Today (29 August), 29-year-old Laura Collett rode her own, Karen Bartlett’s and Keith Scott’s London 52 into pole position at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen (28 August-1 September). The pair scored 25.5, to put them .3 of a penalty ahead of their nearest rivals, Kai Rüder and Lt Col. Thibaut Vallette.
We spoke to Laura after her test to find out more about her warm-up strategy to help ensure she scores those winning marks on the 10-year-old gelding by Landos. Here’s what she had to say…
1. The main thing with ‘Dan’ is to get him into my contact, as although he can feel and look nice, he’s not actually connected.
2. I need to feel like he’s almost pulling me as when he goes into the arena he can shrink and suck back on me.
3. He knows all the moves in the lateral work, but I have to almost over-ride him in the warm-up outside so that when I go into the arena he’s not surprised when I put my leg on.
4. He’s still learning and strengthening all the time so I need to bear that in mind in terms of where we’re at in our training — it does make the future very exciting though as I know there’s still so much more to come from him.
5. He hasn’t seen or experienced an atmosphere like the one here at these championships, so he almost tripped over himself when he went in and saw the crowds — that’s not something I can necessarily recreate at home, or by taking him to local dressage competitions. That’s part of the reason it was so good to take him to the Nations Cup competition at Aachen earlier this year as it was a great chance to expose him to more atmosphere — I just need to try and keep giving him that sort of exposure as it’s all part of his learning process and he needs to learn to deal with it. Having said that, I would rather he dropped a bit behind me with his shy-ness rather than exploding — at least I can work with that more easily.
6. I know that Dan trusts me — he has learnt that when I give him a pat he knows he’s going to be ok.
7. He takes a lot of reassurance — he would like to go into the arena and close his eyes and pretend nobody was there — again, this is where the trust between us becomes so important.
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8. I don’t usually carry a schooling whip at home, but sometimes I have one on standby. Today I picked one up 15 minutes before my test, just to help activate his hind legs — it’s a real fine line with him though. Today we got it right, as I went in and he shrunk back on me a bit, but I had created enough power outside that even with the slight loss of engagement, we had enough to carry us through and still create a good picture.
9. I use rising trot with him just before my test. I find that having warmed up mostly in sitting, to then go to rising before we go in helps to let him relax and breathe before picking him up again.
Check back for more updates from the Eventing European Championships in Luhmühlen all week, plus full report in next week’s Horse & Hound magazine (dated 5 September).