With the young horse class season nearly upon us, I realise that for some people it can be a lifetime ambition to win these at championship level. It’s worth remembering, though, that many warmbloods competing in age classes will be late June or July foals.
Therefore, they will only be four- or five-and-a-half, even if they’re in five- or six-year-old classes. Reading the tests makes me realise how demanding they are in terms of education, and physical and mental maturity.
It’s important to decide our ambitions as riders early — whether the ultimate aim is to win at this age or level, or to attain grand prix level.
In the past, many of mine and others’ successful grand prix horses never featured in young horse classes for many reasons — for example, because their self-carriage or engagement had not been developed enough or they did not have enough expression in their paces at that age.
If a horse is not balanced at an early age, over-riding and too much forward riding can create problems manifested in a short neck and bad mouth.
It’s all very well thinking forward but the question is, are you forward in balance, or forward and making the horse unbalanced?
Many judges in these classes feel that the over-ambitious rider, who is over-riding, is not pleasant to watch.
It’s a lot to ask for a six-year-old horse to be competent in a flying change and half-pass, even with a perfect rider and balance. If you’re going to contest these classes, remember that the judge is only going to say what he or she sees; the judge can’t speak for you when it comes to what potential you feel your horse has.
Not over-riding to produce to win is a very important factor; making mistakes at that level is not the be-all and end-all — the right path is paramount for a young horse’s future. So, don’t feel disheartened if you’re not highly placed or winning at young horse level — it doesn’t mean your horse won’t get to grand prix.
I was lucky enough to attend the four-star show in Wellington, Florida, earlier in February. It’s a fantastic sell-out show for spectators where you can see not only the very best, but also the weirdest of all goings-on in the dressage world.
The four days I was there were blessed with 28°C sunshine, a couple of grand prix classes and Isabell Werth’s masterclass, where the importance of the outside rein was the key message. If inside leg to outside rein was stressed once it was stressed a thousand times. Considering it is one of the most important phrases in dressage — in riding even — maybe Isabell had to say it so many times as people don’t actually remember the message.
The weird and wonderful excitement was the launch of Robert Dover’s equally wonderful, wacky vegan range of tack. I had been very much looking forward to going out for a fillet steak with friends, but rejected the offer in order to attend the launch party.
Companies such as Wintec brought out synthetic tack many years ago, but if anyone was going to relaunch the idea repackaged for today’s market it was the incomparable Robert. I have no doubt it will make a fortune in “Welly World”.
Ref Horse & Hound; 28 February 2019