As a BHSII SM, aspiring to complete the BHSI Certificate, it was with interest and anticipation that I, as a guest observer, attended the training day at Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire.
The day provided a privileged opportunity to watch 7 training sessions, which introduced the audience to a variety of horses including; an ex racehorse now enjoying a career change to dressage, eventers and pure dressage horses competing up to Grand Prix level. Their respective riders, who ranged from aspiring youngsters to seasoned campaigners, all desired that “competitive edge”, and sought to improve their performance under the watchful eye of Judy, who “coached” the first 6 sessions and then delighted us by riding Fitzcerraldo in the last session.
Overall the training sessions followed a structured pattern, with a segmented approach, interspersing “work periods” with “relaxation periods”, which gave the horses’ muscles a chance to stretch, whilst the riders reflected on their progression. Introductions and brief histories were provided at the start of each session, and then the riders were encouraged to continue their warming-up in their usual manner, with emphasis on looseness and relaxation, but with respect for the aids, both upwards and downwards, which must be answered by the horse. Having fully warmed up, riders were encouraged to demonstrate movements they required help with, prompting performance enhancing comments from Judy, or specific exercises designed by her to facilitate quality and accuracy. I particularly liked the use of the “medium” pace on the diagonal within a half-pass exercise. This helped to refresh the horses that had a tendency to become “shut down” within the half-pass movement.