Thursday Video from Nupafeed: In the Dressage Warmup With Bettina Hoy

Bettina Hoy and Designer 10. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 have slapped down some of the lowest dressage scores in the biz over the summer: a 21.2 in the CIC3* at Luhmühlen, followed by a 22.3 at Aachen. Tilly swears she spotted the German Olympic/WEG medalist and her longtime partner, a 14-year-old Westphalien gelding (Dali X x Caesy, by Conception xx), schooling piaffe and passage earlier this week, and smart money was on the pair to challenge if not outright take the day one Pau lead. We’ve certainly seen them boss everyone around in the first phase of a four-star before.

They were trending to do just that until some tension at the canter resulted in a matching set of botched changes, which pushed their score from a woulda-been shoulda-been 20-something to a 30.8. Good enough for 6th place at the conclusion of day one, but likely not the number that Bettina was hoping for.

Watching the warm-up is, IMO, oftentimes more interesting than watching the tests themselves. So we wandered out to stalk this experienced partnership — with 42 FEI events under their belt together, Bettina obviously knows the horse like the back of her hand and has worked out a successful system for getting the best out of him.

The next-to-last movement in the 2018 4* Test B, the prescribed test at Pau, is a 20-meter stretchy canter circle, a challenging test of the horse’s ability to retain rhythm, balance and relaxation from start to finish. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

This time around they laid off the Grand Prix showboating, favoring instead a firm refresher course on fundamentals. Lateral and longitudinal adjustability was a cornerstone of their warm-up; Bettina pushed the horse forward and back, at one point collecting the canter until it was nearly on the spot before sending him forward again with a pat. She arranged his body parts in various positions — half-pass, shoulder-in, haunches-in — and shape-shifted him into a variety of outlines. (His changes in the warm-up were, for the record, flawless.)

In the five moments or so while she was on deck, after her groom removed the horse’s boots, Bettina put the horse to work in an extra-deep, round frame at the rising trot and sent him on a couple robust lengthenings, giving him a good final stretch over his back and a forward mindset before heading to the stage. While the strategy might not have had 100% carry-over into the ring, she clearly knew her horse well enough to know what warmup he needed for the optimum opportunity to perform at his best.

Here’s some video of that final trotwork — they spent another moment or two afterward in a similar manner at the canter before trotting into the ring.

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