Anna Ross: Should we reward the ‘easy’ option? *H&H VIP*

Opinion

“I’m not here to make it easy — I’m here to make it good!” I found myself declaring to a suffering client the other day. Developing riding skills is definitely hard work whatever your level.

Seemingly small rule changes can make big differences in our sport, but are often controversial. The rule to introduce rising trot for extensions at medium level was good for the horses. But is it good for the standard of the sport — should we be finessing rider skills rather than reducing requirements?

I think rising trot is underused. We train horses to grand prix using lots of rising trot to develop swing through the body. Both the horse and rider should be able to swing through the back to achieve the suppleness and engagement needed to achieve true collection. But in order to maintain collection and to put the “icing on the cake”, the rider needs to sit to be able to use the seat, weight and body.

Therefore, my thoughts are that it’s a disadvantage to need to rise. In an ideal world, sitting trot would be taught before rising, slowly on comfortable school horses, but it’s not always possible or practical. For the sake of the horses, rising is used, as most are not patient enough to “sit it out”.

The ability to ride in a double bridle is perceived by some to be one of the essential skills of dressage riding. It could be likened to playing a guitar with one’s fingers rather than a plectrum. But some horses’ conformation in the mouth means they cannot take two bits easily. I think if the horse is more comfortable in the snaffle he should go in the snaffle but, importantly, if competing against horses in doubles it must be without a flash noseband. A flash can hide a multitude of mouth and tongue issues, and cannot be worn with a double bridle.

In the end, it’s the hands on the end of the reins and the backside in contact with the saddle that can do the harm — not the equipment.

‘I turned the other cheek’

British Dressage’s (BD) Claire Moir is pushing forward with her stable management programme for BD Youth. This is a brilliant idea. How can you train a horse if you don’t know what makes it tick and you can’t keep it on the road; a greater insight into management will make better horsemen and women.

It amazes me how many mothers I see mucking out and plaiting up while their offspring reside in the lorry updating their Instagram accounts with no clue how their horse is feeling that morning.

Not everyone shares my view though. Recently I was admonished while feeding my own horse early at a show.

“Are you Anna Ross?” a bossy-looking lady peering through the bars of my temporary stable enquired.

“Yes,” I replied, waiting smugly for her congratulations on my excellent personal horse care and concern.

“You should be setting a better example than coming out here in your pyjamas!”

Several witty retorts came to mind, and one less witty, but for once in my life I turned the other “cheek” (well both really) and walked away with as much dignity as one can muster when wearing a matching two-piece purple set with brightly coloured cats on…

Ref Horse & Hound; 13 June 2019

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