Multi-medal winning event rider William Fox-Pitt imparted many pearls of wisdom during his ‘50 not out’ lecture demo at Hartpury College last month. In front of a packed crowd the former world number one shared his expertise, giving insights into his training methods as well as offering advice to help you secure those vital extra marks in competition. Here, we share some of those top tips…
1. Ask someone to video your dressage test and watch it back while it is still fresh in your mind. Visual aids are very helpful and watching your test back allows you to see what the judge saw. Think about what mark you would have given yourself for each movement and where you could gain extra marks.
2. You will never ride a fault-free dressage test, no one does, so don’t panic if you make a mistake.
3. Don’t give the judge a mark. Make sure you do a square halt, your circles are round rather than square and you ride straight down the centre line.
4. When you are coming down the centre line ride straight, look the judge directly in the eyes and dare them to give you less than an eight!
5. Think of each movement in a dressage test as a sentence — liken it to capital letter, sentence, full stop.
6. When doing extended walk, make sure your horse’s poll is lower than his wither, he is on the bit but his nose is slightly forward and you ride him forward and into the rein.
7. Don’t always ride with spurs and/or a whip. Vary it so your horse doesn’t become used to it.
8. A good exercise to do in trot is to change your diagonal every other stride, rising in between. This helps you to soften and give and will improve your sitting trot. By rising you are also encouraging your horse to go forward.
9. Always start small when you are jumping, even with experienced horses. Horses and riders can lose confidence quickly and it will play on their mind if things go wrong so start out easy and build up to jumping bigger, wider or skinnier.
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10. Practise jumping out of trot. It helps to improve reactions in both horse and rider and makes the horse decide for himself where he is taking off. Cross-country schooling in trot is useful too.
11. When educating a horse, jump lots of weird and wonderful obstacles on different angles. The jumps don’t have to be big but exposing the horse to a variety of fences is an important training aid.
12. As a rider make sure you are fit enough for the job. Fitness is very important and being tired is no excuse, if your horse is tired you need to be fit enough to deal with it.
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