The Grand Prix. The Pressure!

Think about human athletes. Not everyone wants to go to the Olympics and face the pressure of that event. Other athletes come alive in that pressure. Think about any human performer. Not every singer or musician wants to be out on the stage of a gigantic stadium, like Wembley, in front of tens of thousands of people. But those that do love it.

So how does this relate to the Grand Prix of Dressage? The Grand Prix is not on every dressage riders bucket list. It is not on mine. And what about the horse? Some horses rise up to their best performances at the biggest competitions. Belinda Trussell’s horse Tattoo did just that at the World Equestrian Games.

Belinda Trussell rides Tattoo in the World Equestrian Games 2018

Not every horse is physically capable of doing the Grand Prix movements. And even if they are they may not have the mental ability to withstand the pressure. The movements of the Grand Prix; the one tempis, the pirouettes, the steep half passes, the piaffe and the passage are all movements that horses do in nature. Take a look at horses on a fresh cool morning when they are turned out. Many of them will cavort about making moves that look a lot like the passage or piaffe. But doing them on command in a competition? That is an entirely different matter. All of the movements come up very fast in the GP, one right after the other. This is what exerts the pressure on the horse. For the rider as well this speed of the test is very demanding. Some horses will be stressed and this will affect their performance and their health. The GP is not for all horses even if they have the talent to execute the movements. They need to have the mental ability as well.

There are remarkable examples of horses that step up to the GP and can go into the biggest competitions and be confident and assured. Look at Charlotte Dujardin’s horse Gio ( known to his friends as Pumpkin). He rose to the occasion of the Tokyo Olympics with gusto! He was not even very experienced in GP competitions. But he was not stressed about it.

Photo credit: British Equestrian /Jon Stroud media.

Brittany Fraser Beaulieu’s horse, All In, is another horse that can handle the pressure of flying across the world, entering into a new arena under the lights and working in tremendous heat and humidity. He handled all of it like the pro he is.

Photo credit MacMillan Photography and Media Services.

High performance horse athletes are just like high performance human athletes. They can handle the pressure without difficulty. They turn up in a pressure cooker atmosphere and do their best work .

Belinda Trussell and Tattoo at WEG 2018

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Emma Cownie says:

    That’s a beautiful shot of “All In” – a good steady temperament I guess is something you are born with but I guess the calm and pose of the rider must be essential and helping the horses deal with the stress of performance at such a high level.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      The horse must have confidence in the rider. I think that Gio , who is only 10 , trusts Charlotte absolutely and he thinks that where ever she takes him he will be safe. All In is a huge horse and an extravagant mover. His rider has developed his confidence over their years together. Brittany is also a confident rider and All In trusts her .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        The realtionship between anaimal and human can be a beautiful thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Diana says:

    I’m so thankful there are those we can watch at those levels! BEAUTIFUL!! I never had a desire to be in the Olympics, the competition I did in the past was very fun. Thank you for sharing!! I Love tattoo and Pumpkin! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. David says:

    What you said about pressure is so true. Not every horse, not every rider, is suited for competition, at any level. Trish has said that many times herself, especially when it comes to horses. She’s seen horses that prefer being eye-candy, not meant for the showring, not meant for work. Riders, on the other hand, have to want it to rise through the ranks by working hard. Talent can be a limiting factor, but sometimes the work ethic can overcome it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I also think some horses enjoy being big competitors and do not take well to retirement as they feel they are no longer important and miss the attention they got when they were on top. Thanks for your comment David. I appreciate hearing from you and the jumper perspective.

      Like

  4. Incredible how some horses(animals) react on presure. It’s as if they need the moments to show what they can do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      YES! I think the same is true for some human athletes as well. Especially in track and field.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Tina Schell says:

    I’ve never been one to enjoy or to be motivated by competition. I much prefer to participate in sports for the joy of it. But I can related to these equestrians and their beautiful 4-legged partners as they rise to the occasion. What beautiful teams they are!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      They are amazing. I like competitions but I have never wanted to go to the Olympics or to any really big international competitions. I think the ones that do best are teams where the horse and rider really trust one another.

      Like

      1. Tina Schell says:

        I’m sure – years of working together I’m sure

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Michele Lee says:

    Stunning photos, Anne, and interesting behind-the-scene insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is mind boggling the athleticism of these horses. It’s like they know.
    I love seeing a show horse going nuts & having fun in a paddock they look elegant even when their being horsey. Like a galah in a tutu.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree and one thing I love about Carl Hester is that he always turns his horses out. When they get back from Olympics they are turned out, often with a pasture buddy. It is so good for their bodies and their minds.

      Liked by 1 person

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