Reaching the very top level in two different equestrian disciplines is no mean feat, and in episode 12 of the Horse & Hound Podcast, dressage editor Polly Bryan chats to a lady who has done just that.
Louise Bell is one of Britain’s most successful showing riders, who has won the working hunter title at the Royal International Horse Show a whopping 16 times. But in 2011 she took on a Horse & Hound challenge to try her hand at elementary level dressage with one of her show horses, and hasn’t looked back. Louise is now an international grand prix rider, who has competed around the world and on British Nations Cup teams with her former working hunter champion Into The Blue, known at home as Dynamo.
“If it wasn’t for H&H I wouldn’t be speaking to you about this right now,” she says.
“I went for those first lessons with Michael Eilberg and after doing the initial competition, I left it for about six weeks, but then I suddenly felt empty. It was like there was something missing in my life – and it was dressage!
“It was a very interesting time and it gave me a new lease of life. I went to Olympia in 2011 and watched the dressage, and I thought, ‘I want to do this’.”
Louise finally realised her dream when she and Dynamo competed in the World Cup qualifier at Olympia in 2019, after a stellar season on the European dressage circuit.
‘If anything, you’ll like the colour!’
If there’s one thing that Louise has always possessed, it’s an eye for a good horse. This certainly came in handy when she first met Dynamo as a three-year-old, who had been bred from jumping lines by John Whitaker.
“I had a fantastic horse called Man On Fire, whom John bred, and Dynamo is his cousin. I lost Man On Fire in tragic circumstances, and then John rang me and said, ‘I might have one for you; if anything, you’ll like the colour!’
“So I trundled up to Yorkshire, and I can only explain Dynamo’s colour as pink. I got on and he was like riding a snake — he was so flexible in so many ways. He had a fantastic walk, nice trot and a brilliant canter, but he was all over the place! But I completely and utterly fell in love with him.
“He looked really croup high; he was about a foot higher behind than in front, but I loved him for the way he was bred, his connections — and the fact that John told me he was a good horse!”
When Louise brought Dynamo home, everybody from her husband Robert, to her groom and vet at the time, wondered what on earth she had bought. But within six months they had all changed their minds.
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Nowadays, Louise thinks Dynamo might be the most spoilt horse in dressage — he even has his own dressing room on the yard!
“We have a tack-up area, with a solarium above it,” she explains. “We’re very lucky to have that but obviously you don’t always want to have that on, so we also have some of those dressing room lights with big bulbs that you put round a mirror. I’ve put them round all the big frames we have in there with his rosettes in, so he has his own twinkly lights and his big basket of carrots!”
To hear more about Louise’s transition from showing to dressage rider, and listen to her chatting about some of her very exciting younger horses, listen to episode 12 of The Horse & Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app
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