As I write this month’s column, the weather outside is in the single digits and the forecast is calling for snow (8 inches of it). For me, it’s not so much the snow that I dread, but the relentless wind we’ve had this winter. It seems to howl every chance it gets. Of course, I know warmer days are ahead. In fact, by the time you read this issue, show season will be upon us and so will the highly anticipated freestyle rides of the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas (April 15–19).
Speaking of the freestyle, we have tips from several top riders, coaches and judges on how to make a good first impression when performing one. Like anything, opinions on that vary among those at the top level of the sport, but they all agree that whatever a rider does, he must get the judges to sit up and take notice. “This is show business. You better start with a big entrance and finish with a big ending,” says U.S. Dressage Coach Robert Dover, who, during his competition days, always presented innovative freestyles that had everyone talking. Lars Petersen, the Danish rider who graces this month’s cover aboard Marriett, wants to accomplish three things when designing his freestyle: He wants it to have a high level of difficulty, be easy to judge and be happy with fun music. Read more in “The Wow Factor,” p. 45.
After hearing from those at the top of the sport, we get a closer look at those who are working their way there in the “2015 USDF Trainers’ Conference” article. Top dressage judge Stephen Clarke traveled to Mary Anne McPhail’s High Meadow Farm in Loxahatchee, Florida, where he shared his three main goals for every dressage horse: prompt reactions, straightness and throughness. When it comes to reactions, he said to one of the demonstration riders who was having trouble keeping her horse in front of her leg: “Think of going from trot to gallop. Play with him. Pretend he’s a racehorse and make quick transitions. Be a tiger when you don’t get a response,” he advises. “Then be a mouse when you get the reaction you want.��� I love that analogy. You can read more on p. 28.
Finally, we hear from Germany’s double Paralympic champion Hanne Brenner. An upper-level eventer until a fall at Luhmühlen, Germany, left her partially paralyzed, Brenner explains how she compensates for her handicap and rides her horses with the lightest of aids. She admits that while there are horses more suited than others to the aim of riding with subtle aids, in the end this doesn’t matter. Every horse’s reactions to the rider’s aids can be improved with a proper warm-up and consequent conditioning. Read “Less is More” on p. 35.
We hope you enjoy this month’s issue.
Until next time,