Steve Wallace’s dressage blog: how to get the best from Iberian horses

  • Lenny first came into my life through one of my clients, Gillian O’Connor, a renowned former financial journalist who was editor of the Investor’s Chronicle for many years.

    I started teaching Gillian about 10 years ago, then following a hiatus due to ill health she got back in touch and asked me to help her to buy a new Iberian horse.

    We looked at a few but Lenny immediately stood out, the only issue being that he was a stallion… not ideal for the livery situation in which he would be kept.

    Lenny was duly purchased and gelded and Gillian began having lessons on him. Tragically after only a few months Gillian was diagnosed with cancer. Her health poor, she asked me to compete Lenny for her and I was delighted to say yes. He quickly qualified for the new British Dressage Spanish Horse championships, winning his class on the highest percentage of the show.

    Sadly, Gillian died in May 2016. Her final wishes were that I would continue to train and compete Lenny, which I am now doing in Gillian’s memory (pictured top).

    Steve and Lenny with Gillian before she sadly passed away

    Steve and Lenny with Gillian before she sadly passed away

    Lenny is now qualified for the 2016 regionals at medium and while he is very established at this level in terms of his technical ability, I’m focussing on improving his fitness.

    Iberians are ‘busy’ little horses. However, the correct activity in the hind leg needs to be developed. They may seem easy to collect but you still have to develop the appropriate strength in the hindquarters or you’ll risk injury.

    I know Lenny has the talent for more advanced work, but the job in hand in the run up to the regionals, is to develop his basic strength.

    I’m taking a measured approach. With the hot weather of the past week I’ve focussed less on aerobic fitness and more on technical things. On the cooler days I’ve been doing more general fittening work (longer spells of trot and canter). I’ll also start doing some hill work with him, but will introduce this slowly.

    I train another Iberian horse, a Lusitano gelding called Rchi. Pronounced ‘Archie’. I’ve been working with his rider Emma Taylor for about 18 months.

    Rchi came to me as a very highly strung horse and we’ve worked hard on relaxation of both horse and rider through consistent training. Since we’ve been doing this Emma and Rchi have racked up numerous wins in breed society showing, but the plan is now to concentrate on affiliated dressage. It’s been a steep learning curve for Emma who comes from a showing background, but her talent as a rider and Rchi’s trainable temperament has seen them making great strides. We’re at a stage where we’re now working on his medium paces. It’s challenging — as everyone knows Iberians typically struggle to open out their gaits, but you know “by George I think he’s got it!”

    Emma and Rchi

    Emma and Rchi

    It’s also easy to be ‘conned’ by their ability to do things on the spot, but not in true collection. Both Lenny and Rchi need to develop their propulsive power, to strengthen their hindquarters, not only to improve their medium paces, but also to be able to work in true collection.

    Continued below…

    Read more from Steve:

    The week’s highs: We’ve been lapping up the sunshine, I really do have the best job in the world! Rchi has learnt how to do medium trot. Lenny is working more through his back and his tummy is getting smaller…so is his rider’s! And that’s important because I have to wear a tailcoat whilst competing Donni at PSG.

    I’ll let you know more about Donni’s progress next time.


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