You could call her the queen of dressage, but if you have had the privilege to sit in on a masterclass or have read any articles about Charlotte Dujardin, you know she has worked bloody hard to get where she is today. She deserves every success.
This is why without hesitation I jumped out of bed at 3am to make my way to the airport to see what would be THE masterclass for 2017. I loaded myself up with coffee eager to catch that early morning flight to Brisbane.
Once I arrived at the Brisbane CDI patiently waiting in line for the gates to open with many like minded ladies, wondering what spoils of knowledge we will all walk away with at the end of the day. As I was standing in line the first thought that crossed my mind was ‘have I really been awake for this long, I hope to god I don’t look as bad as I feel!’. But as I had the courage to look around with my sunglasses on, it was the amazement of the amount of people who came out to see Charlotte. I mean she is the golden girl of dressage, she is number one in the world. It’s crazy to think that person, that figure I follow religiously on social media I’m going to see in the flesh.
Us crazy dressage fans, us strong Charlotte supporters couldn’t be more thankful for the fantastic opportunity from Dressage Queensland and Brisbane CDI to invite Charlotte back out to Australia to show this part of the country what her training system and frankly really what dressage is really all about.
I must admit I was a little envious on how beautifully turned out all the horses and riders were, this is all thanks to Ridersxoxo, there really isn’t a substitute for quality. I was fortunate to have window shop around at their trade stand and unfortunately for my bank account, I have a very large wish list! A very large KEP Helmet wish list actually..
The morning commenced with two beautiful young horses both four-year olds. Charlotte explains her training with the young horses, not ‘sitting’ on their backs keeping the rising trot. The horse isn’t strong enough to carry the weight of the rider yet. It’s the trainability of the horse that you need to look for when purchasing a horse, it is so important, you need to find a horse that is willing to work with you! Once aspect that Charlotte loves about dressage is there isn’t a “type” of horse that can-do dressage, it is for all horses which are all different shapes and sizes and that’s the joy of it. It’s the training system that makes the horse amazing.
It is interesting to hear that Charlotte and her team don’t aim for their horses to compete in the young horse classes, you need to build their confidence and make the arena a positive experience for them to go out and work in. She mentioned that herself and Carl take their young horses out to clinics and demonstrations for experience in different atmospheres as they do not want to over compete at this stage.
At this age keeping the training sessions nice and short 20 minutes is enough, but we must remember the walk is not just a break, you must keep training the walk. After all it is worth double marks in a test. Hacking a horse out is a great way to develop the walk, making them walk out up hills and helps mixing up their training.
Building a solid foundation at this stage of the horses training is most important, you need to have a house with good strong foundations otherwise it will tumble down. Keeping everything simple for the horse, after all they don’t understand what you are asking. Making all your aids and transitions very clear and positive. When you need to make a correction, must be quick. Thinking one step ahead. Make that correction and let go again.
Charlotte makes a valuable point that you don’t ride the young horse backwards, they have their whole life ahead of them to collect, it is important to develop the willingness to work forward.
Next in the arena we see the next level up into the Elementary/Medium stages, first Charlotte covers the importance of leg yielding. It is the first lateral movement we teach, we must remember no bend. Just sight flexion moving the horse off your inside leg, it is important we don’t lose the horse through the outside shoulder by having too much flexion.
Charlotte explains how beneficial leg yielding is at the canter, most of her canter work is leg yielding rather than working in half pass. It helps keep the horse supple through their whole body. The best way to start training the leg yield is on the diagonal line, a few steps then go into leg yield.
It is completely acceptable to ride your lateral movements in rising trot at the start of your sessions. Next, Charlotte works through exercises with shoulder in and travers. What we must remember as riders that it is shoulder-in not hindquarters out! It was great to see transitions ridden within the movements. Ride the smaller trot in shoulder-in then transition into riding a more forward trot.
This could quite possibly be my favourite quote of the day “If it’s not easy, work on it, make it easy”.
My top learning tips from Charlotte from the young horse to the Elementary/Medium Horse:
When finding a horse, train ability is the most important
Transitions, transitions and more transitions!
Dressage is for any horse, any shape or size
Shoulder in not hinds out
Train the walk
The spectators on the day were under strict instruction there was to be NO photographs of the riders or of the Masterclass. Photos are before the event commenced.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the Charlotte Dujardin Masterclass 🙂
Happy training !