In less than a year, Lydia Jones and her trainer Shelly Harriss have turned the mare that she was thinking of selling into a winner

Going forward in a soft outline is the nirvana towards which all dressage riders aim. Lydia Jones and her 6-year-old Irish sport horse mare Lates Diamond have been working on this with their trainer Shelly Harriss for the past year.

“She was called Fizz-Buck-Bomb-Bolt two years ago,” Lydia told H&H (Wales & West report, 25 July issue). “She was a monster and I contemplated selling her on, but I’ve been working with Shelly to keep her soft and forward.” The duo took both novice classes (restricted and overall) at Wales & West on 13 July. “It’s finally clicked,” said Lydia.

trainer namecheck Shelly HarrissWe asked Shelly what she and Lydia have been working on and to tell us a bit more about herself.

“We always start our sessions establishing rhythm and paces as she can be a tense little horse. Relaxation is really important. We work on the stretching exercise below, getting her to really use her back. Once she can do that in all three paces, we move on depending on what Lydia has planned.

“We have spent a lot of time doing test riding sessions — picking two or three sections of a test and getting the horse really confident in those manoeuvres, one after the other. Riders can do a 20m circle and ride straight down the centre line, but when you put them together, it can be quite difficult.”

What’s your USP?

“I’m very good at installing calm and confidence in riders so they feel able to make decisions on their own. I teach everyone from beginners doing intro to inter 1.”

What’s your pet hate?

“People crawling along and not riding forwards.”

Share with us your signature exercise

“I spend a lot of time getting riders to use their seat to control speed within the paces, whether they are on a short or a long rein. Riders tend to get quite frightened when you tell them to release the rein. I start by getting them to quietly lengthen the rein at whatever pace they are working in, such as from medium walk to free walk, bearing in mind all the time that the rider needs to feel confident. Then we work from walk up to canter.

“When the horse is working in a collected pace, we soften the rein sometimes allowing it right out to the buckle end. This is a really beneficial exercise, particular with all the big powerful creatures we are seeing in dressage at the moment — you can’t control them by just hanging on to them.

“My top tip? Just letting go inch-by-inch is better than nothing.”

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?

“If you think something hasn’t gone very well, there will always be a positive side, even if you can’t see it at the time. You can learn something from everything you do.”

If I were to ask your pupils, what would be the one thing they say you continually shout?

“Prepare and use your corners!”

For more information about Shelly and to contact her visit www.shellyharriss.co.uk