I had a wonderful day today at the Charlotte Dujardin Masterclass held at the Caledon Equestrian Park. For those of you not familiar with dressage Charlotte Dujardin is a triple gold medalist at the London 2012 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Olympics. She holds all three Dressage World Records, with her horse Valegro, who is now retired.
I don’t think you need my interpretation of the riders and horses that took part in the Masterclass. I will let Charlotte speak for herself, The morning started with two four year old horses,who came in together, as this gives the young horses confidence.
Here are Charlotte’s words of wisdom.
Start with the trot. For a four year old I would do 20 minutes and then they start to tire. You want to keep them interested and keen. You have to give them confidence and balance.
Do lots of circles with the young horses. On the circle flex the horse so you can see the inside eye.
There is no need for a bad transition. Repeat it until you get it as good as possible.If you do it correctly at the start then you don’t have to correct it when the horse is 5 or 6.
If you are going to ride with a whip you must have a reaction when you use it. Never use a whip to keep the horse going. Horse must go from the leg. Use your legs not the whip.
Collecting the canter.
Make a mistake. If he breaks to trot it DOES NOT MATTER. Be brave! Be Braver!
The walk and the canter you can’t change. The trot is the gait you can change.
Shorten your reins and both hands forward!
Second level horse. 6 years old.
The first piece of lateral work is the leg yield. Horse must move away from the rider’s leg but not by pulling with the rein.
Sometimes you have to forget dressage and go for a Yee Hah round the arena.
For shoulder in turn the shoulder in not the quarters out.
The bit should have a massage feeling. Move the bit softly in the mouth. Make the horse as even as possible on both reins.
Shorten you reins. Don’t pull your hands toward your body.
When the horse spooked.
We all have these problems. We have to work through it. The work is hard for the horse and spooking can be an evasion.
Working toward the flying change
You must be able to do canter, walk, canter. In the canter bring the horse back 1 or 2 steps and then forward again. Keep practicing hundreds of transitions.
After the mare got a clean flying change.
Pat her like you love her.
7 year old ,Third level horse
This mare was very nervous. She had been fine in the arena the day before but not today when the stands and tables were filled with people .
Just pat her. You have to give this horse confidence. Whatever she spooks at tell her it’s OK. Hold her hand and say ‘you can do it’. You have to sit up and be confident so she can be confident.
Stay in rising trot until she relaxes. Use your back and stomach muscles rather than your hands.She’s a very light and athletic mover.Don’t let her snatch the reins down.
Ride your corners, ride into the corner and ride out of the corner.
She mustn’t stop when she spooks she must go forward. Don’t push when she’s down,only when she’s up.
Don’t get cross and frustrated. Get her focused and don’t let her take a look at things.
A horse like this some days you have to go back to the basics. Everybody wants to do the tricks. The tricks are the easy part. The hard part is the quality of it.
We can see how talented she is. You learn so much from a horse like this.
11 Year old horse . Prix St George.
Hind leg stays active and the horse is sitting in a very collected canter. He’s a really good horse that can sit and push. It is a really talented horse and rider to do the pirouettes and not have the horse take over.
I always do my flying changes on the wall throughout all my training. Then sometimes take them off the wall to see how straight they are. In between the changes ride your canter. Push forward and pat him.
If you can canter down the centerline and collect and have a square halt the judge is already impressed.
This horse is a pocket rocket. Willing and so much fun. Everyone wants a horse like this.
The corners and the short side that is what sets you up for the lateral movements.
Don’t sit there like a fairy on the Christmas tree. You’ve got to get riding!
13 Year old horse Under 25 Grand Prix.
This horse is still green at the Grand Prix level. But we are going to do the Grand Prix zig zag. It’s the rider’s favorite! The zig zag looks like fun but it is really quite difficult. In the major championships there are 7 judges and they see every angle and every line.
I start the zig zag in leg yield. I still practice in leg yield.
For the zig zag you go over 1, 2, straighten, change. Then over 1,2,3,4, straighten, change. Then over 1,2,3,4, straighten change, then over 1,2 straighten, change.
One tempi changes
You are doing the hokey pokey up there just sit straight. It is so difficult to do the ones after another rider has ridden the horse. Carl (Hester) says he can’t do them after me and I can’t do them after him. You have to find the right button.
He has a long back and pushes his hind legs back. Use your legs, get the rhythm behind and get him straight to bring his hind legs under.
Don’t make him tense. Relax your hand and pat him. He’s got to do everything less. He tries too hard and then gets himself stuck.
Go rising trot and then sit for the passage.
There was much more in each lesson but I would be writing a book to get it all down. However I will finish with a few words from Charlotte about her own riding and horses.
If you had seen Freestyle ( Charlotte’s new rising star who won a bronze medal at WEG) when she was four you would not have thought anything of her.
I always start horses myself and I like to get them when they are 2 years old. I like to buy wild ones, with craziness and ones that are cheap. I like hot horses, the lazy ones can be police horses. I don’t have horses with impressive gaits. I go for the ones that look normal but give me a good feeling. I want to be able to create the big movement. When buying a horse I ask: Is it willing?Does it want to work? Is is a brave horse?
When I first put a saddle on En Vogue he just did handstands.He is noise sensitive and spooky. I could only ride him in a very small arena. He was tight, tense and nervous. I didn’t let anyone see him. But I believed in him and I knew he was a good horse. Carl looked at him and said:”why did you buy him?” Now Carl is trying to get the ride on him.
Our routine at home is we school Monday , Tuesday, Wednesday go hacking on the buckle, Thursday, Friday school. Saturday hacking again and Sunday a day off. I ride ten horses a day, the older horses for 45 minutes.
Carl tells me he’s old and I have to kick his bum and motivate him. He calms me down and I wind him up.
Anyone who says they got a horse to the Grand Prix with no problems is a liar!
We can all criticize. We get people who tell us we are doing it all wrong and we say : “If you want to get on and ride go ahead.” But they never come.
A bad ride can spoil your day and your husband’s day. Sometimes it makes you feel like giving up but you have to keep smiling.
We take our horses to lots of different venues and to demonstrations or to shows just to school at the show. This gives then exposure.
The person who takes the risk and doesn’t make a mistake is the winner.
All photos of the horses and riders are by the official photogapher. Karie of kephotography.