Spencer Wilton: How to improve your dressage marks [VIDEO]

Saracen/H&H eventing bursary winner Laura Durkan is looking to improve her 15.1hh novice event mare Jing Mai‘s presence in the dressage arena.

Laura, a school sports coach from West Sussex, visited Saracen-sponsored rider Spencer Wilton with her eight-year-old daughter of Jumbo. He assessed the pair and gave them some valuable pointers to improve their way of going and results on the flat.

Spencer’s top tips

  1. If your horse doesn’t have huge movement like Valegro, don’t panic. By improving the horse’s balance, consistency and elasticity, any horse can be made to look more impressive and uphill
  2. Use a sheepskin half pad and a generous size white dressage square on horses with short backs. It breaks up the length of back between the saddle and the loins. Make sure the square is not too far forward; this will help make the shoulder look bigger and more impressive
  3. Look to your own hands before blaming your horse for an uneven contact; use mirrors where possible or, failing that, just look down for a few minutes each session to work out when and why your hands are moving around
  4. Ride transitions. Lots of them. And be pedantic and precise about the quality and timing of them. Make sure you practice riding them precisely at markers in the days leading up to a competition

A new diet has also been devised for Jing by Saracen’s senior nutritionist Lizzie Drury. When first assessed, the mare was lacking condition, but with the help of a carefully managed diet and an improved way of going, Jing now carries a little too much weight for a competition event horse.

Lizzie has now cut back her hard feed ration to help slim her down and will re-assess her in a month.

Follow their progress in the next Saracen/H&H training feature — cross-country with Francis Whittington — in Horse & Hound magazine 4 September