Saturday, October 25 2014

Sara Hernmarck reporting from the Reem Acra World Cup Grand Prix Kür at Olympia Horse Show in London.

Merry Christmas everyone – I hope you are enjoying this festive season as much as I do! At the moment I’m in the north of Sweden, not very far from Lapland.

I love Christmas and everything that comes with it. And just as the Christmas light on Oxford Street in London indicates that Christmas has begun, Olympia Horse Show fills the same purpose for us horsey people.

Olympia has played a key part in my Christmas traditions since I moved to England four years ago. When I lived in Sweden the Stockholm Horse Show (which is the Swedish equivalent to Olympia) was the show to kick off Christmas. I love Stockholm Horse Show to bits, I really do, but there is something special about Olympia. Whether it’s the atmosphere or the champagne bar that makes it is hard to say, not that it matters though.

This year was extra special since we got the watch double Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin and her stunning partner Valegro compete for the first time since the extraordinarily successful Games this summer. Olympia this year was also very special for Charlotte’s mentor and trainer Carl Hester since it was his last show on his Olympic horse Uthopia. Carl and Uti delivered a lovely test as always, only with a little less energy than at the Games, but who can blame them for that?

Charlotte and Valegro were as dashing as always and even though I saw the magic partnership make a mistake for the first time, they still managed a stunning 87.97%.

Kür record holder Edward Gal returned to Olympia where he broke the record in 2009 with Moorlands Totilas. Only this year on Glock’s Undercover who is ironically enough very similar to Totilas being black and having the same massive and expressive paces. Having massive paces is not always a positive thing as it opens up more room for mistakes, which unfortunately was the case this time. Knowing Edward and his delicate riding style and epic feel for horses, I’m certain that when the penny drops and Undercover gets a little more experience we will see them back on the podium as you can clearly tell it’s only the beginning of a new magnificent partnership.

One thing Edward know how to do exceptional is the kür test.  Since the music is meant to improve the test it’s beyond important to get it right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched music test that doesn’t compliments neither the horse nor the floor plan. I just don’t understand how you a) can pick music that doesn’t suit the horse or b) don’t match the floor plan with it. I appreciate that it’s really difficult to make a kür but I’m not talking about people making their music for the first time, but the professionals that doesn’t get it right. But enough ranting, it’s Christmas after all.

Impressive as always was German dressage queen Isabelle Werth with new inventive lines showing off her immense skills. A movement I had forgotten about is the left-to-the-right piaffe (and yes I just made that up, not the piaffe part, but the rest). To explain it, it’s when you’re piaffing on the spot turning first to the left, back to the middle, then to the right and back in the middle.

I was going to award Michel Eilberg ‘improvement of the night’ (well, since I saw them last) for his stunning and constant on the beat performance with Half Moon Delphi, a mare that reminds me very much of Andreas Helgstrand’s wonderful Matiné (YouTube their kür performance from WEG-06 and you’ll see what I mean). But then Sweden’s Minna Telde and Santana have improved so much already since the Games this summer I couldn’t just leave them out. Plus the fact that Minna rode the prize giving with reindeer antlers on Santanta’s head made it impossible not to give her some extra points for that. Gotta love some good Swedish humor. Santa-na. See what she did there?

The surprise of the night’ goes without doubt to Norwegian Sidsel Johansen who I’ve never seen before tonight and WOW. Now this is a partnership to keep an eye on for the future. We will see more of those two for sure. Norway seems to work that way, two years ago Siril Helljesen popped up with her gorgeous ballerina Dorina and now Sidsel with stunning Schianto.

And since I can’t let it go, here’s my tips and tricks for planning a kür  :)

Floor plan

-       Know your horse’s strengths and weaknesses. If he get’s stressed after the canter and won’t walk, do the walk before the canter etc.
If his changes are excellent make sure to really show them off by placing them where the judges can see them properly.

-       Adapt the difficulties after your abilities. You want to be able to perform the test without mistakes, but still showing off your skills to the judges.

-       Always put in a straight line “without any movements” that you can use if you’ve done a mistake earlier. Ofcourse you’ll need to do something on that line so if the test has run bulletproof without mistakes, make sure you have a plan B for that line.

 

Music

-       A brilliant way to know where you are in your music is to use bells, drums or other ‘secret signals’. For example in my music, if I pass A after the changes when a bell rings (a nice bell, don’t you worry) I know that I’m in time with my music. If I’m early I’ll make sure to take out a corner and if I’m late to cut the corner a little to catch up.

-       Adapt the music to the type of your horse. A chunky horse can look big and clumsy with heavy music but can also look impressive. It’s a matter of trying it out.

-       A really nice way to get the music to blend in with the ride is to make sure the changes, piaffe and passage for example are on the beat of the music as it makes the test flow.

Now enjoy the rest of Christmas for you who celebrate it and I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Is British dressage on fire or is it? On Tuesday I witnessed Deb Criddle on LJT Akilles take Paralympic silver, Sophie Christiansen on Janeiro 6 become Paralympic Champions and on top of this I watched the Para-Equestrian Team GB become Paralympic Champions for the 4th time in a row! Not only is it the 4th Paralympic medal but a continuation of Britain’s intact record of winning gold in every championship (Paralympics, Worlds and European Championships) since the sport became a part of the Games in 1996 in Atlanta.

For you who don’t know Para-dressage very well, here’s a short description.

Prior to competition all riders have been graded after their disability. There are 5 grades stretching from 1a to 4, with 1a being the most severely disabled riders to grade 4 where the least disabled riders compete. Each grade compete against themselves, so when it comes to medals this means that there will be one grade 1a champion, and one grade 2 champion and so on. The team selectors are looking for steady high performances throughout the year and a current good form.

Representing Team GB at the London 2012 Paralympic Games are
1a – Sophie Christiansen – Janerio 6
1b – Lee Pearson – Gentleman
2 – Natasha Baker – Cabral
3 – Deborah Criddle – LJT Akilles
4 – Sophie Wells – Pinocchio

Many who don’t know Para-dressage might think that they sit up, ride around a little and that’s it. That’s huge misconception, these riders are athletes! They work extremely hard to improve themselves, not only by riding but going to the gym to improve their muscle mass, co-ordination and control over every single muscle they possess.

If you think that watching a rider doing a test only in walk could be boring, then you haven’t seen Sophie Christiansen ride. She is the school book example of exceptional perfection. Every stride, every line, every footfall is completed in absolute perfection. Janerio doesn’t put one foot wrong throughout the entire test, not-one-foot. The spirit in the audience during her test was electric and I’m confident to say that the cheers were as great as they were for Charlotte Dujardin in the Olympics a couple of weeks earlier. I also don’t think I was the only one to shed a tear or two when the score was announced at 83.7%. Just before she signaled that it was OK for the audience stop waving and start clapping one guy shouted out “We love you Sophie!” and I think he did a pretty good job speaking for the entire audience with those words.
Four nerve-racking rides after Sophie it was clear that she had taken the Gold medal and there was no waving this time, the audience burst out in cheers.

Speaking of cheering the riders on, the audience was asked to wave at the riders until they had left the arena so that the horses wouldn’t get scared or hyped up. Some of the riders gave thumbs up to applaud them in the arena and what a roar that went through the public when that happened!

Waving instead of clapping

I’m amazed that so many stayed to watch the grade 1a’s as it’s usually the “boring” test since they “only” walk. But it just shows what a great support we want to give to our fantastic riders. You might think that it’s about pity, people staying for the last ones, but oh my friends, you are out in the blue. It’s about this fantastic atmosphere that’s floating around these riders that’s difficult to explain to others who haven’t been to watch the Paralympic Dressage. But let’s put it like this, you just can leave your seats.

I must admit that I shed a little tear when it was announced that Deb Criddle and LJT Akilles took silver. Akilles is a bit special for me as he is from the same place in Sweden as I am. He was trained by my old trainer, my vet has done all his vaccinations since he was little and he stayed with us at Assouline Dressage before The Lady Joseph Trust bought him for Deb to ride.

Akilles being led out from the medal ceremony by Deb’s trainer Nina Venables.

Another tear jerking detail was that they played Coldplay’s song Paradise every now and then. See the thought behind it? Para, Para, Para-dise. Thumbs up for the person who came up with that!

The crowd celebrating with Sophie

Not a dry eye in sight

Team GB coaches and Natasha watching the medal ceremony

 

 

 

It’s always good to ride and meet different types of horses I think. Even though it doesn’t happen too often it’s something I try to be all YES about. Joining friends who train Iceland horses, or watch an Endurance competition, or visit a hunt yard. It’s all quite rewarding and full of new experiences and hopefully new lessons learned. In horse keeping and riding we need to keep questioning methods and how we do things as well as look at new and alternative ways to go about. Small changes to the way we do things can mean a lot for the well being of ourselves as well as, and more importantly, our horse.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Greenwich watching the last two classes of the Equestrian Paralympics. Luckily I was joined by GTG contributor Sara who could tell me all I needed to know about the classes, contestants and everything else in between (I’ve made her promise to write a more extensive report on the Equestrian Paralympics too). It was quite something witnessing it IRL and not from a screen or Twitter. Leaving Greenwich I was in awe and felt truly inspired and impressed by these riders and their horses. The icing on the cake of course had to be the amazing results and hearing ‘God Save the Queen’. TWICE.

   

Now it’s time to get ready ahead of the Dallas premiere!! How exciting is that?! I wasn’t even a big fan! Have a great evening!

xCaroline

P.S. Last weekend we took a sneak peak into Stag Lodge Stables in Richmond Park. Had to drag my daughter out of there and only got her to agree on going back into the car by promising more ponies wherever we were going. Luckily I was saved by a very big and sweet deer who hung out road side. Not a pony but almost as good in her eyes!

 

A little bit late as usual but here’s my Olympic blog! :)

Finally I got to do something horsey! Excited isn’t good enough to describe how excited I was for this. I was literally jumping up and down in the train all the way into Greenwich, as the grown up I am.

What a day! Never have I witnessed anything like the audience at Greenwich when BRITAN TOOK TEAM DRESSAGE GOLD!!!

I had severe troubles deciding whether to cheer for the Brits or the Swedes upon entering Greenwich Park. I still hadn’t made up my mind when it started, nor after the first Swedish ride, nor after the first British ride. So I decided not to decide. I’m going to be the cheeky one that supports the winning team! And truth to be told, I have more connections with the English dressage team than the Swedish one, so it can only be fair right?

But back to the astonishing results by Laura, Carl and Charlotte. And Charlotte, what a woman! I had to pinch myself watching her ride. Sorry ride is the wrong word; it should be dance, watching her dancing with Valegro. Last time we such an incredible partnership was with Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas, and we all know what magic they produced. I would have killed to see Gal/Totilas and Charlotte/Valegro go head to head in a GP Kür. What a freestyle battle that would be! Do you reckon Rath would lend Totilas back to Gal for a day just to do this…?

I remember watching Charlotte’s first outing on Valegro at Addington Manor in February 2011. Addington is the first big dressage show of the year; it’s usually freezing and a very crowded as everyone is eager to come back out competing after the winter. Hence the warm up becomes a bit tricky. You could tell that most riders were a bit annoyed with each other that everyone kept riding in each other’s ways, accept for one rider. Charlotte. She simply manoeuvred Blueberry with ease around the arena and didn’t seems the slightest bothered about the over crowded warm up. As I was walking my rider’s stallion off I remember watching her with awe. Already then they had such an unbelievable connection, you could just tell that they were meant to be.

     

/Sara H

Earlier this year I got the chance to interview Laura Bechtolsheimer at her yard for Swedish magazine HIPPSON. I was really excited when I made my way towards the Bechtolsheimers place in Gloucestershire. Not only is Laura a record-breaking absolutely brilliant rider, she is also a role model when it comes to horsemanship. Just the fact that, at her level, she still finds time to go hunting and eventing is quite something. Keeping your riding varied is so important. And not just with or without spurs, or schooling one day/jumping the other. But actually trying new things with your horse. It’s so rewarding!

Ok, back to Laura!

For the interview I asked Laura to give some training tips on how to prepare youngster for piaff and what collection means to her. Here’s what she said!

 

HOW TO PREPARE A YOUNGSTER FOR COLLECTION AND PIAFF

“I would say between the age of 4 and 6 I would work mainly on the basic scales of training which should naturally lead to a well balanced and responsive horse.

Between the age of 5 and 7 my horse should either be starting or be a relatively established with lateral work. Beginning with shoulder-in, renver and traverse, and leading on to leg yields and half passes.

If my horse can keep a good rhythm and self-carriage within this work and is supple both ways in trot and canter, both in the neck and in the body, then my horse should be ready to start taking more weight on the hind legs.

Depending on the character and temperament of the horse, I would either ask from on top of the horse, usually out of walk, with my father on the ground using a hand-work whip to help the horse find its rhythm in the half steps. (Sometimes we will use long reins to help a horse understand or we do a bit of both.).

The key is using transitions to help a horse to understand that collection/half steps, does not mean slow down. It actually means the hind legs must work quicker and step under the centre of gravity. Transitions means the rider is forced to let the horse go forwards, this encourages the horse to keep a forwards tendency within collection, (which is vital to riding good transitions later on,) and the forwards transition also encourages the rider to lighten the hands.

The quicker the succession of short walk-trot transitions, the more the horse starts to anticipate and naturally produces half steps whilst staying quick behind and light in front i.e. collection. This allows the horse to build up strength in the correct places and the rider must feel when the right time is to stop and give the horse a break.

Encouragement and rewards must be given to the horse throughout this work if the rider desires the horse to perform this very difficult movement willingly at a more advanced level.  Young horses do not have a very long attention span and so short periods of repetition are most advisable, always finishing before a horse is too tired and wants to resist.

NB. If doing hand work from the ground, make the horse aware of the whip in a non-threatening way and give the horse confidence to gain its trust, this work should not be a punishment but an aid to help the horse understand, we are creating power and controlling it.  Always stand in a place where you can avoid the hind legs should a horse kick.”

 

WHAT DOES COLLECTION MEAN TO YOU

“Collection to me means creating impulsion but not letting it out of the front door. The horse transfers more weight onto the hind legs and carries itself, the rider has a light contact in the hands and has the horse balanced on the seat, the rider’s legs tells the horse to keep the forward tendency, half halts show the horse to wait. Collection does not mean slowing down.”

 

TRAINING EXERCISE – THE BOX 

“My father often makes me ride young horses in “the box.”  I have to create an imaginary square, usually in canter, in which I can ride corner after corner, rather than going the whole way around the school.

If I ride the two real corners and the short side and then only 15-20m up the long side before I create my imaginary corner again, then as I approach the long side I ride my next imaginary corner and then I am back at the real short side corners again. This allows me to use the turns to sit the horse back on its hind legs again and then allow it out again but before the horse is bowling on again too much, I have a corner again to help me balance the horse. This allows me to increase the collection in canter, whilst naturally training the horse to remain quick and light because of the constant transitions.

The horse builds up strength and understands what I want without it realising that I am really “working” it and it stops the rider from pulling a horse back into collection.”

Laura riding Swedish bred Tellwell

 

When we met back in March the Olympics did still feel quite far away. We talked about how the winds are changing in the world of dressage. And what a proof of that this is! An historic Gold medal for the British team! And so well deserved. Being from Sweden i really appreciate the horsemanship that excists in this country. The love for horses and how at all levels horses get to be horses. Britain is finally back where it should be – at the top of the Equestrian world! Long may they reign!

Laura and her golden boy Alf!

 

Everyone gets a cuddle - here's superstar Andretti soaking up some attention

 

You know how before going to a concert you listen to the artists albums to get in the mood and get to know the songs, especially the new ones. It seems like the world of dressage are taking some inspiration from the world of music and wants us to get in the mood ahead of the big shows and the Kür. Or at least Lövsta Stuteri and Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén does. Here’s “Who’s Anton?”:

We’ve spent a few days at the Falsterbo Horse Show in the south of Sweden. It’s a Swedish summer classic and the biggest horse show the country has to offer too. During the week long show there’s dressage and showjumping competitions taking place of all levels. There’s the Tour of Amateaurs (1.20m), 5- & 6-year old championchips, the Derby, the FEI Nations Cup and more. There’s also the bunny jumping, the dressage vs. showjumping event and lots of other shows.

Here are a few pics from Falsterbo for you to enjoy! There will be more from Falsterbo soon.

Welcome!

Bikes and horses – the vehicles of choice at Falsterbo

Dressage and showjumping horses on their way to/from the showground

  

The warm up schools

 

    

The big grass arena and the derby bank

Champagne and oysters!

Rolf-Göran Bengtsson writing autographs to his fans

Press making sure to cover all the stars of today, and the future

Dressage riders and horses getting ready for the prize giving ceremony

And then, of course, shopping shopping shopping!!!

 

Your entry is the most important part of any dressage test. That mark sets the standard for the rest of your test. Start on an 8 and your marks may only drop to a 6. Start on a 5 and you may never see a 7. Lose two marks per box and you could be throwing away as much as 10%!

At any level the centre line is marked on straightness and balance. How you get onto it isn’t but it will affect your score. Turn too sharply at A and you’ll spend the first 20 metres trying to get your horse balanced. Right angled turns break your rhythm. From inside the arena ride a ½ 10m circle from F or K to D. From outside ride at least 10m away before you turn. That way you can get straight before you even enter at A. Remember – anything that happens before A can’t be marked. You can even halt to get his attention if you have to.

Everything you do on the centre line is in full view of the judge. They want to see a horse that’s moving freely forward not one that’s swinging his head from side to side and can barely lift one hoof in front of the other. Your horse’s straightness is far more important than his head position. Nothing is more likely to guarantee you a wobble than fiddling! Keep your hands still, the contact even on both reins and push on.

One point that many riders forget is the turn at C. They become so fixated on the centre line that they leave it too late. This makes for a sharp turn that loses their horse’s balance and breaks the rhythm. It won’t matter how straight the centre line was, if the turn at the end was unbalanced the marks will suffer. Depending on the test you’re doing it could affect the mark in the next box too.

Treat the turn off the centre line as you would the turn onto it. Ride a ½ 10m circle from G to H or M. Turning one stride early to maintain your horse’s balance and rhythm and to set him up for the next corner will always get you a better mark than if you demonstrate his ability to shoot round the corner on one leg!

Whilst your entry should give your judge a good first impression your final centre line should leave them with a lasting final one. It’s the last time they’ll see you before they write up your score sheet and fill in the collective marks at the end. In some tests these marks can make up almost half the total score so take them seriously.

No matter how badly your test has gone when you halt for the final time look your judge in the eye and smile. Show them you’ve thoroughly enjoyed riding your horse that day – not that you wish you’d left him in the field. That single smile could be enough to gain you a mark or two. Double it and you could have just found an extra percent. And that could be the difference between winning and losing.

Good luck!

Lorraine Jennings

If you have a question on riding or training your horse get in touch by emailing lorraine@schoolyourhorse.com or post a question on the forum at www.schoolyourhorse.com All advice is free so you have nothing to lose!

For a more detailed look at how to improve your dressage score why not check out Prepare to Improve Your Score? At 99p it’s affordable, downloadable and it could find you a few more percent next time. Find it here – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/shop/syh-books/get-started-3-prepare-to-improve-your-score/

I can’t believe how quickly the Olympics are approaching. I remember when it was 365 days to go, and today it’s only 65. And the Paralympics under 100 days to go  as well. I was happy as a child on Christmas Day yesterday, when I got my tickets for the Dressage Team Finals on the 7th August. Super exciting! And I’m currently waiting to hear if I got the Paralympic tickets I applied for. How about you guys, did you manage to score any tickets?
I still haven’t decided on whether to cheer for the Brits or the Swedes… Since I feel like a part of both countries maybe I should have the Union Jack painted on one side of my face and the Swedish flag on the other. Or I’ll just go neutral and cheer on the winning team…

My Olympic tickets to the Dressage Team Finals

So as you must have guessed by now I’m back from my welcome and goodbye trip to Sweden. Indeed I got to do my goodbyes to the 2yr old Calina, but do you think my pony had delivered her new foal? No, no, of course not. I even stayed a couple of extra days, just in case, but no, no foal. So disappointing…

You could have thought she would have a telepathic way of knowing I was coming to visit her, being a mare and all that. I better get her a phone and call her next time instead of making a surprise visit.

I only had to land at Heathrow before my phone alerted me of the breeders Facebook uploads of the new born, how typical that I missed it!

A very new Bellatrix. Picture taken by AnnaLena Gustavsson

BUT, nevertheless, she is absolutely adorable! And according to the breeders and owners of the newborn, she’s quite a madam. Seems to me she got her mother’s genes… Belina used to be SUCH a madam when she was younger, she only went out in the field as long as it wasn’t too muddy or rainy. She’d turn straight back to the stable when realizing the “unacceptable weather condition”. She wouldn’t ever put a hoof in a puddle, god forbid… Except when it came to show jumping. There is nothing else on the planet she loves more than jumping.

This is Belina (14.2hh) and me clearing 1.40m at a puissance.

Since we call Belina for Bella, and the little filly being a bit of a cocky one, they’ve named her Bellatrix. I love it! And I can’t wait to meet her.

Photo taken by Linnea Adolfsson

Whilst being home I can’t keep away from the stables for two reasons. I miss being around horses like crazy, and many of my friends back home are horsey people. Win-win situation!

What we usually do is that we catch up while riding or something else horse related, you know what we horsey people are like; we’re excellent multitaskers and we don’t like to waste time that could be spent in the stables.

Last week I went to visit one of my friends called Ida Willborg-Jonsson, she has an incredibly talented mare that I’ve followed since her early days, so it’s always nice to see her recent developments. This time around Ida had a pony gelding in for sale, Power Ramiro, so she wondered if I wanted to tag along for a ride.
Who was I to say no to that? And Ramiro turned out to be the cutest, most amazing little thing, plus he was super comfy to sit on, which was a happy surprise as I had prepared for a bumpy ride due to my lack of dressage training lately.

When I braved myself to an extended trot at one point, I had completely forgotten that ponies could move like that; I really had to concentrate to keep my seat in position as I wasn’t prepared for that hind leg activity at all!

I can live with my struggling in the extended trot after not riding anything other than extended canter in the polo pitch for the last year. (Good excuse aye?)

Although I must admit that I was very happy to see that I haven’t lost my dressage touch completely. Which is a big relief, as I’m not good enough to identify myself as a proper polo player just yet…

Sadly I forgot to take pictures when I rode him last week but here’s one when he’s cuddling with the stable cat Alice, they love each other, and also a video of him when Ida is riding him.

Power Ramiro and Alice the cat.

Capri the lab

And finally, this is our Labrador Capri on our way to the stables, she’s not happy being chuffed in the back instead of riding shot gun as usual…

All the best,

Sara

 

During the last year of my degree I studied a module in Equine Biomechanics. Any of you gym bunnies out there have no doubt at some point seen or heard of gait analysis being used to make sure we’ve got the right running or training shoe and on face value this may seem a bit of a ploy to get us to buy the most expensive pair of shoes in the shop. However, on a sports science level the information that can be gleaned from studying biomechanics and gait analysis is phenomenal. It gives experts an objective view in real time of how an individual moves and where they fall in comparison to normal gait patterns. When you then transfer this practice to horses in terms of diagnosing lameness for example, results from gait analysis of horses give us an incredibly accurate picture of how that horse moves and where he may be compensating in some parts of his body to account for pain in others.

The study of equine biomechanics is a relatively new phenomenon but new research is being carried out all the time due to the insight that can be gained in to a horse’s gait in a relatively non-invasive way. More excitingly advancements are being made to make it possible to analyse gait in a more ‘natural’ situation as opposed to the laboratory setting of the equine treadmill. Now by natural what I mean is normal ridden environment such as the school, a course of jumps or the gallops and as you can imagine the application of this to modern day sport if we get to this point is huge. Much like the recent buzz in sports media about the call for goal line technology in high profile football games, there are inferences within the industry about biomechanical gait analysis being used to assist in judging dressage. Could we now be looking at quantifying qualities in a horse such as expression within a pace in terms of carpal flexion angles?

With the Olympics coming up this is certainly something to get the mind going. Handy really then that we are a geeky bunch here at Anything Equine and I’m looking forward to seeing how this would be put in to practice and the repercussions. Do we stick to using it from a certain level or at all affiliated competition? Tweet or Facebook us your thoughts we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Written by Lauren Cooper, FdSc Equine Performance

 

Anything Equine – ‘Your first stop online shop for absolutely Anything Equine’.
For more information or advice ask Lauren – lauren@anythingequine.co.uk