ISSUE 67
JUNE 2021
TAYLA & MAUS
MAKE MAGIC

REGARDEZ MOI,
LOOK AT ME NOW!
SAM LYLE & BF VALOUR
5 STARS IN THEIR EYES

PLUS: BRETT DAVEY STEPS INTO NEW ROLE, ROGER FITZHARDINGE’S GRAND PRIX TIPS, KERRY MACK’S LUNGE LESSONS, KAREN PET’S PROPERTY, GERMAN PONIES, WINTER HEALTH, BARNYARD CHEMISTRY, WILLINGA’S EQUINE HOSPITAL, OTT VETERAN’S NEW START, PLUS A ‘CONCRETE COWBOY’ & A SINGING DENTIST!

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
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ISSUE 67

CONTENTS

JUNE 2021
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A few Words

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

ROBERT MCKAY

Ryan's Rave

NEW ERA FOR AUSTRALIAN DRESSAGE

BY HEATH RYAN

Dressage

TAYLA & MAUS MAKE MAGIC IN GERMANY

BY ADELE SEVERS

Eventing

ALFIE & SAM LYLE, GOING THE EXTRA MILE

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Off the Track

GENERAL READY TO CONQUER AGAIN

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Property

PET PROJECT: KAREN’S ARCADIAN SHOWPIECE

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Dressage

REGARDEZ MOI,
LOOK AT ME NOW!

BY ADELE SEVERS

Health

HEADS UP
FOR THE BIG CHILL

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Breeding

THE VERSATILITY OF THE GERMAN RIDING PONY

BY STEPH HALLIGAN

Health

REPRODUCTIVE EXPERT HEADS WILLINGA’S EQUINE HOSPITAL

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Training

TAKING THE PLUNGE WITH THE LUNGE

BY DR KERRY MACK

Lifestyle

‘CONCRETE COWBOY’ SETS RECORD STRAIGHT

BY SUZY JARRATT

Dressage

10 TIPS FOR RIDING THE GRAND PRIX TEST

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE / EQ LIFE

Health

BARNYARD CHEMISTRY: pH & THE EQUINE DIGESTIVE TRACT

BY KENTUCKY EQUINE RESEARCH

Lifestyle

LEITH RYAN, THE SINGING HORSE DENTIST

BY SUZY JARRATT
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Congratulations, you’ve made it to Grand Prix! When you consider that some horses reach Grand Prix as young as 10 years of age or less, and reflect on those who have competed at the Olympics well into their late teens, it becomes clear that reaching Grand Prix is not the end of the journey — in many ways, it’s just the beginning.

“The Grand Prix test is just another level in itself, and you could write a book about riding it… as did Reiner Klimke!” says Grand Prix rider, coach and former FEI judge, Roger Fitzhardinge. “The most important thing with the Grand Prix, like in any other level, is to try to ride a mistake-free test, first and foremost.”

So, how else can you maximise marks once you reach the highest level?

1. You must have good piaffe, passage and transitions in and out — they are worth more than a third of the marks!

“To do a Grand Prix test and get decent marks, you absolutely have to have piaffe and passage, and the transitions in and out,” begins Roger, explaining that with passage/piaffe appearing in the test on three occasions, plus coefficient marks allocated to the piaffe, these movements account for over a third of the total marks available.

“Passage requires regularity and rhythm first, and then you can put expression and more impulsion into it. But if you do that too early with the younger Grand Prix horses, irregular steps will be costly. When they try too hard and they lose their balance, marks will drop away fairly quickly.

“In training, make certain you have the ability to collect and shorten the passage, and then ride it forward and back so you have a variation within the speeds across the ground. You need to make certain that you make a transition very clearly from the passage to the piaffe, and then very clearly in rhythm from the piaffe to the passage. It’s practise, practise, practise… and don’t always practise it in the places where it is in the test!”

The initial transition to passage is from extended trot (movement 6 and 7). As Roger explains, you still need to bring the extended trot back a little for a couple of strides before transitioning to passage. “When you first start riding that move, everyone wants to ride the trot a little too forward before the passage; you need a trot that is fewer kilometres per hour than the speed of the passage. So when you go from the trot to the passage, it’s a forward thinking transition.”

When riding the horse from collected walk to passage (movement 13), you need to work out your preparation and cue for that transition: “There are many different ways of doing it; it’s up to you as an individual. You want to feel that you’re going to ride the horse off into medium trot, and as you take that first step, where the horse is thinking ‘I’m going’, then you collect them and bring that energy back.”

The final centreline is the third time passage and piaffe appear in the test, and by this point the horse is likely getting tired!

“Something I don’t like seeing is that, after the final extended trot (movement 28), people use that extended trot to produce the passage. It’s collected trot around the corner to the centreline, and then at D passage. So there’s got to be a clear transition for the judges. When you get to D, you’ve got to go from trot — which is a very circular and smooth movement — to passage, which has a little hesitation in the movement. Passage is like a car with a square wheel and trot is like a car with a circular wheel.

“The horses always think early on in their Grand Prix career that it’s halt at X, because they’re tired. You’ve got to make sure your horse is fit, because that last centreline is the ruination of many a horse,” continues Roger.

“Don’t practise the passage centreline to the halt at home, because I can guarantee you, when you start passaging in the test, after X your horse will be wanting to halt. At home, I passage down the centreline and track either left or right. In the test, just keep on looking at the end of the arena, pretending that you’re going to turn the corner in passage, and then as you get to G you halt.

Roger notes that the final centreline is not just difficult for horses because they are tired; many also find it tough mentally: “For some reason a lot of horses feel insecure and panic about the centreline, so be careful and don’t pressure your horse… and especially don’t pressure the transition to piaffe.” Feeding this insecurity can be the anticipation of crowds clapping, which becomes a factor once you’re competing at the highest level; more on that later!

When it comes to the piaffe specifically, Roger explains that in each case it’s got to be the right number of steps (12 to 15): “You have to count them; you will lose a lot of marks if you don’t do enough steps…. and you certainly don’t gain any marks by doing more. There is a set number, as it shows the rider is in control.

“It’s quite hard to do 15 good steps of piaffe, however, by the time the horse gets to Grand Prix and has learnt it, if you can do seven steps like in the Medium Tour, with balance and strength and confidence, you can always do 15. The important thing is to get their balance; make certain that the half-halt before you come into the piaffe from the passage really engages the horse to get the hind legs under so that they have the ability to sit on their hind legs and lift the front legs off the ground. Too often, you’ll see the hind legs higher than the front legs, and that’s just wrong. The front legs should always be higher.

“To get a good mark for piaffe, in Grand Prix, it’s also got to be on the spot. It shouldn’t travel forward like it can in Medium Tour. You need to come in and make it clear where your piaffe begins and ends.”

2. Make a good start… on the left canter lead

“Enter in canter on the correct leg; the Grand Prix track is to the left (movement 2 tracks left at C), so I prefer cantering in on the left leg,” says Roger. As always, you need to execute a square and well-maintained halt from canter, with the last step being a forward walk step into the halt.

“It’s very important to make certain that the halt remains motionless. When you watch a test with live scoring, you will see that if you get a bad mark for the entry and start on 40%…. trying to climb up from that is really, really difficult. So to start with an eight and start on 80%, it’s a good way to begin.”

“The most common mistake
is to see irregular strides.”

3. Ride accurate and symmetrical half-passes

Both the trot half-pass (movement 3 and 4) and canter half-pass (movement 22) are coefficient movements, so they carry weight in terms of marks.

“The trot half-pass right, followed by the half-pass left, is a really big movement. The most common mistake is to see irregular strides,” explains Roger. “The regularity and the continuity of the trot steps are really important. The degree of cadence you have in the collected trot must remain throughout the two half-passes, and the change of bend and flexion at B are very important.

“You go half-pass right, straightening as you get to the long side — and you want to be a little before the marker, so you’ve got time to straighten and put the horse in shoulder-fore left, and then begin the half-pass left. If you ride straight to B, by the time you get the change of flexion and bending done, you’ll be past B and the next angle will be too steep.”

Roger also notes that you need to visualise the actual line you ride the half-pass on. “You must visualise an imaginary line from K to B (for the first half-pass). When you look across that line, you do not at any stage allow your horse’s front feet to step forward — in other words on the ‘C side’ of that line — if you want to keep a constant angle and get to the marker at the right place. Often when riders are heading towards the marker, they think they’re not going to get there and want to drive more forward; you have got to do the opposite and actually collect a whole lot more. So those lines that you visualise are very important.”

When it comes the canter half-pass, the dreaded zigzag, Roger explains that judges look for the symmetry, the equality of the bend and flexion, and the same amount of sideways either side of the centreline: “It’s not easy!”

Riding the correct number of strides (three strides left, six strides to the right, six strides to the left, six strides to the right, three strides to the left) is crucial. “You start with three strides to the left, which means it’s one, two, change. The number of people that do four strides or five strides is incredible, and the judges never seem to worry about it… but one day they will! So you must come to the centreline and go only three strides to the left; on the second stride, you need to straighten and then the third stride is the change with the new flexion and bend. You then go six strides to the right, on the fifth stride you need to straighten and start the positioning to the new direction with the shoulders leading, still moving a little in the half-pass direction, so the balance is ready for the change and to begin the next six strides.

“In terms of symmetry; if you go three metres to the left in the first three strides, then you need to go three metres to the centreline and three metres to the other side before the next change, repeated for each half-pass.”

Roger also explains that if you finish the half-pass early and do the three strides to the centreline, you don’t have to make the flying change on that third stride — you can canter down the centreline, position and make your change at G.

4. The rein-back to trot must be a direct transition

For the halt and rein-back five steps, Roger explains that it should be clearly to a square, well-maintained halt, followed by five clear steps back and then a very clear transition from the rein-back to the trot.

“It shouldn’t be rein-back, and then walking forward pushing the horse onto the forehand, and then trotting… it must be rein-back and then uphill in collected strides with the front legs up and the hind legs engaged into the trot. So you must practise how to make sure that the horse is very sharp to go from the rein-back to the trot.”

5. The extended walk needs to be relaxed and the collected walk correctly shortened

The walk movements (movement 11 and 12) are both coefficients, so it’s important to ride them well — which is often easier said than done.

“With the extended walk, make that transition as you turn onto the diagonal line, so you passage right up to P. In the extended walk, judges want to see a relaxed horse, with maximum push and extension, without hurrying and breaking into the trot. They want to see a lengthening of the neck and a relaxation, especially the look in the horse’s eye of contentment, and an ability to absorb that movement.

“The transition to collected walk should be very clear. Collected walk isn’t merely slow; collected walk is a very short and heightened walk step with no overtrack. If a horse goes from extended walk, and then just slows the walk down, there’s too much overtrack for collected walk and you won’t get a good mark.”

6. Canter to passage requires practice

The passage to canter transition (movement 18) is a new addition at Grand Prix level, and while it might sound like an easy movement, as Roger explains, it’s anything but: “It’s very hard because of the increased cadence in the passage; you need to practise passage to canter a lot.

“In the beginning, what a lot of people do is they actually fudge it a bit by going passage, relax to the trot for a step or two, and then canter. But for big marks, it should be clearly passage with cadence, straight to the canter.”

“Riding the correct number
of strides… is crucial.”

7. In the tempis, you need to ride accurate and symmetrical lines… as well as great changes!

When it comes to the tempi changes, you need to not only count the correct number of changes, but also ride an accurate and symmetrical line. In addition, straightness and steadiness of the changes are important, and there should be no late changes behind… so there is a lot to think about for these movements!

“Number one, come around the corner and set up the line,” begins Roger. “Like Carl Hester says, whenever you ride a diagonal of tempi changes, don’t ride to the marker, but look at the corner and ride at the corner… and you’ll end up at the marker. It’s a very interesting comment, and very true — often riders finish the tempis down the arena from the marker, for example, in the case of the two-tempis where they should ride to H, they end up at S. Depending on the judges, that is an error of course.

Roger also notes that symmetry is important: “Tempi changes should be symmetrical in the middle of the diagonal line, starting and finishing the same number of strides out from the corners.”

Roger claims the one-tempi changes to be his “most un-favourite movement”, and they carry a coefficient. “The one-tempis should show straightness, uphill, and not fading, not getting shorter and shorter with each stride, and not getting bigger and bigger either. Every stride should stay in the same tempo. You should also make certain you stop at 15. The way I finished it is for the last one, when the horse makes the last change to the left, I put my leg for half-pass left without riding half-pass left…. and that’s just a way of finishing at the right time.”

So is it difficult stepping up from nine one-tempi changes in the Medium Tour tests, to 15 in the Grand Prix? As Roger explains, “if you can do seven ones with ease, you can do 70 ones. Once they get in the rhythm and they know that skip, skip, skip, and they’re confident, doing 15 isn’t that difficult. However, what is difficult is making sure that they do 15… and not 17 or 13!”

8. Ride uphill and expressive pirouettes

The canter pirouette sequence spans three movements, with two of those being allocated coefficient marks.

“Use the corners to your advantage to get the horse on your aids and sitting, then come down the centreline, and make a clear transition, maybe three steps, into canter almost on the spot… or on the spot is better. It’s always important to think that you can keep the horse a little bit deeper as you’re coming into the pirouette. Don’t let the horse get its neck up at you, or get hollow, because then you can’t bring the shoulders up. You must keep the horse really ‘over the back’,” says Roger.

“You then turn in six to eight strides, and finish in shoulder-fore heading down the centreline. The flying change at X is worth 10 marks. As it’s coming straight at the judges, you must make certain it’s straight and the front legs are really uphill and expressive. So you get out of the pirouette and you’re going to ride forward to collect for that flying change to get a good mark. Then you stay forward, before again collecting for three strides, and then the pirouette to the left in six to eight steps,” concludes Roger.

9. Don’t forget about the canter to trot transition

Canter to trot is a transition every horse has ridden from day one, so at Grand Prix it should be second nature. However, as Roger explains, it does disappear from some of the higher level tests and its reintroduction at Grand Prix (movement 27) can cause some unexpected issues!

“The transition is worth 10 marks. You don’t bother practising canter to trot, but there’s no canter-trot in those higher tests at all, and all of a sudden it’s in Grand Prix again. It’s a really basic transition, but when you’re in canter you’re always collecting for the pirouettes, or for flying changes, or to walk or halt… so that canter to trot transition isn’t easy. You need to practise it a lot, and it’s a transition that I practise a lot at that marker at M, so they are waiting for it. Don’t surprise them with it!”

“They are ready for that burst of applause.”

10. Get used to clapping!

One of the great things about Grand Prix level is that you’re more likely to start having an audience, which is great fun! However, with an audience comes new issues to navigate — such as clapping and even cheering at that final halt.

“In modern dressage people clap like crazy when you halt if you’ve done a good test, or if your friends are there. So you’ve got to make certain you have your horse’s attention in that halt. Otherwise, with the clapping they can often start moving about and you’ll lose marks, which is a real shame.

“Personally, I think that it should go back to the way it used to be when I was much younger; you didn’t clap horses in a dressage arena until they left at A,” says Roger. “In more recent times it’s why the sensitive and expressive horses like Salinero (with whom Anky van Grunsven partnered to three Olympic Games, taking individual gold in 2004, individual gold and team silver in 2008, and team bronze in 2012) show tension waiting for the clapping at the end of the test at big competitions.

“They never get tense in the first halt, and they never get tense in the halt for the rein-back… but you can see that as they passage down the centreline to the halt, they are ready for that burst of applause, and they spin around or leap and bound. And it’s just normal behaviour in that situation; you can’t change it, as people clap at the end of the test, that’s all there is to it. So you’ve got to practise keeping your horse on your aids and as motionless as can be!” EQ

View the Grand Prix test here.

Riding the Preliminary, Novice, Elementary, Medium, Advanced, Small Tour or Medium Tour tests? Roger has covered these in our previous issues:

10 Tips for Riding the Preliminary Tests

10 Tips for Riding the Novice Tests

10 Tips for Riding the Elementary Tests

10 Tips for Riding the Medium Tests

10 Tips for Riding the Advanced Tests

10 Tips for Riding the Prix St Georges Test

10 Tips for Riding the Medium Tour Tests

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