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I’ve just returned from two weeks of winter-dodging in Spain at the CDI Valencia. We had great judges — many five-star — and the appearance of some of the top German combinations made it a really worthwhile trip as the competition was joined by two of the most successful German dressage dynasties; the Raths and the Rothenbergers.

Other competitors’ hopes were temporarily raised when Olympic team gold medalist Sönke Rothenberger arrived in the warm-up on the lead-rein on a hot-to-trot Cosmo 59, but the momentary excitement proved to be in vain as he won the grand prix with over 79%.

My grand prix ride Wydny confirmed himself as an exciting prospect, scoring some nines and high placings along with the odd green moment, which was to be expected in his first international at this level.

I’m happy to report that my three under-25 pupils did really well, with two scoring over 70%. I hope more young riders will be encouraged to step across the water.

However, one of the aforementioned young riders became famous for all the wrong reasons as her horse became entangled with the arena fence in the warm-up area and she fell off right in the middle of Matthias Rath’s winning small tour test on Foundation.

If anyone is looking for a non-spooky “husband” for their mare, I can confirm that the licensed stallion Foundation remained totally focused as the loose horse circumnavigated the arena like Desert Orchid on crack (or after 10 buckets of oats), with most of the show personnel in hot pursuit.

In fact, it may have even done Foundation a few favours impulsion-wise as he achieved his highest score.

Separating wheat from chaff

On arriving home, Alex Baker, another of my pupils who competed in Spain, had a baptism of fire as my usual stable jockey Beth Bainbridge — who rides at least 10 horses daily — was sidelined with a broken collarbone. So Alex and the British young rider Anna Jesty have had to take over the rides.

It’s been far more agonising for Beth to watch others riding her regular horses than the breaking of the collarbone itself. Alex rode my five-year-old mare Holly three times before being instructed to get her qualified at novice the following day, which she did with great aplomb, scoring 80% and a 10 for her medium trot following a warm-up worthy of a minor rodeo.

Versatility is an essential quality for any aspiring professional rider. The ability to get the best out of all types of horses separates the wheat from the chaff and the one-horse wonders from the potentially wonderful riders.

It’s not enough to sit on a blingtastic schoolmaster and bust out a few moves. To make it as a rider the real skills are in teaching the fast horse to go slowly, the slow horse to
go quickly and a quirky one to go quietly.

These basic horsemanship tools are essential for anyone wanting to go forth and prosper as riders and trainers of the future.

In our industry, everyone dreams of the podium but, if they are lacking in these key skills, most won’t get past the first post.

Ref Horse & Hound; 7 April 2017