LET THE TRAINING BEGIN
Gary’s approach is warm and welcoming. It’s friendly and approachable. Having worked with the riders over the last few days, the work is a consolidation of what they have been doing, focused on achieving a supple, pliable horse and delivering a simple, easy system for riders to take home with them.
For us spectators, it’s the first time many of us are seeing Gary work with each of the horses and it’s inspiring to see them soften and improve.
Enter Freya and Saffi
Freya is our first rider with her mare Saffi. To make it a super horse-friendly atmosphere, the other two riders, Abbie and Sharen, are also in the arena with their horses, patiently awaiting their turn. This is a subtle but clever approach, as many of the riders and horses have never been in this atmosphere and it gives them time to get used to the crowd and to build confidence.
Freya is a junior rider and has only just turned her attention to the dressage arena with her Warmblood Thoroughbred cross. There’s a lot to admire about this combination and the future looks bright. The work is centred on building a better connection to the bridle and teaching Saffi to soften and accept the contact.
Gary starts with the halt and asks Freya to gently take her nose to the outside, until she yields to the contact and softens. Then it’s a release and a pat. It’s clear and gentle, and then a repeat on the other side. It’s the same system in the walk, and finally into the trot. Gary is keen to explain that we do the trot work in “bite-sized pieces and we are training her a bit at a time, adding layer upon layer”.
It’s great to see Saffi begin to change the way she thinks about the contact and to see the moments when she starts to transform and stretch over her topline.
How does Freya think the session went?
“It was really good and I’m really happy with how she went. She wasn’t affected by the crowd at all and it was really positive. I’m very excited to be able to put everything I’ve learnt into practice,” she says.
Next up is Abbie and Wendy
It’s clear that Abbie is a very capable rider and watching her ride Wendy is like reading the beginning of a great novel, where you just know the story is going to be a good one.
Gary worked on the flexion to the outside to get control of the shoulders. “You need to ride the horse you have today,” he says. “If you are going to train a horse to Grand Prix they have to learn how to deal with pressure. There is friendly pressure, good pressure and bad pressure. We show them some pressure, wait for them to soften, and then we release the pressure. We go there and then bring it back. We give them exposure to the pressure.”
Wendy is impressive and it’s not long before she is showing us some super soft and supple work. This was a big atmosphere for a young horse, but Wendy worked calmly through the exercises and listened to her rider.