Carl Hester joined an elite band of equestrian names when he was presented with the prestigious British Horse Society Queen’s Award for Equestrianism from Her Majesty The Queen at Royal Windsor Horse Show on Saturday (16 May).
The Award, which is made on the recommendation of the Trustees of The British Horse Society, is ‘For Outstanding Services to Equestrianism’.
As the most successful British dressage rider in history, Carl’s achievements speak for themselves. However, his contribution to the sport, and to equestrianism as a whole, goes far deeper than his many titles and medals.
Carl is a wonderful ambassador for horse sport, bringing an enthusiasm and accessibility to dressage that has undoubtedly helped to widen its appeal. He continues to promote the very best standards of welfare, horse care and training and, above all else, helps an ever-increasing audience to appreciate the joy that horses bring.
Quite simply, British dressage would not have enjoyed the same level of success on the international stage without Carl’s expertise, knowledge and guidance. But most of all, it is his generous nature that the panel felt marked him out as an exceptional sportsman and a most deserving recipient of the Queen’s Award.
On receiving his award, Carl said: “Working with horses is my life. It is an amazing privilege to receive this recognition for doing something I love… and to receive this award from The Queen is incredibly special.”
The Chairman of The British Horse Society, Claire Aldridge, accompanied Carl to the presentation. Commenting on the award she said: “We are delighted to be able to bestow this honour to Carl on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen. There could be no greater recipient for this award than Carl, who has dedicated so much of his life to his sport. Not only has he made his country so proud with his own achievements, but he has so generously put such passion into developing the success of others – all the time keeping the welfare of the horse at heart.”
Carl was nominated for the award by The British Horse Society and British Dressage and was unanimously voted by the selection panel and BHS Trustees as the worthy winner. Other dressage recipents include Jane Goldsmith, Stephen Clarke and Jennie Loriston Clarke.
‘A Classical Schooling Guide’ is exactly what the title suggests, a guide. Michael J. Stevens has written a book for both the novice and more advanced riders to refer to time and time again. It is also a good book to introduce riders to the principles of classical riding. When it comes to classical, I always feel people think it is complicated and unachievable for the stereotypical everyday rider. It’s not, it’s quite the opposite. The beauty of classical riding is that it can be achieved by anyone with the right teaching, knowledge and skill. Here, Stevens generously shares with us his own experiences and collection of information he has gained throughout his years of riding.
Stevens gives confidence that any horse has the potential to be versatile, easy to ride and well skilled with the correct training. He states “The principles of good riding can be applied to any horse, and there is pleasure to be had trying to bring out the best in any individual.” He goes on to say that it is not always necessary to buy an expensive horse to realise your dreams and “it is not necessary to spend a fortune if you want to improve your riding skills, further your knowledge and have a good horse to ride.”
‘A Classical Schooling Guide’ is a book that simply and clearly covers tried and trusted means of educating horses to become versatile and easy to ride. The book begins first with the rider, as “being able to ride is only the first requirement”, briefly discussing the language and history of riding before progressing on to the rider’s position. I like how he describes the classical, 3 point seat in a straight forward manner so even the most novices of riders would gain from his words. The author refers to the Masters, such as Baucher to confirm his writings, “… Baucher tells us that a rider is well seated when every part of his body balances on the part directly below it… the vertical seat is the one to aspire to.”
The book then moves on to the schooling of the horse, discussing contact with detailed work about curbs and diagrams to refer to before leading onto laying the foundation of the horse’s training. Stevens is straight to the point enabling us to improve our understanding of training objectives and how to achieve them. He also helps us to know which exercises will gymnastically benefit the horse and for which purpose and how to overcome inevitable difficulties. This is where the book is able to come into its own as a guide and one that I, or anyone, should feel are able to pick up and refer to whenever they need to.
Drawings accompany the author’s writing about the curb bit, which is a beneficial aid and also for all the exercises detailed. My only quibble, being one who prefers to read and visualise, I would like to see more illustrations concerning the rider’s position and when detailing flexion and bend. Saying this, the author writes in such a way that it is not necessarily needed; it is just my personal preference.
All in all, ‘A Classical Schooling Guide’ is a well written book detailing an author’s experience and knowledge of classical riding. It is a book that anyone with a love for horses will gain something from, enjoy, a great addition that will be added to my book collection to refer to time and again.
The author's objective is to explain how to school the horse from the ground before attempting to ride, starting with fundamental techniques and providing progressive exercises to work through.
She then goes onto explain that she has not gone into great detail on the equipment, concentrating rather on the use and application of the equipment for groundwork.
The book is nicely illustrated with photographs and offers brief explanations following a straightforward content. The layout of the book is very pleasant and easy to read. I particularly liked the common problems and solutions at the end of each chapter also the examples of exercises to try.
The book impresses upon the reader the importance of groundwork and is persuasive in this point. For those new to this discipline, it could offer a straightforward introduction, although it would be necessary to be familiar with the equipment if required to do so.
For those with more experience it may encourage the use and importance of working from the ground and in this case would be a valuable refresher to knowledge already acquired. Overall it sets out a structure to groundwork which will benefit many readers.
Susan Monaghue, Northumberland
I always think the hallmark of a good yard is the attention paid to health - not just general cleanliness and care of the horses - but matters like teeth, feet and backs etc.
Having only recently arrived in East Anglia from Scotland with Prazer my 19 year old stalliion, one of the most pressing things was to get his back checked over. Travelling is not just mentally wearing for some horses - Prazer happens to be pretty laid back about it - but physically it can take its toll. This applies in particular to long journeys. There is nothing natural about having a horses tied up - basically in one position over several hours duration - with all the stops and starts of motorways and minor roads in between.
So it was, I was more than happy to discover that Gerda Warner who runs Water Farm is of the same opinion as me, and whilst all ready to hunt around for my own back person - the one in Scotland being too far to call! - I was mightily relieved when she told me her own practitioner was due in very shortly. That person was well worth waiting for.
It is always an added bonus when the qualified equine chiropractor (on this occasion, I have been to horse physios before as well) also turned out to be a vet. Being adept in two disciplines has to be a bonus and so it proved to be. I was also impressed that for the first time ever, this highly proficient gentleman had brought his own portable ladder, and proceeded to treat Prazer and the other horses from above, as well as simply side on, behind and in front.
There was a considerable amount of manipulation, but I was very pleased when I was told Prazer has one of the most supple backs he had ever come across in the older horse.... 'I've seen 7 year olds stiffer than him'. I was informed there were no constrictions there, but there was an issue with the right side of his pelvis - probably from the lorry - which would explain why I had noticed a certain awkwardness in canter left recently.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to part with money to someone who just 'does backs' but who has no qualifications whatsoever. Horsey folk can be incredibly gullible when parting with cash to someone who 'everyone on the yard' uses and swears by. I made that mistake long ago with a particular young stallion that had arrived over from France, and who never recovered from some quite innocent manipulations. Whatever it was they did, it turned out to be highly damaging and for days one could not go near his poll.
Prazer is going beautifully after his appointment and I can only say - if in doubt - perhaps go with your gut feeling and wait for someone in whom you have 100 per cent confidence. It's your horse, and often only you know best and 99 per cent may not be good enough.
I must admit I got quite excited when asked to do a book review for the CRC. The book chosen was The Riding Doctor by Beth Glosten MD. As with any book on riding you hope to pick up on a few tips that will help you progress and improve your own riding and briefly after flicking through the pages I knew I wasn't going to be disappointed.
The author describes her own experience to which many riders I'm sure can relate. After taking a break from riding to pursue a medical career, she found that in middle age when she finally returned to the saddle, riding was much more of a challenge. Gone was the confidence and suppleness she took for granted in her teens, instead replaced with a feeling of awkwardness, tension and back ache. In her frustration she decided to turn to her medical knowledge to look at the anatomy and the workings of the human body so she could evaluate common postural and muscle imbalances and the challenges that we are faced with on horseback. She came to the conclusion that over 90% of the riders she assessed had postural issues. Some minor and an awareness was all that was required to remedy, but some had caused compensatory tension and dysfunction that could eventually contribute to harmful and misalignment of the spine and early wear and tear of the joints if not addressed. All of which would in turn preclude effective riding and add to health problems in the horse too by disrupting his balance and movement.
Throughout the book there are examples of real rider challenges to help us become more aware of how we use our bodies and how it affects the horse. She promotes good posture on and off the horse and to ride mostly from the centre (core) of our bodies with quiet rein and leg aids.
The content of the book initially looks quite complex, definitely a reference book rather than an easy read. The detailed diagrams of human anatomy are very useful for those of us who like some visualisation into how our bodies are structured and give a better understanding of how we use and mis-use our bodies when relevant to balance and the giving of the aids. She describes the correct spine alignment and the different habits we can adapt. She describes how supple joints are essential and how we can inadvertently use the legs and arms to cause tension and stiffness elsewhere in the body. What we do in the saddle isn't always what we think we do and every rider should be aware of their postural faults and reassess regularly.
Good posture is good for back ache and good riding.
As a certified Pilates instructor too , the author recommends various exercises tailored to suit individual problems and is very clear in her instruction that these should be done mindfully to retain a neutral spine.
Good riding comes from fitness combined with body awareness, respect and control.
Personally I like the book very much and feel I have gained helpful information. I also feel it is a book which I needed to read to compliment what I already knew about self awareness. If I had anything negative to say about the book it would be that the diagrams showing correct rider position show the seat too far back in the saddle for my understanding of the classical seat. The correct position in the saddle can make all the difference to good rider balance. This could just be an illustrative error though and in the author’s defence she doesn't really describe the position in the saddle knowing of individual preferences.
I would certainly recommend this book to any serious rider's reference library. It would also be excellent for instructers to help recognise and understand their pupils’ difficulties which are not always easy to correct.
The overall message being that :-
Healthy, balanced riding is not only beautiful but good for our health and our horses too.
We are all made up of the same components but how we arrange them reminds me of a saying by the late comedian Eric Morecombe. In one hilarious episode, when playing the piano, he was stopped by the conductor and told that he was playing all the wrong notes! His reply was :-
" I was playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order!!"
Book Review by Alison Lambert
I have only heard of Nuno Oliveira through various other sources and have always been very taken by his training ideas and theory. Not training with force but with feel is something that is an uncommon sight nowadays. Luckily though, we can still see and learn these lessons through people like Sylvia and Eloise, but it is still mostly an uncommon sight even though it was second nature to the great Masters almost half a century ago.
Having happy horses working with you is far more productive for both parties than forcing the animal to perform under duress and while reading this book I found that this was the undercurrent of the entire book - i.e. happy equals harmonious. By the second page I found myself nodding in agreement to the training ideas and classical statements - “Observe your horse, let him train your eye and feel.”
The book is very sympathetic towards the horse and its behaviour and its individual achievements. Conversely, it relies on the reader to be sensitive enough to recognise the progress of the horse and this subtle moment can sometimes be missed even by the more competent person.
I did find however that the idea of only lunging with the inside side rein only attached was not something I could relate to. I think it very important to activate the horses inside hind leg during lunging, but not at the expense of teaching him to fall out of the outside shoulder due to lack of support on the outside rein. We are always encouraged to support our horses, and I believe the same principle should be applied when lunging too.
I was taught using the well established ‘training scales’ where collection is the last and highest achievement and rhythm and balance are first established and used as a foundation. The same classical ideas can be seen throughout this very enlightening read. Starting slowly and doing it correctly from the beginning saves time later - no matter how easy it is to cut corners and thereby introduce mistakes. I feel this book does make the effort to start with the reader from the very beginning of training right up to riding half pass etc in a very constructive way.
When I teach, I have been told my sessions are like ‘painting by numbers’. By keeping it simple, I found this book imparts information in a similar way, like an easy to follow instruction guide.
Review by Chrysi Warner
A few months ago Sylvia asked me to review a book for the CRC. A daunting task as we are all so passionate about what we do that I am always a little nervous about putting forward an opinion but here goes.
The book in question is “Rider + Horse = 1: How to achieve the fluid dialogue that leads to Harmonious Performance”, by Eckhart Meyners with Hannes Müller & Kerstin Niemann
This book is slightly different in its approach as it focuses on the importance of the combination of horse and rider rather than one or the other. It also recognises the huge part played by the trainer and how, to have success, all three parts must work together.
It is a bold combination of theory and biomechanical expertise pertaining to both the horse and rider, embracing the traditional German training but going further try to explain the things that many very talented riders “feel” but struggle to put into words. Eckhart Meyners has already written books on rider biomechanics and fitness and goes a step further here with the co-authors to try to tie things in together.
The book starts with an explanation of the importance of the rider learning to ride with “function” rather than simply “form” explaining that for a rider to truly enhance their ability they need to do more than just read the books and do as they are told. The rider must learn to open a conversation with the horse and give it a voice as well. It does not go into great detail about how to execute perfect school figures but instead focuses on creating a compliance between horse and rider which makes the set pieces flow.
It is full of exercises for the rider, both mounted and dismounted, to help you learn which movements effect which parts of the body and how to release common rider weak/stiff points (stiff shoulders, sacrum, lumber spine etc) to allow the unspoken conversation between horse and rider to flow more easily. There is a warm-up routine pre riding that makes a lot of sense and (now the weather has improved which makes it a little bit nicer to roll around on the floor) I am going to give it a go.
The book follows closely the Scales of Training, explaining why it is important to do things in a balanced order but more than that, it opens up the structure in a slightly less strict manner, inviting the reader to find their own way without straying too far from the path. It warns about the risks of force and coercion and it very clear about the fact that training of either horse or rider takes time and can’t be rushed.
I very much liked the comments made regarding the trainer. The trainer must train from the perspective of the rider on top, not from the perspective of what they are seeing on the ground as the two can be worlds apart. It is very easy to stand on the ground and see what is wrong but it takes skill and patience to understand what the rider is (or is not) feeling and how to encourage them to develop the correct feelings.
The progressive nature of the book keeps it interesting and informative but it regularly reminds the reader to go back and re-read former passages that relate to the topic of discussion centred in each individual chapter. The photographs and diagrams are also well placed and informative.
It does have a few things in it that are difficult do achieve in the real world, such as the importance of novice riders learning on experienced horses and only experienced riders riding young or novice horses which, much as I agree wholeheartedly that this is the ideal, in reality, it is rarely possible as true school masters are few and far between (at least here in the UK) and there is a definite lack of riders capable of correctly educating the young horse but there is more to like than there is to dislike in my opinion.
I really enjoyed working through this book and there are several things that I have taken out of it that have already helped make things clearer in my own mind. It is certainly a worthy tool to have on the bookshelf or it the tack-room, particularly the rider exercises which are very beneficial to those of us who ride a lot on our own as it raises the body awareness which is vital if we really want to work with the movement of our horses rather than being a burden to them.
The whole concept of the fact that, to function in a worthy manner, we need to look at the unit of horse and rider as 1 single entity rather than 2 separate ones will certainly appeal to those of us who want to enhance our relationship with our horses and also, from a trainers point of view, to remind us to train the team, not the individual components.
Review by Sarah Williamson
Well ... people always say ... if you’re lucky enough to own a Lusitano – ask! And, don’t feel bad about it! If your request is reasonable, it’s ten to one – they’ll give it to you. And so it proved to be. Prazer had arrived at his new stable at Water Farm, Raydon after a long journey from Scotland only three weeks before - but within a few days he felt so good... I knew he would rise to the occasion. It was so be a small ‘friendly’ demo at his new home and the subject would be The Seat. Fortunately, he felt hugely motivated. He is surrounded by activity and with 28 horses on the yard, coming in and out, lessons or schooling in the indoor arena, in sight of his stable door, there is always something going on.
Horses do love to be involved. He used to spend hours looking down the valley from our ridge at Eden Hall, high above the River Tweed and the Coldstream road but the faintest glimmer of a car, or the far away zoom of a motorbike always grabbed his attention. Often, he would spot the gleam of a far-away tractor on the foothills of the Cheviots opposite which I could hardly see, but they never failed to attract. I always feel so sorry for horses who only look onto bare walls and have nothing to distract them, day in day out.
Where other people get their buzz out of competing, I have to admit, putting on a Demo gives me a much greater ‘high’ as well as a real feeling of satisfaction. With a willing horse, there is so much to show and explain and although I wrote my book The Classical Seat just under 30 years ago, there are always people who want to know more, who need to see it in action and for whom, reading or DVDs are simply not sufficient. One of the break-throughs this time, was having my saddle perched on a saddle horse in the middle of the school at the very beginning and inviting people to come and feel the lowest point (also the most central) of the saddle for themselves and to take on board that this is where our seatbones should be.
You wouldn’t believe how many people are hazy about the seatbones. Many think they’re at the back of the seat, when actually they are bang in the middle – at the top of our thigh bones. They are the knobbly bits, known as the ischial tuberosisties which form the two parts of the triangle which comprises the underside of the human pelvis. It really should be made clear to all riders right from the beginning of their riding education that this is a very different part of their anatomy from the commonly held theory that it’s the back of the bum! The third point is of course the fork – which meets the saddle as it rises up to form the twist.
I wish I’d been told all this when I first went to Pony Club and got berated for not sitting correctly. I have a vague feeling that my instructor of the time – a sarcastic woman who never failed to discourage – led me to believe that it was better to slump than to sit up straight. Of course once the back and the core muscles are allowed to give way, you invariably slip towards the cantle as that’s where the forces of nature take one! Yet children invariably sit perfectly when you first put them on a pony and it’s so sad that instructors often knock this out of them by insisting they over-relax. I know one of my best old photos was the one where I had only just started riding. Everything straight, legs hanging and everything in natural alignment.
It rather proved my point, when everyone who examined my saddle saw the indentation of two seatbones in the leather -right at the lowest part of the saddle. I am lucky enough to own an Albion dressage saddle, and there is no way one would end up on the cantle if you sit up upright and proud. Not stiff – I hasten to say – just nice and tall with the hips well opened so that the legs can can fall away and not an inch of spare flesh under the seatbones. It’s important that all that unwanted muscle and flab (if one has any!) can find its own place further back. We are not desisgned to sit on our glutes except perhaps in a squashy sofa.
So - long before we even saw the first horse, people were looking for the right balance from the two guinea-pig riders that were going to come before them, and they also had a rough idea of what their rather demanding clinician was going to demand of them and their horses. Perfect posture!
After that, it was relatively easy. We looked at a novice rider on an experienced horse – one of Water Farm’s excellent schoolmasters – to show how important it was to ride without stirrups to allow ones weight to drop and how we can use gravity to help us in our quest for the safest seat and conversely, how fighting gravity – by tensing up the leg muscles and glutes – we can impede progress and make it altogether harder for the horse.
The next horse was a six year old Warmblood who after a difficult start has not been the easiest to bring on. A beautiful dark bay, he was ridden by Chrysie Warner, daughter of Gerda who runs Water Farm. As an instructor herself she is very skilful with young, hot or nervous horses and our main work there was about relaxation and using the seat to direct the horse with a brief introduction to the weight aids.
Finally, after the interval, it was my turn to ride Prazer who had been anxiously wondering why he hadn’t been first out! I think some of the usual pzaz and ‘I am a stallion!’ aura had dissipated after such a long wait, but he was probably better at showing at the work I needed to display which basically summed up all the aids of the seat and how the slightest tilt of the pelvis, or loading of one or other of the seatbones can make all the difference to quality of movement and direction. For many, I felt this was a new scenario. How many I wondered had realised that in rein-back you have to open the back of the seat, rather than close it and how conversely – when one is looking for the more extended gaits, you have to change the balance in the opposite direction?
This Demo was so popular we sold out of tickets within less than a week of putting a notice up on the web and on Facebook. For that reason, I hope any of you who want to see the whole thing again – although I have to say, no two demos are ever a carbon copy of each other! – or who did not make it last time, can book up quickly.
The Seat does not get discussed enough in the average riding lesson and you don’t even have to be a dressage rider to appreciate its uses. Any rider who wants to be better balanced on their horse for whatever they do, will I believe get plenty of food for thought by attending our next outing on Saturday, 20th June. See you there!
THE CLASSICAL RIDING CLUB AT WATER FARM PRESENTS
Sylvia Loch & The Classical Seat
Saturday 2oth June 2015
3.00 – 5.30pm
Programme to include:
Why the Classical Seat?
An exploration of the Balance and Functionality of the Seat
The Classical Seat & The Aids
Chrysi Warner with a Novice horse
Lisa Young with an Elementary horse
Questions and Answers
Afternoon tea or coffee and cake are included in the price
An enthralling lecture/demo to help ALL riders of whatever discipline
Tickets will be reserved and held at the door. The price is £20.00 each and £17.50 for CRC Members and under 17s. To be booked in advance through Paypal or a cheque made out to Water Farm, marking it on the back (CRC lecture).
We are expecting a high demand so make sure you book your reservation asap.
If you can't make this date or there are no places left, we will be putting on the same Demo in roughly 6 weeks time... date to be announced under Diary Dates www.classicalriding.co.uk as well as on www.waterfarmdressage.co.uk and facebook
TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE IN THE SHOP ON THIS WEBSITE!
How to find us:
Water Farm Dressage Centre
Ah! The joys of the indoor school... I had almost forgotten what it is like to have permanent accessibility to working indoors. My 19 years in Scotland had allowed us access to one of the most beautiful indoor schools in the world – dare I say? – at Ladykirk in Berwickshire... but that meant a trip in a box or trailer and except for demos, I never had the time.
Now I feel truly spoilt again as Prazer my stallion is at livery (for the first time in his life) and I have to confess I am enjoying the experience too. No more arranging extra help for groom’s days off or worry about the weather when a student is travelling 100 miles for just one lesson – yes, they did! – no wind to get under my schoolmaster’s tail and make what should have been a smooth transition into a rather hairy one; no poo-picking or dealing with weeds and leaves! And yes, all those of you who own or train in outdoor schools will know what I’m talking about.
So here we are! In Suffolk – at Water Farm, Raydon which boasts both a comfortable indoor and a magnificent 20 x 60 outdoor manege as well. We are truly spoilt for choice. To start, as you will read in the latest CRC section of TU when it shortly goes up on this website, we did lots of turn out for Prazer indoors. Luckily, this has very high sides which is just as well, since across an American barn style corridor, reside 10 boxes which amongst other things, contain some mares! Apparently, they all simultaneously came into season when His Highness arrived!
Gerda has bred a number of German dressage over the years, both in England and Germany, including some fine Wesphalians and Oldenburgs among her progeny.
There are other things which make livery very tempting when one reaches a certain age! The camaraderie of the stable is very pleasant, it’s great having very little responsibility over feeding, working, dentistry, farrier arrangements. Gerda brings in an excellent equine physio on a regular basis and of course, a busy working yard is a great venue for lessons, clinics, competitions and small demos. The latter I hope to do on a regular basis from now but due to demand and the fact we try to keep numbers down to no more than 60, we will probably run two or three on the same topic every quarter. So keep an eye on Diary Dates. After the next Demo on The Classical Seat, I want to move on to the topic of The Leg Aids in the autumn. This topic, I feel is much misunderstood in the average riding school, to the detriment of the horse’s understanding.
I am also planning indoor Balance & Bodywork workshops on a regular basis. Not just at Hadleigh but further afield if people are happy to organise this for me. All we really need is a decent size village hall, where no one objects to a crowd of ladies and gents doing stretch exercises, developing their core muscles on the hula-hoop (yes!) and practising their downward transitions on their own two feet! Yes, it can be hilarious... but it can also change your riding life. And one Grand Prix rider who shall be nameless said that attending one of these with her students did more for her than she had ever thought possible. I was thrilled when she told me it had transformed her left canter pirouette... but I was not surprised. It’s all down to improving ones weight aids.
I already have one fully qualified Weight Aids (Intermediate Stage) practitioner in the north of England, Claire Whitfield who attended a course of lessons with me and then took quite a demanding 3 hour written – followed by a practical - exam. For anyone else keen to attend a teacher training course, this may have to wait until the winter but I would hope to qualify more people gradually over the next few years. Students have to be riding at the very least Elementary Level for the Intermediate Stage and only those riding and training at PSG and above can be qualified for the Advanced Level.
Now that I’m back in Suffolk... the work must go on!