horse shower

Some Like it Hot!

It’s hot! Riders are asking “is it cruel to ride my horse when it’s as hot as this?” The answer depends on different factors. Dressage horses working at the lower levels are likely to be less fit than any event horse, especially during the main competition season. Fitness plays a big part in any horse’s (and rider’s) ability to recover from exercise, no matter what the weather. The fitter your horse, the less likely he is to feel too much discomfort from working in the heat. However, optimum hydration is crucial for every horse and rider at all times, not just during exercise.

Whether you are training in Dressage or Eventing, work on the transitions will take you a long way. Our Olympic Champion Carl Hester aims to do a couple of hundred transitions in EVERY schooling session! In dressage, the quality of the transition is crucial – many dressage tests today award marks for individual transitions, as well as for the movements themselves, and this applies to both disciplines. When it’s hot, concentrate on doing a lot of work in walk, really encouraging your horse to use his hindlegs, stepping under himself to put fluency into the transitions, maintaining rhythm and cadence.

You can do all of this in a short session – about 30 minutes will be sufficient and a lot of walk work will give your horse time to fully come “through”, foaming in his mouth, accepting the contact and working properly “over the back”. When you have finished, give him a hose down all over using a tea tree shampoo for added protection against flies, rinse thoroughly but DON’T scrape. Research undertaken at the time of the Olympic Games in Atlanta indicated that scraping prevents the cool water from doing its job – to conduct heat away from the horse’s skin. So soak him, then let him roll before applying fly-spray or a fly-sheet.

My horse goes into the field after his shower, but only until morning stables is over at about 10.30am, then he comes back in to stay cool for the rest of the day.
Enjoy the summer, but don’t down tools – before we know it, we’ll be complaining about snow!


Summer Heat Of Mallorca

Despite the heat, preparations for the British Dressage Summer Regional Championships must continue.  My experience training riders and horses in the summer heat of Mallorca is standing me in good stead now. I am riding my Prix St Georges / Intermediate 1 horse before breakfast – even before mucking out. I am concentrating on transitions in all paces, working through all the lateral movements, half-pass and pirouettes, checking the rhythm of the footfall and trying to generate as much cadence into the trot (his weakest pace) as possible.

With the canter movements, especially the flying changes, I am working on placement. In a line of five flying changes (at Prix St Georges these are required every fourth stride then every third stride) work on placing the first two before X , the third one over X and the final two the far side of X. Doing this presents the dressage judge with a neat picture of control, fluency and accuracy. Always remember that flying changes are transitions in themselves and that is why it is important to get them right.

A tidy test earns marks, and now that half-marks are to be had in the FEI level tests (and in all British Dressage tests, but not Eventing tests from January 1 2014), riding with accuracy and understanding of where each movement begins and ends can make quite a difference. Every little helps – make it easy for the judge to reward you.