Opinion

TAGS:

This year starts with the British Dressage young horse forums, with four youngsters going from my yard. Our four-year-olds this year are the real thing and very “au naturel”. They are in their winter woollies and were backed about six weeks ago, with two weeks off over Christmas. We are contemplating clipping them, but I do quite like my staff! We have 11 young horses in the yard at the moment and it’s a bit like Animal Planet — anyone we can get a headcollar on is in the “advanced” group.

The young horse forums are a great initiative. Most people have to train horses from scratch. In a perfect world, everyone would have a schoolmaster to start on, but seeing the “ups and downs” of training is both relevant and inspiring as, in this world of social media, we often only see the “best bits”.

It’s a pity that, as British breeding is starting to take on the world and show depth, following Farouche’s two world young horse titles, the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is no longer running the Futurity scheme. This is gutting for breeders as these were popular and helped people improve and develop their stock based on the advice given. The BEF has invited expressions of interest in running the scheme, but there is no news yet.

However, there is an exciting new concept in the elite foal registration tour. A group of assessors from different studbooks will visit 12 regional locations, registering foals and will choose a regional champion for dressage, showjumping and eventing. The advantage of this is that a foal can be registered and assessed on the same day. It will culminate in the grand final in September, with substantial cash prizes for the champions of the three categories.

It will provide a great opportunity for breeders and riders to discuss forming partnerships together, with draft contracts available at the venue for riders and breeders to consider. Professional handlers will be brought in from Germany and Holland to show each foal to ensure a level playing field.

Mutual benefit

The concept of having someone look at a horse with fresh eyes is great. In young horses, I want to see good mechanics and fluidity through the body. The back should be loose and I’d take that over a “big” front leg any time. I like the front and hind to match naturally. If the hindleg is super, then it can “take” a bigger front leg, and those are the horses that can stay sound.

The higher up the levels you train, the more you air your dirty laundry. Basics that have not been established get found out; there are no short cuts. However, the process speeds up as riders gain experience and the horses are produced more quickly, but with less stress, as those pitfalls are avoided.

Breeders who want to work with riders have to form a mutually beneficial relationship. Riders add value; breeders provide stock. An open, honest dialogue between the two is imperative if the project is to work. I have several of these arrangements in place and they work well. A goal for the horse has to be made that can be revised as horses don’t always follow the plan.

Knowing the right time to sell is important. In cooperation with a long-term owner, my grand prix ride Wydny has just been sold to America. I thoroughly enjoyed riding him, especially in the Nations Cup at Hickstead, but we felt that was probably his limit. He now has a lovely home where he will be teaching his rider, while I train the next horses and keep up the search for future stars.

Ref Horse & Hound; 18 January 2018