Dressage Today OnDemand: Carl Hester

Sharing my experience as I explore Dressage Today OnDemand!

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I wish I could start off this post by telling you about my experience auditing or riding with Carl Hester, but I can’t. Maybe someday he’ll travel close enough to my area for me to experience him in person. I think he would be a blast and I would probably giggle at his accent while trying to absorb every single possible thing he was saying.

I recently read The Girl on The Dancing Horse and enjoyed Charlotte’s story, which included working for Carl and his mentorship throughout her career. She depicted her working student position at his stable as one of hard work with long days and demanding attention to detail. However, her hard work paid off and she was awarded the opportunity to get a ride on Valegro. What a partnership that was!

Both Charlotte and Carl are riders I admire as they create harmonious partnerships with their horses. I have no aspirations to be in the Olympics but I do strive to perfect my position, continue to grow my partnership with Josie, and ride the movements in a Grand Prix test. One of the ways I can work towards these goals is to continue my dressage education through auditing. Watching clinics with trainers and riders that resemble my style of training is a great way to keep my knowledge toolbox growing.

Videos OnDemand

The videos I watched were from the 2014 Dressage Convention featuring Carl Hester and Richard Davidson. There were 3 videos in the “Basics That Really Work” series and 4 videos in the “Dressage Is A Numbers Game” series.

Basics That Really Work with Carl Hester and Richard Davison

The first video I watched was of Carl coaching a rider on her 9-year-old dutch horse by Contango that had done 3 Grand Prix tests. He was honest when noting that the horse’s first test was a disaster but improved over the next two tests with scores in the mid-high sixties. He explained that the next step for a horse at this stage was to work on strength and quality in the movements. He emphasized that it was not in the horse’s best physical interest to train the Grand Prix movements all the time. Focus on the basics.

They started off working on straightness down centerline as many movements happen here. Once Carl was satisfied with their straightness, they moved on to canter/trot transitions on a circle. What I find so fascinating is that these are things Josie and I work on in our lessons. Obviously, the balance is much different for us versus a Grand Prix horse, but through these continuous strength-building and suppling exercises, the horse is able to move up to the highest levels of collection and self-carriage. Grand Prix here we come!

Description from Dressage Today OnDemand
“Carl Hester introduces the two nine year old GP horses for this session, as well as the fact he will ride NipTuck, his 2014 World Games partner, offering a great diversity of horses to watch.  Carl shows the importance of straightness with many movements that are performed on the centerline. The first horse starts and Carl talks about how they work on straightness even at this level by using shoulder in and leg yield on the centerline.  They show quality canter trot transitions that flow, and then add a bit more power and swing to them.  Carl describes how a trot halt can be forward despite it be a stopping movement.”

Basics That Really Work with Carl Hester and Richard Davison

I really enjoyed the video below that showed Carl riding Barney and being coached by Richard. Their comradery was fun but I was in it to watch Carl school his horse. Test riding is the result of the homework done to get there. I have started to enjoy showing, but that’s only to get feedback. I want to see the steps to get the magic that happens in the tests.

Description from Dressage Today OnDemand
“Carl talks about the fact he rides without spurs or a whip even though he has to use them in competition and about how he has to work him in competition week.  He has to be very precise in the use of his leg while paying attention to Barney’s relaxation.  He does half pass in the canter while being able to give and retake.  Carl works on regularity which is quite difficult with such a reactive horse. He demonstrates walk piaffe transitions while explaining how he does this.”

Dressage Is A Numbers Game, how to get every point you can with Carl Hester and Richard Davison

This was an interesting video series. Two very different horses were to be coached by Carl and Richard. One was a sensible and solid gelding while the other was overwhelmed with the crowd and was very spooky. This is one of those videos in the series.

Description from Dressage Today OnDemand
“Carl now works with his rider on suspension in the trot.  He first looks at his medium trot and his ability to lengthen his trot.  They do three steps of medium and then back without restricting with the hand.  They make sure that he moves forward from the whip to an allowing hand, and then capture that energy in front for more collection.  They demonstrate the steps for building a passage.  He asks her to go to rising trot when they ask for more collection.  He has her ride the trot she would ride in a test, but when they go to shoulder in he goes more on his forehand.  Carl has her ride a diagonal to help with the shoulder falling out.  When he shows he’s tired by lowering his poll and self carriage, so they allow him to trot on a long rein with suppleness.”

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Happy riding!

Sara

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