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.
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.
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.
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 .