers humming warm up vocals, the stage manager with a headset  speaking to those not yet in the wings to give them their standby calls, costume people standing by ready to assist in a quick change  of costume . The  warm up ring for dressage is very similar.

Here I could see the horses, who are elite athletes, being prepared for a high level of competition. The riders and their coaches will know just what needs to be done on any given day. All these horses are in peak fitness and the warm up will be geared to the weather, the mood of the horse and what particular elements of the test (in this case it was the Grand Prix Special) the horse will need to go through before going in the ring.

All of the coaches now have mic system so the rider will have an earpiece and the coach can give directions quietly. Gone are the days when coaches were shouting back and forth to the riders and generally contributing to the hubbub.

It was a hot day 28-30 Celsius A few minutes before the horse is called into the ring the grooms  come out and give the rider a drink of water and  give the horse a wipe with a wet cloth or sponge.  At the same time the coach may give the rider a few last minute words of guidance.

Juan Matute  gives his  son Juan Matute Jr some final words of guidance before he goes into the stadium.

The warm up ring is adjacent to the stadium ,so at the end of the ride, it is easy to tell how it has gone  If there is a burst of enthusiastic applause, or a subdued bit of polite clapping, you will know if the rider will come out smiling or looking serious. As soon as they leave the stadium the Tack Check takes place and the steward checks that the bit, bridle, girth, are all permitted. If the horse is wearing a fly bonnet it must be carefully removed to check that the horse does not have any sound cancelling plugs in its’ ears.


Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu and All In

The Grand Prix Special is an exacting test with an endless series of difficult movements that follow one another at a relentless speed. At least that is what it looks like to me. I do not ride at the Grand Prix level, but now that I am riding just below that level, I have a good idea of what it would be like to do it.  Whew! It was so impressive to see these very talented horses and riders go through the test.

Megan Lane and Caravella


Diane Creech and Chrevis Christo

Sometimes a test ride will go better than expected. Horse and rider will hit their stride in the arena and it will all come together for a very good score. When Canadian rider Diane Creech came back to the warm up  she was elated with how her horse had worked for her in the arena and the good score they had been awarded.

American rider ,Adrienne Lyle, also came back to the warm up  smiling and her coach Debbie Macdonald  was clearly very happy. I was happy too as I have watched Adrienne Lyle competing for several years and she strikes me as a hard working rider. I am happy to see her have a wonderful horse to ride and clearly they are a successful combination as they were the winners of the class.

Adrienne Lyle has a quite moment before the Awards Presentation. 

At the Awards ceremony all the riders looked happy. Here is a slideshow of Diane Creech, still smiling, and smiles from Juan Matute Jr and Megan Lane.

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You never know what might happen once you go into the ring. The warm up may have been brilliant but in the ring something happens; a tray of glasses gets dropped in the VIP Pavilion and your horse is startled, a fly bites your horse’s belly, just before you ask him to piaffe, right in front of the judge . You may have just the one bad moment, and it  is not a disaster, but it is just ….not so good. Not as good as you had hoped it would be.  In these cases the riders come out ,not looking  too upset, but rather a bit disappointed. There will be a quick confab with the coach after the tack check to discuss what may have gone wrong and how it could be improved next time.


I did not see any of the riders have a “down” ride.  For me the “down” moment came away from the rings.  I met up with my friend Paralympic rider Dale Dedrick. I posted  about her last year. If you have not read the post I encourage you to do so as she is such a remarkable woman.  I will leave a link below. We had a nice chat and I asked her if her horse Suede was down in Florida. Dale told me he was at home, up north, babysitting a youngster.  Then she told me she was no longer able to ride. Her medical advisors had told her it was, quite literally, a matter of life or death for her. She told me she made the decision to stop riding because she did not want those who are there to support her to see her collapse off her horse. She did not want them to have to deal with that. “It was very hard at first.” she told me. “But now I’m getting used to it.”

Dale Dedrick 007 - Copy
Dale Dedrick and Suede last year at White Fences Equestrian. 

Dale still likes to come to the shows as an observer and she told me she will come to see me compete at White Fences Equestrian in two weeks. As I walked back to the pavilion and sat down at the media table I thought about how lucky I am. I am not young, I have had body parts altered and replaced.  But I can still ride. So I should not complain about riding in the heat, or difficulties in training, or having an ‘off’ day or an ‘in-between’ ride.

 The bottom line is this…..for me they are all “up” rides and I am grateful to be riding and to have a wonderful horse. 

Here is  the link to the  post about  Dale Dedrick. Do take a look if you have not seen it.




23 responses to “The Ups, the Downs, the In-betweens.”

  1. regasssa Avatar

    I had no idea that ear plugs weren’t used in dressage! The more you know, right? Although I suppose it does make sense. I got the impression Allegro listened to the music himself during his Olympic routines! Lovely photos on this one, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Thank you for commenting. I think in dressage the horse is supposed to be so well trained they are “in the zone” and not disturbed by outside noises. But i agree that some of them do seem to dance to their freestyle music!


  2. Avery Avatar

    Yes, love your attitude. We have all been so blessed. Any day I get to see my horses is a good day. It is easy to forget when we get caught up in everything else.
    Watching the warm up is my favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Thank you for this comment Avery! We are blessed for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Subbashini Meenakshi Sundaram Avatar

    Knowing some incidents maybe from newspapers or Facebook will give a thought life is so beautiful, I feel this as one of that kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      I think we need positive reports we have so much reported that is negative.


  4. N Avatar

    This post is so wonderfully insightful, I really enjoyed it and the pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] via The Ups, the Downs, the In-betweens. — HorseAddict […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Emma Cownie Avatar

    Fascinated by those Fly Bonnets – I have not seen those before. I’m assuming that the ear plugs for horses would be a form of cheating? Suede is quite a looker too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Ear plugs are permitted in other disciplines . The jumpers can use them. They are soft balls the size of a ping pong ball. They are not legal in dressage .dressage horses are supposed to be focused on their work and not be distracted by noise ( hahaha!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emma Cownie Avatar

        How interesting that jumper can use them but not dressage. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen Avatar

          Dressage is full of rules regarding equipment. in the jumpers they are much more liberal as long as it stops short of anything that would hurt the horse.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Emma Cownie Avatar

            Dressage LOOKS like it is chockablock full of rules!

            Liked by 1 person

          2. anne leueen Avatar

            Yes!Haha! It does have that sort of look to it as opposed to free and ad hoc look of the jumpers.


  7. sandyjwhite Avatar

    Yes, an off day is still a blessing when you can continue to do the things you love…be it work or a hobby. A good reminder for us all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Yes! It certainly was for me. Thanks for commenting Sandy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. sandyjwhite Avatar

        My pleasure, Anne.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. raynotbradbury Avatar

    Looks amazing 💕thanks for the pictures 😀👍

    Liked by 1 person

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