Classic Eventing Nation

Madeline Backus Going Overseas to Base with William Fox-Pitt

Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna at Kentucky 2017. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

USEF Eventing 25 rider Madeline Backus, 22, is gearing up for an exciting season in 2018, as she is moving to England to work for William Fox-Pitt and immerse herself in an elite training program.

Her year-long trip abroad is made possible thanks to the two grants she received at the end of 2017. The $10,000 Rebecca Broussard National Developing Rider Grant and the inaugural $45,000 Wilton Fair Grant, which is given to a rider 29 and under who has not yet ridden for a senior U.S. team, combined to give her $55,000 in funding.

“It’s a huge amount for money between the two grants, and it’s going to help me out so much,” Madeline said. “None of this would be possible without the grants, so I’m extremely grateful.”

Madeline Backus was named the 2017 USEA Advanced Young Adult Rider of the Year. She also won the $10,000 Rebecca Broussard National Developing Rider Award and the inaugural $45,000 Wilton Fair Grant. Pictured here with Carol Kozlowski and Brian Sabo. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

She decided to base with William Fox-Pitt in England after receiving heaps of helpful advice from riders who have gone before her in taking the plunge to train overseas.

“I had a lot of guidance from mentors, and they’ve pointed me in this direction. I think that being able to go overseas and into the UK will be really helpful and beneficial to my training and competing,” Madeline said. “Everyone I’ve spoken to about William’s program have all said wonderful things. Going over there and seeing that will be really incredible.”

Madeline does not yet have a date set to move to the UK but will be leaving as soon as possible once travel arrangements are complete for herself and the two horses accompanying her on the trip.

P.S. Arianna, her 17-year-old four-star partner, is of course going along for the journey. An Anglo-Trakehner mare (Ibsen X Amazing Raven) bred by her farrier Dennis Ackermann and started by her mother Laura, Madeline got “Ari” as a present for her 10th birthday. They have come up the levels together and completed their first CCI4* at Kentucky last year.

Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Now Madeline and “Ari” will face the biggest challenge of their partnership yet as they aim to compete at Badminton Horse Trials this spring.

“I can’t believe that Badminton is actually on my horizon,” Madeline said. “I have a wonderful horse and a lot of guidance and help. We will give it our best shot.”

Madeline and Ari participated in the USEF Eventing 25 training sessions in Ocala, Florida last week with USEF Emerging Athlete Coach Leslie Law. This is Madeline’s third year in the program, and she said she has gained an immense amount of knowledge from Leslie.

“Leslie is a really great instructor, not only with the horses but when we’re having our unmounted discussions,” she said. “There’s so much to take away from all of the training sessions. It’s really great to be around the other Emerging Athletes and spend the week learning from each other and from Leslie.”

Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna at Red Hills. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Madeline will also be bringing her one-star horse P.S. On Top of the World. An 11-year-old Thoroughbred cross gelding (Meisterwind X April Mist) bred by Elizabeth Stokes, “Vinnie” finished fourth in the USEF National CCI1* Championships at Hagyard Midsouth in Lexington, Kentucky last year.

Sadly she can’t bring all her horses to England, and she has one for sale in P.S. Etoile de Nord, a 10-year-old Anglo-Trakehner mare bred by Pendragon Stud Equestrian Center. Madeline is competing “Edie” in the Novice Horse division at Grand Oaks Horse Trials in Wiersdale, Florida this weekend. You can view her sales listing here.

We wish Madeline the best of luck as she heads to England to take on Badminton. Go Eventing.

Practice Makes Perfect at USEF Eventing 18 Training Sessions

USEF Emerging Athlete Coach Leslie Law speaks to the riders at the USEF Eventing 18 training sessions at Horsepower Equestrian in Ocala, Florida. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Hello from Ocala, Florida! The riders named to the USEF Emerging Athletes Eventing 25 program participated in training sessions with Emerging Athlete Coach Leslie Law last week at Liz Halliday-Sharp’s stunning facility Horsepower Equestrian, and this week the Eventing 18 riders are taking their turn.

Each day the riders begin with a meeting at Caroline Martin’s farm next door, then hack over to Horsepower Equestrian to start a full day of lessons with Leslie. Monday was a dressage day, with a lunch lecture from horse care expert Max Corcoran. On Tuesday the riders started the day with a lecture on show jumping course design from top designer Chris Barnard, followed by setting the course for a full day of jumping lessons.

Jacob Fletcher, Amanda Beale Clement and Alex Baugh rode in the first group of jumping lessons yesterday. Jacob and Amanda are on the Eventing 25 list but were unable to attend last week’s training sessions, so they are riding with the Eventing 18 group this week.

Jacob rode his three-star partner Atlantic Domino, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Dunlough Striker X Atlantic Amanda) owned by Frank Fletcher and Fletcher Farms. Amanda rode her mom Susie’s one-star mount Canny Calypso, an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Captain Fire X Playgirl) owned by Canny Calypso LLC. Alex rode her new partner Mr. Candyman, an 11-year-old Holsteiner (Canto X Montara) owned by Altorac Farm, who won the Jersey Fresh CCI3* last year with Phillip Dutton.

Eventing 18 rider Alex Baugh and Mr. Candyman. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The theme of progression jumped out consistently throughout the lesson. In their warm-up, Leslie had the riders practice bringing their horses more forward in the canter and then back to ensure the horses were adjustable and on the aids before jumping. He also emphasized establishing a correct contact and connection for jumping, with the horse’s nose slightly in front of the vertical and in a clear shape.

We find so often in riding that the exercises that look the most simple often expose the flaws in our position and technique, and that’s why cavaletti exercises are so valuable. Leslie spaced three cavaletti in a line down the center of the arena. He first had the riders canter over a single cavaletti in a figure eight pattern, changing the lead over the cavaletti. Leslie emphasized that the riders should let the horse lift them out of the saddle over the cavaletti, rather than standing in the stirrups. The riders then serpentined through the cavaletti.

Throughout the warm-up exercises over the cavaletti, Leslie emphasized the importance of suppling the horse in preparation for jumping — “This is all about suppling and getting them as soft and supple as possible.” If a horse came above the bit and braced in the frame during the exercise, Leslie would have the riders soften the horse to re-establish a more supple shape in the contact.

When the riders moved on to jumping fences at height, the warm-up paid off. All three riders had horses that were soft and on the aids, and correction came more easily if they needed to move up to closer a longer distance or hold to a tighter distance. That’s where practicing going forward and back in the canter at home pays off on course at a competition.

Eventing 25 rider Jacob Fletcher and Atlantic Domino wait their turn to jump. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The riders first jumped a line of a vertical to an oxer set on 88 feet in seven strides in both directions, then jumped the line in both directions on eight strides. Again, the theme of adjustability and shortening and lengthening the canter stride came into play. “If you start out so you can go forward and lengthen in your warm-up, it makes a huge difference when you add fences,” Leslie said. “It’s all about practice.”

Throughout the jumping exercises, Leslie reminded the riders to keep the connection with the horse and soften them if their heads started to come up too high, which we saw when Leslie had the riders do the same line in six strides.

Next the riders moved on to a different line of a triple bar to a vertical, set at five strides but about 18 inches long. With the line set on a longer five strides, riders had to lengthen the stride to close the distance. Leslie emphasized that when you are moving up to a jump and need to lengthen the stride, you don’t need to physically lean back in the saddle, but your body should “stay off the jump” as you close your leg to lengthen the stride.

For the grand finale exercise to practice the concept of lengthening the stride, Leslie had the riders jump a liverpool vertical set at a 90-degree angle to another vertical. He first had them jump the line in six strides, then seven strides. Riders had to angle the approach over the liverpool to find a tighter, more direct line to get the six strides, then a straighter line over the liverpool for the seven strides.

Eventing 25 rider Amanda Beale Clement and Canny Calypso. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The Eventing 18 training sessions continue today with another dressage day, as well as a lunch lecture from U.S. team sports therapist Jo-Ann Wilson. Dr. Lisa Casinella of Peak Performance Equine Services delivered the Tuesday lecture on veterinary care. The training sessions will conclude tomorrow with cross country lessons.

It takes a village to coordinate these USEF Emerging Athlete training sessions, and EN has to send a massive shout out to the families and support teams of the Eventing 25 and 18 riders. A swarm of supportive parents are camped out ringside all day for these lessons. Many of the riders are also staying in Ocala through the weekend to compete in the inaugural USEA recognized horse trials at Grand Oaks in Wiersdale, Florida.

The USEF Emerging Athlete program seeks to develop talent and produce riders that will one day represent the U.S. at the international level. The USEF Emerging Athletes Working Group is currently evaluating this program and plans to roll out changes to the structure in 2019.

Stay tuned to EN for all the latest news on USEF High Performance across all three tiers of the program: Elite High Performance, Development and Emerging Athletes. Go Eventing.

2018 WEG Now Accepting Volunteer Inquiries

Want to volunteer at the 2018 Tryon World Equestrian Games? Good on you. If selected, not only do you get to play a helpful role in what is expected to be the largest event in North America next year, volunteers receive …

  • Credentials to enter the events where they are working for use on the days they are working. (Although WEG cannot guarantee that volunteers will be positioned to “see” the events while they are on duty.)
  • Meals on days of service and scheduled breaks.
  • A pass to the World Equine Expo for each day that they are scheduled to work. Expo passes are transferable.
  • Shuttle transportation to the venue where they are working.
  • Assistance with lodging, with two options are available: rental and complimentary. Volunteers requesting complimentary housing will be hosted by local families in the community within a 1.5-hour radius from the venue. (If you are a homeowner and would like more information on how to host a WEG volunteer, please contact [email protected].)
  • A uniform package, which must be purchased for $35, which includes at minimum a hat, pin and shirt(s).

The process of collating the 2018 WEG Volunteer Corp has begun and will continue throughout the spring. Note: There are a limited number of volunteer positions, and not everyone who signs up will be selected. Here’s a timeline of how the selection process will unfold:

Now: Currently, the WEG Volunteer Management Program is in the “Scope Phase” of receiving inquiries from prospective WEG volunteers. Submitting an online inquiry is the first in a sequence of steps required to complete a volunteer application. Click here to submit your volunteer inquiry. Anyone who has previously filled out the online inquiry form does not need to resubmit the form to receive an invitation to the online Volunteer Portal.

March: The scheduled launch of the online WEG Volunteer Portal in March will begin the “Recruitment Phase.” Volunteers who have submitted an inquiry through the existing online form will receive a link to the Volunteer Portal to begin an application. Volunteers will create a login and password, answer security and ability questions, purchase the uniform package, and sign a liability waiver.

April: Volunteers selected for service will be notified of their assignment(s) during the “Selection Phase.”

May: May 1 is the deadline for all volunteers to complete applications through the online Volunteer Portal.

June – September: “Orientation” and “Pilot Training Phases” will take place.

For more information about the WEG Volunteer Program, visit the website here.



Wednesday News & Notes from SmartPak

First XC jump of the year is done and dusted! Photo by Maggie Deatrick

It may have been cold for Stable View down in Aiken but since it’s a lot colder up in Philadelphia, I wasn’t complaining. Much. OK, a little, when I realized my show jumping jacket is made of technical fabric and therefore really designed for hot weather, not cold. And maybe a bit when the water jumps had a skim of ice on them for cross country day. Just a bit of complaining, really.

National Holiday: Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Grand Oaks H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Results]

Your Wednesday News & Notes:

Does it make sense to head south for the winter? For trainers like John Michael and Kimmy Durr, it does if you’re willing to shut down your entire northern operation. They’ve shifted the horses vacation to take full advantage of the competition and sales opportunities of the Florida season. [Wintering In Florida]

Entries for the Retired Racehorse Project are up 38%. 812 applications were received this year, up from 512 last year. The applicants came from 40 states, 3 Canadian provinces, and D.C., while the trainers themselves were 13% junior, with the remainder split almost evenly between professionals and adult amateurs. [RRP Trainer Applications Increase]

If volunteering is your bag, then pay attention to the WEG request for volunteers. The Tryon WEG Volunteer Management Program is fielding inquiries from prospective volunteers. In the next phase, the volunteers will fill out an application and by April 1, Tryon will begin notifying volunteers who have been accepted. [WEG Volunteer Portal is Open]

SmartPak Product of the Day: If full coverage is your deal in the winter, check out this beautiful Asmar jacket. With lots of length, it might even be full enough to prevent you from needing to wrap five horse blankets around yourself while teaching! [SmartPak]

Tuesday Video from SpectraVet: David O’Connor Back in the Saddle

If you’ve been paying attention to the east coast eventing scene through the fall, then you heard a familiar name called over the show speakers. David O’Connor has officially ended his competition hiatus, piloting a few horses at local events including Michelle Donlick’s Tremolo with whom he finished 6th in the Open Preliminary at Rocking Horse last November.

In Tremolo’s sale ad, Lauren Kieffer jokingly notes that he’s “currently competing with an old man,” but we’d say they look pretty spectacular. Check out their rides, courtesy of the generous David Frechette aka The Horsepesterer!

Go David O’Connor. Go Eventing.

Why SpectraVET?

Reliable. Effective. Affordable.

SpectraVET is committed to providing only the highest-quality products and services to our customers, and to educating the world in the science and art of laser therapy.

We design and manufacture the broadest range of clinically-proven veterinary therapeutic laser products, which are represented and supported worldwide by our network of specialist distributors and authorized service centers.

What If My Daughter Wasn’t An Eventer?

Jenny Caras and Fernhill Fortitude. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

What if my daughter wasn’t an eventer:

Would I know what it was like to take a kid to the barn at 4 a.m. to get ready to go to a show or hunt?
Would I ever see the sun rising because we’ve been on the road since 2 a.m. for a 12 hour drive?
Would I ever experience what HOT and COLD really are??
Would I ever know what it was like to teach a teen to drive a truck AND a trailer?
Would I ever know what it is like to see her heart explode in excitement because we bought her her first horse?
Would I feel her agony as she learned one of her favorite horses won’t ever compete again?
Would I ever know what is was like to watch your child do things she had only dreamed of?
Would I ever know what it was like to turn your precious child over to someone else to train to conquer new, uncharted territory on a horse?
Would I ever know who Karen and David O’Connor, Julie Burns Richards, Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin and Leslie Law are?
Would I ever know the heart pounding effect of watching your child leave a start box at any event, much less a 4*?
Would I ever know what USEA and USEF stood for?
Would I ever think my child would not go to college but instead to choose to ride and make a career out of horses?
Would I ever know what magnificent creatures horses truly are?
Would I ever know that I would watch lesson after lesson after lesson and never get tired of it?
Would I know what it is like to have my own horse farm to care for my kid’s horses that are retired because I love that they are part of her?
Would I know what it was like to spend time watching her on YouTube because now she is old
enough not to need me to drive her to lessons or shows anymore?
Would I know what it is like to be glued to the computer watching for live scores for shows I can’t attend?
Would I know what it is like to have daughter that is happy and LOVE what she does?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. And I’m lucky not to know, because I’m so proud to say my daughter IS an eventer! And like many others of you out there who have a daughter or a son just like mine, I’m very, very thankful to be a part to the eventing community! Kick on!!

Michael Jung to Make Show Jumping Team Debut for Germany

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Photo by Jenni Autry.

FEI Eventing World #1 Michael Jung will make his show jumping team debut for Germany next month in the Abu Dhabi Nations Cup CSIO5* in the United Arab Emirates.

Michael has competed at the 5* level of show jumping since 2011 and is now a familiar face on the circuit. He turned heads when he finished 11th with fischerSolution in the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix last month at CHI Geneva, one of the four competitions that comprises the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

In addition to fischerSolution, a 9-year-old Westphalian mare (Carthino Z X Fiel Rouge), Michael has two more 5* horses in his yard in fischerChelsea, a 10-year-old Westphalian mare (Check In X Argentia E) and fischerDaily Impressed, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding (Cartani X Impression).

Michael will be competing his full show jumping string at the CSI5* in Bordeaux at the beginning of February to start his international competition season.

Of course, he hasn’t forgotten about eventing! Michael confirmed to that he still plans to compete 18-year-old La Biosthetique Sam FBW at Badminton in May.

If you haven’t seen Michael in action over the massive 1.60-meter fences at the CSI5* level, don’t miss this video of his round in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva with fischerSolution.

William Micklem: Guinea Fowl & Gold Medals, Part 2 – ‘Lighten the Reins,’ Carl Hester’s Presentation Cont.

Today William Micklem continues his articulate recap of a presentation by British Olympic dressage gold medalist Carl Hester to top British and Irish coaches. If you missed part one, read it here

Carl Hester riding Nip Tuck, winner of the FEI World Cup Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle at Olympia in 2016. Photo by FEI/Kit Houghton.

Carl was asked about LDR (Low, Deep & Round) and the ongoing controversy about neck shape and head position. It is well known that Carl does not use rollkur and hyperflexion but in recent times even he has been criticised on online forums for stretching the neck down. He replied that he didn’t like the phrase LDR and that the important thing was that the neck stayed supple and natural, with the area around the bottom of the throat latch staying open and the horse staying happy in the mouth.

“Daily work should be structured into three parts with the intense learning phase sandwiched between long, loose periods of stretching and relaxation in warm-ups and cool-downs. During warm-up and cool-down, the horse should be taught or encouraged to stretch his neck out and down without sacrificing a balanced frame. This evolves as the horse gets physically stronger and more educated. Also be willing to stretch a horse regularly throughout your training sessions to relax him and reduce the risk of tension.”

“If a horse won’t stretch at the beginning of a session, work on a contact sooner, then stretch when he is ready, as there is no point in riding on a loose rein with the horse going badly or unbalanced. Valegro was seven before he learnt to stretch. When a horse is tired, he’ll try to stretch down. Let him do it for a while, as it’s something you want to encourage.”

It was noticeable that the instruction Carl repeated most to Charlotte was ‘lighten the rein.’ After every more testing exercise he said it. Not only was this used as a reward but it is a central part of ensuring the horse is not held together and has a soft and natural position of the head and neck. Then this is combined with riding forwards: “If your hand is not in front of the saddle it looks like you are riding backward, whereas if your hand is in front of the saddle, you will ride forward and get forward movements. So many ride with the reins too long. The forward hand will help you ride to the bit, not from the front to the back.”

Rollkur and hyperflexion

In any sport methodology has to evolve. The essential search for incremental improvements inevitably involves change and an open mind, but this is not something that many in dressage training find easy, particularly as it is a sport that is full of mandatory ‘classical’ principles, revered truisms and largely subjective judging. But as Carl says “There is always someone who will teach you something new about horses, so remain forever open minded.”

Whether we are concerned with the welfare or performance of the horse the development of the natural paces and outline of the horse is a key performance goal. But this is often not easy or quick, so it is not a surprise that so many resort to gadgets or strength to get a quicker result. A result that is rarely long lasting or fulfills the potential of the horses trained in this way or guards the welfare of the horse.

In 2015, at the 11th International Society of Equitation Science (ISES) Conference, held in Vancouver, the results were presented of a review of 55 scientific articles dealing with the effects of head and neck position on various types of horses’ welfare and/or performance. The review was carried out by Uta Koenig von Borstel, PhD, BSc, a professor at the University of Gottingen’s Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics in Germany, and Paul McGreevy, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, MACVS (Animal Welfare), Cert CABC, animal behaviour and welfare science professor at the University of Sydney.

The review authors concluded that although some hyperflexion can lead to more expressive movements “the presumed gymnastic benefits are by far outweighed by both reduced equine welfare and undesired gymnastic effects.” Eighty-eight percent of these studies indicated that hyperflexion negatively impacts welfare via airway obstruction, pathological changes in the neck structure,impaired forward vision, and stress and pain due to confusion caused by conflicting signals and the inability to escape pressure.”

Following subsequent discussion by the Fellowship it was decided that we should do more publicly as a group to support humane dressage training methods, such as practiced by Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, and more to stop the use of hyperflexion and rollkur.

Rising trot is invaluable

Just as both William Fox Pitt and Michael Jung do in eventing dressage training Carl regularly uses rising trot in several situations. “Rising trot can help the horse establish and maintain the right rhythm, and as a test of your training technique go into rising trot and drop your reins. Your horse should stretch down, but if he sticks his head up, something needs adjusting in your training.”

In addition its ability to free up the horse’s back and open the stride makes rising trot a good mode for work with young horses, and for medium and extended trot in horses of all ages. He also encourages riders to experiment with rising trot in lateral work, again because of the suppleness it facilitates in the horse’s back. “It’s not a sin to rise in your lateral work,” he  says. “Watch jumper riders and you see they take a position over the knee and their horse is through and soft in the back. Then you see a dressage rider’s upright and strong position and the horse is bracing in the back.” (NB see show jumpers Marcus Ehning, Peder Fredricson and Ben Maher.)

In the past I have also seen Carl get riders to alternate between standing in the stirrups and sitting in the saddle for several walk steps. The aim is to relax the seat and note the impact on the horse’s back and he does the same in trot and canter. “Alternating a sitting and standing position is a good test of whether the rider’s seat is constricting the horse’s stride.” At times he even has riders use rising trot to work on passage. “You’ll get a slightly higher trot because you’ll draw him up with your upper body,” Carl explained. “It will help take the horse up and forward with you.”

Mental preparation & use of snaffle

During the morning Carl was asked two other unusual questions. The first about his mental preparation for competitions and the second about his views on allowing the use of snaffle bridles as an option in international dressage.

Carl said that he didn’t need additional help with his mental preparation as what he already did worked for him. A ‘no stone unturned’ preparation combined with a ‘just another day at the office’ attitude and a supportive team. However he said that the regular use of a sports psychologist was a valuable tool for Charlotte and he could tell by her riding if she had recently had a session. At a competition Charlotte needed her own space: “She needs to hide in a darkened lorry while other students need to have constant positive support. In most cases mental problems are about a lack of confidence, so we do what each rider needs as an individual to maintain confidence.”

Carl did not hesitate when saying that he did think snaffle bridles should be allowed as an option in international dressage. “I think most riders think the same but Kyra Kyrklund, who I have great respect for, believes that high level dressage should be ridden in a double bridle.” It was disappointing that Carl said he would not be pressing for a rule change regarding the use of snaffles while he was still riding, but there is no reason why other high level trainers and riders should not try and influence the FEI if we feel strongly enough about this.

Doing it well but keeping a balanced life

It was obvious during the morning that all the horses went either very well or wonderfully well … no surprise there! They were allowed to do quality work by the exercises being sufficiently easy and progressive … for example a few steps of walk before halt for the young horses, not worrying about medium trot until the trot can be collected, going a little forwards in piaffe to begin, and usually the command ‘lighten the hand’ after any more demanding moments, followed by an easier exercise. “The key to good training is small improvements, as this makes horses very trainable in the long term,” he explained.

In addition he liked his horses to compete at a lower level than the work they were doing at home so it would be easy for them. Two weeks before championships at any level they work specifically at riding the specified tests as he doesn’t see anticipation as a problem. “I don’t want the horses to have any surprises at the competition.”

All the work was what one would expect from his horses, especially natural paces, natural extensions that truly came from the hind leg, and piaffe that truly ‘sat.’ Training them this way he expected them to make Grand Prix level by the time they were 10. He made it clear that there was no point in any horse going badly, but if a flying change was incorrect he never punished any horse. “Punishment is more likely to create tension and long term problems. Just set it up properly and then do it again. We make too much fuss about changes. They will get the idea.” He showed most horses doing their changes along the boards to help the straightness.

The stable management is also done wonderfully well. To make this possible he invests in his grooms. “I have five staff for 18 horses, so we can do it properly. That’s why Charlotte and I can only ride four days a week, because we can’t take a wage so we teach on the other days. But I think it is worth it to pay attention to the detail and ensure we treat each horse as an individual.”

As we watched Carl present his horses various dogs came in and out of the school and at times lay down on the outside track, while outside a flock of Guinea fowl scampered around the outdoor arena. This is all part of the laid back attitude and lifestyle that is an integral part of Carl’s success. He is as passionate about dressage as anyone but he is also aware that when working with animals and people a rigid and totally driven approach will never get the best out of them. He sees the guinea fowl and the gold medals as two sides of the same coin. “I don’t work so hard that I don’t have a life. Always remember that. Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. I love that saying. It is so true.”

Saving lives and Carpe Diem

For many years it has been my opinion that some dressage training methods have been at least a contributory factor in the fatalities in eventing. Dressage training that may be considered acceptable by some but is mechanical and forceful, looking for submission rather than acceptance, and in the process taking away the horse’s ability to react naturally and use their ‘fifth leg’. Chris Bartle, among others, has also spoken about this. The joy is that Carl’s work and training philosophy is ideal for eventing dressage, and of course show jumping as well.

However in recent times I have listened to two elite dressage trainers at National conferences who were preaching from a different song sheet. A song sheet that was more complicated and less appropriate for eventing or show jumping. Are all stakeholders doing enough publicly to highlight this difference, making the the right type of dressage an integral part of the drive for safer cross country riding? We need to seize the moment because currently we can stand on the giant shoulders of Carl Hester and make our case with renewed confidence and power.

In terms of seizing the moment I took the opportunity to show Carl a horse’s skull to remind him of the shape of the jaws and position of the exit points of the nerves. All of which is confirmation of the unacceptability of cranked nose bands. Then I fitted a Micklem bridle on one of his talented horses, who has had a long term history of failing to accept the bit and rein contact. Carl sent me a text two weeks later. It simply said “it worked immediately.” It was my very best Christmas present.

Tuesday News & Notes from Cavalor

I hope you all enjoyed a long holiday weekend! Temperatures are looking on the up and up this week, so I am going to take the opportunity to enjoy some more time in the saddle. I hope you are too.

National Holiday: National Fig Newton Day

Events Opening This Week: Full Gallop Farm February II H.T. (SC, A-3) Rocking Horse III H.T. (FL, A-3) Sporting Days Farm H.T. II(SC, A-3) Twin Rivers Winter H.T. (CA, A-6)

Events Closing This Week: Sporting Days Farm H.T. I (SC, A-3) Galway Downs Winter H.T. (CA, A-6) Stable View Winter Horse Trials (SC, A-3) Three Lakes February I H.T. at Caudle Ranch (FL, A-3)

Tuesday News: 

Daren Chiacchia had a big year in 2017 with three of his rides: Ballzauber, Adomat and Guardiola each earning top finishes. His string is proficient across many levels, being recognized by both the American Trakehner Association (ATA) and US Dressage Federation (USDF). Catch up with Darren: [Darren Chiacchia Earns ATA and USDF Honors]

Was your New Year’s Resolution to participate in a long format event? Let’s check the calendar! There are quite a few offered at Beginner Novice – Preliminary level, including a new P3D at The Heart of the Carolinas. [Experience the Thrill of the ‘Chase in 2018 at a USEA Classic Series Event]

I am a horse owner who prides herself on making my gelding ‘matchy matchy.’ And like any good intending rider, I can go a bit overboard, into the realm that this owner would describe as ‘spendy spendy.’ Give yourself a few moments to read this hilarious piece – trust me, you’ll be glad you did. It’s equal parts hysterical and relatable. [Skint Dressage Daddy’s guest blog: matchy matchy? More like spendy spendy…]

Shelly Francis is officially my favorite person. Not only did she accomplish back to back wins at 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival aboard Doktor, but her realistic responses at the following press conferences had me rolling including her explanation about missing the awards presentation: “Some people might think I’m a chicken but I’d like to live a bit longer” [Shelly Francis Is the Hero Every Press Conference Needs]

Tuesday Video: Caroline Martin and The Apprentice at last week’s E25 Winter Training Session

Monday Video from Tredstep Ireland: Games to Engage Your Horse’s Curiosity with Elisa Wallace

Cold snaps and blizzard abound; odds are that you’ve been experiencing some nutty weather over the past couple weeks which is putting a damper on your winter training.

If you’re grounded from the saddle due to frozen footing or freezing air — fear not! Elisa Wallace is here to show us some unmounted games you can do with your horses that will encourage confidence and curiosity. Using pressure and release plus positive reinforcement, Elisa and her young OTTB “Sniper” show us how to make use of some interesting items to keep your horse’s brain engaged when the temperature drops.