Tag Archives: horseriding

What Not to say to your Coach


PUPIL: Can you ride my horse for me next week? There is a cold front coming and I don’t like getting out of bed in the early morning when it’s very cold.

COACH: Sure, I don’t feel the cold at all and embrace sitting on a horse that’s greatest wish is to see me lying on the ground.

PUPIL: I can’t believe that you are going away next weekend, I told you I was going to a show.

COACH: This is the only time that I have ever missed one of your shows and you seem to forget everything that I have ever taught you the minute that you ride into the arena so there is really no point in being there.

PUPIL: I watched the Rio Olympic Eventing on TV and I really don’t think the track looked very big, I could definitely have done some of the jumps.

COACH: Considering that you refuse to trot over a small branch that has fallen across the bridle trail, I think there is more chance of hell freezing over.

PUPIL: So I saw that Baron Von Sprinkaulhasen ( a top coach from Europe ) is out here coaching next month, I have booked 6 lessons with him and will not be able to have any lessons with you next month as money is going to be tight.

COACH: Fantastic news, I have never heard of the person and only because they have a name that sounds vaguely European are you booking so many lessons with them.

PUPIL: During my clinic with Baron Von Sprinkaulhasen last month he showed me a video of a stallion that he has been competing on the European circuit. It has Olympic bloodlines and he really feels that it is the perfect horse for me. Can you ride my horse next week while I go overseas to try the stallion ?

COACH: No problem at all but please can you settle your account with me that has now been outstanding for three months.

PUPIL: I am exhausted after all the practice we have been putting in for the Derby.

COACH: The Grooms Handler class does not count as riding at the Derby.

PUPIL: I know that you are in hospital having reconstructive surgery on your nose but I really need a lesson tomorrow morning.

COACH: No problem, just give me a few hours to get over the aesthetic.

PUPIL: Baron Von Sprinkaulhasen thinks that I should be in a light seat when I am cantering.

COACH: Considering that your horse runs away with you on a regular basis, I think you are asking for trouble.

PUPIL: I could not be happier about winning that class.

COACH: You were the only one in the class.

PUPIL: I have a cash flow problem this month so I can’t pay you but will try next month.

COACH: I suppose the helicopter that you arrived in for the lesson is your way of cutting costs?

PUPIL: You are so lucky to work outdoors with animals, it must be so rewarding.

COACH: Yes, being outdoors in all weather and never knowing what sort of salary one is going to earn is certainly a rewarding experience.

PUPIL: Can you ride my horse for me on Saturday morning, I like to have a lie in during the weekend because I have to get up early during the week to get to the stables by 8 am.

COACH: It would be such a pleasure, who needs a lie in? Especially when your 8am lesson is my third one of the morning.

PUPIL: I did not recognise you without a hat on, you look so different!

COACH: Yes, underneath the hat and sunglasses lurks a normal person that is not always covered in dust and suffering from sinusitis.

PUPIL: I have decided to move yards at the end of the month, the new yard has a horse walker, indoor arena and a spa. It is R1750 more expensive than where I am now but I think it’s worth it, and by the way they do not allow outside coaches so I am going to have lessons with the in-house coach there, I am sure you understand don’t you ?

COACH:  I have just put 5 years of my life getting you and your horse to jump an 80 cm track and am actually quite fond of the horse but it’s really no problem at all.

PUPIL: How do I get my horse to prance on the spot, you know when it sort of goes up and down? Like at the Olympics.

COACH: Considering you can barely trot a 20m circle with your horse in a frame, I can safely say we are light years away from teaching it to piaffe.

PUPIL: My horse is so talented and loves me so much, I have not ridden for two weeks and look at how well he is going.

COACH: Yes, it is all down to the horse loving you and me riding it for two solid weeks (while you were in Europe trying horses) has nothing to do with its way of going at all.

PUPIL: Do I have my spurs on the right way round?

COACH: Yes, and you would not need spurs if you actually started to use your leg a bit.

PUPIL: I just feel that I should look at some horses overseas, we have nothing in this country that is really good enough to go to the top.

COACH: And you feel that you are capable of riding a horse that is considered world class?

PUPIL: Guess what? I went to an auction this weekend and bought the most amazing horse.

COACH: Great news, that horse was being ridden at the auction by one of the best riders around and even he was battling a bit with it. The reason you only paid R150 000 is because it has a reputation longer than my arm and is known at home by the grooms as MUGABE because it destroys everything in its path. I will look forward to riding it for you after is face plants you into a fence.

PUPIL: Thank you so much for all that you do for my horse and I, I don’t know where I would be without you.

COACH: It is such a pleasure, I do this job because I love it and every so often I meet someone who really appreciates and values my opinion.


Into Elementary – It’s not what Sherlock had in mind! ~ Brigitte Billings

If you’ve been stuck in Novice for a decade, you might be inclined to ask why they call it Elementary when it seems so hard to graduate to this level. It’s possibly because unless you’ve established the basics in Novice, the Elementary tests may seem filled with intimidating new work. But the truth is all of these movements have their foundations in your earliest training. Your horse’s strength, balance and response to your aids should result in a simple transition to this more demanding work.

 Up a notch

One of the first things you’ll notice is that things start to move a bit faster – where you may have had a full length of arena to lengthen a canter, now you’ll be expected to execute two or three movements in the same space. This will characterise your rise through the grades – each new level puts greater emphasis on the degree of communication and response to the aids; it’s the ultimate test of how well you and your horse can ‘speak’ to each other.

Interestingly, even if you reach the highest levels of dressage, it will still be the basics that underpin the most advanced movements. And if you don’t believe this, watch a Grand Prix test and see how much attention is paid to a simple rein-back.

The tests

As in Novice, there are seven Elementary tests – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 with a Freestyle and you now have the option of using a snaffle or a simple double bridle. Whip and spurs if required. Note, it is only from Elementary that rules dictate use of a dressage saddle, so you may have been performing quite happily in a GP until now. You’ll probably appreciate it, since now you’ll be riding your tests in sitting trot!

Again, judges will be paying attention to your horse’s rhythm, straightness and balance, along with cadence, elasticity, suppleness and engagement. While your horse’s self-carriage was tested in the ‘stretchy’ trot in Novice, in Elementary you’ll test it by giving the rein on a 20m circle in the canter.

The work you introduced in Novice will now be developed further. The subtle counter canter you rode on the curve through X will now be ridden on a 20m circle followed by a simple change of leg, testing your horse’s suppleness and obedience to the canter aid. You’ll also start to ride 10m canter half circles – the next step in your journey to the canter pirouette and a true test of your horse’s strength and balance. You’ll help him in his understanding of the concept when you start working on the turn on the haunches, which, along with the rein-back will develop his ability to collect and activate his hind leg. This will be useful as you start to ride collected gaits.

 Can your horse cope?

If you’re serious about keeping your equine athlete happy and working well – and let’s face it who isn’t – you’ll have noticed that it’s not enough to simply practice your flatwork every day. Your horse may benefit from cross-training to help build fitness and develop muscle power – hacking out, hill work and pole work can all help. Dressage may seem sedate but it actually requires incredible levels of strength and stamina.

Also, depending on your horse’s age and conformation, you may need to enlist the help of various specialists to keep him strong and sound. Farriers, vets, physios and other equine body workers can all play a role as you begin to learn that successful competing sometimes requires a team effort. As you become more finely attuned to how your horse’s body moves, you’ll realise that there are times that he could be performing more happily. Consider your own discomfort if you were attempting lateral work with a pinched nerve or misaligned spine – sometimes just the discomfort of simple muscle strain can cause resistance. Definitely a good reason to call in an expert, and even learn some maintenance skills yourself. Yet another way to bond!

Ready to upgrade?

You will advance through the grades by accumulating points at shows. From Novice to Elementary Medium, points are accumulated in the following way:

55% to 59% – 1 point

60% to 64% – 2 points

65% to 69% – 3 points

70% to 74% – 4 points

75% and above – 5 points

Your horse will be required to attain a minimum of 10 points and a maximum of 100 points to move up – this means that you can spend a little longer in a grade if you’d like more time to establish your work at that level.

 Next month we’ll look at the Elementary-Medium classes.

Want to try it out? Recreational membership is free! Visit www.dressagesa.com for contact information.