Anna Ross: ‘We need balanced riders, balanced horses, tiny trots and tick-over training *H&H VIP*

  • Young horse qualifiers are in full swing with the Futurities soon to follow. Both are opportunities for studs and small breeders to showcase their youngstock.

    I have a tiny breeding programme but have never presented any of my home-breds for Futurity evaluation as — for a long time — I thought it was compulsory to wear white jeans.

    So I was proud when my five-year-old home-bred Gary (by Showmaker) won his young horse class with 8.4 last week.

    He was ridden by Beth Bainbridge, prepared by Ali Berman, and was even jumping with my boyfriend Marcelo Tosi — an Olympic eventer — the day before.

    It’s a tricky task though, as judges have to assess what is in front of them in terms of paces. How do they actually spot those future stars? And where do all these fabulous youngsters end up? Why do most horses not “make it” to the higher levels — is it a question of soundness, training or temperament?

    I visit many stables and shows and travel a great deal, so I see a lot of horses for sale. On top of this I am sent about 20 or 30 videos a week of potential new rides for clients, so I’m constantly evaluating horses.

    I like ones who don’t trot extravagantly unless they are asked to, but who track up naturally. And I prefer those who make a “square” when they raise the forearm.

    I want gears; a shuffler who can turn into a swan and a horse that can be trained without riding on full steam. Young horses who move like tarantulas on speed from day one are, in my opinion, just waiting to go lame.

    Most grand prix horses do not move “big” in the warm-up, thus preserving themselves in training. Maybe that’s why they make it to the very highest level?

    The more horses I look at, the more I become convinced that it’s what is between its ears that counts — and I’m not talking about its Swarovski browband!

    If the horse does not have the temperament and soundness to do the job, however talented it is, it won’t make it.

    ‘Tick-over, not turbo’

    One of the greatest skills a rider can have is knowing the difference between a horse who doesn’t understand what it is being asked, and one that can’t do what it is being asked.

    Many horses are written off as bad characters when they have pain issues. Horses are nice. When we ride them we have to assume there is a certain level of co-operation because they are letting us sit on their backs. If the horse were that uncooperative we would be sitting on the floor.

    Something that is little-discussed is the impact that balanced riding has on long-term soundness. Horses who are thrown repeatedly into high-level movements when they are not in balance and horses consistently ridden on the forehand go lame.

    A horse with no rider carries his weight over his front legs. Then we put a saddle on — over the front legs; then we put a rider on — over the front legs; and then we all complain that the bloody horse is on the forehand.

    How do we redress this? By riding well. To adjust the balance we need the hindleg to be well underneath the body because we have unbalanced the horse just by sitting on it.

    For more horses to “make it” we need balanced riders with balanced horses, tiny trots and training on tick-over, not turbo.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 26 May 2016