Turn with Balanced Aids

Dressage expert Heather Blitz critiques Holly Werner Caccamise at Training Level.
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Credit: Courtesy, Holly Werner Caccamise Holly Werner Caccamise and Phantom of the Wapera, her 4-year-old Appaloosa–Thoroughbred-cross gelding, compete at Training Level.

Credit: Courtesy, Holly Werner Caccamise Holly Werner Caccamise and Phantom of the Wapera, her 4-year-old Appaloosa–Thoroughbred-cross gelding, compete at Training Level.

This is Holly Werner Caccamise and her 4-year-old Appaloosa–Thoroughbred-cross gelding, Phantom of the Wapera (aka Phantom). The pair competes at Training Level dressage and they also do Novice Level eventing. 

Holly and Phantom are immaculately turned out and are a well-matched, attractive pair. This nice big horse looks as if he likes to work and is moving freely in his trot. If the photo had been taken about a split second earlier, it would show him being more engaged with his hind legs rather than seeming a bit out behind himself with his left hind leg. His left front shoulder also seems a bit low and flat, but, again, I think that would be a different story slightly earlier in time. You can see that he is tracking up in this working trot and that he has a nice frame for Training Level with his body balanced and his poll at the highest point of
his frame. 

Holly is, without a doubt, in posting trot and probably on her way up to the top of the rise as Phantom’s right shoulder advances. I believe they are also beginning to make a left turn. Holly has her body in a fairly good vertical lineup of shoulder to hip to heel. If we took her horse out of this photo and she were left standing on the ground in this position, she would be balanced over her own feet. 

At first, Holly appears to be a bit light in her seat or that her center of gravity is too high. However, she is getting ready to advance her pelvis forward to the top of the rise, so her tone and core strength actually look solid. When she is sitting, Holly should try to feel her seat bones and decipher whether they are pointing straight down or toward her horse’s front feet. If her lower back is too round, then her seat bones are pointing too far forward; if she is hollow in her lower back, her seat bones are pointing backward. If it’s hard for her to tell, she should exaggerate both extremes and then try to find the middle. Straight down is the correct position for seat bones throughout all of the work. 

Her thighs look well organized and at a good angle with inward rotation. Her knee has a good amount of bend, and I like that she is not overweighting her foot in the stirrup. Holly should make sure her feet are parallel to her horse’s sides to prevent her spurs from always pointing in toward her horse.

I suggest some minor adjustments to how Holly is turning her horse. It is only slight but there is a tiny tilt to Phantom’s poll where his left ear is lower than his right. Also, Holly has her left hand pulled backward more than her right. She’s also looking more to the left than her horse is. She gives away the outside rein a little too much in her turn to the left but again, this is only a small amount. I would rather see her hands carried evenly and her elbows slightly more bent so that her upper arm stays at her side. Her hand is then in a more perfect straight line from her elbow to her horse’s bit. As she advances up the levels, this will help secure her contact, especially as her half halts begin to increase collection.

Heather Blitzis a Grand Prix competitor and trainer. She was the United States alternate for the 2012 Olympic Games with her gelding, Paragon. In 2011, the pair won team gold and individual silver medals at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. 

No stranger to the international arena, Blitz joined the U.S. Equestrian Federation Long List while working as head trainer at Oak Hill Ranch in Louisiana, where she rode its Danish Warmblood stallion Rambo DVE 373. In 2006, she piloted the stallion’s daughter, Arabella, to the reserve spot on the World Equestrian Games team. 

During her seven years at Oak Hill Ranch, Blitz rode a broodmare she loved so much that she decided to breed her, producing a horse by Blue Hors Don Schufro out of Pari Lord by Loran. The result was her Pan American partner, Paragon. After their success in 2011, the pair moved up to the Grand Prix during the winter season in Florida. They qualified for the World Dressage Masters 5* during Paragon’s CDI debut at that level, earning impressive scores. 

Blitz holds a B.S. degree in equine science from Colorado State University. She credits her biomechanics coach, Mary Wanless, as the biggest influence on her development as a rider and instructor. They have been working together since 1993. Blitz is based in Wellington, Florida (heatherblitz.info).

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