Devon, Pa.—Sept. 28
Sara Hassler has never shown in the Dixon Oval before this weekend, but no one will be able to forget her after this year’s Dressage At Devon. She followed up her win in the Prix St. Georges with Harmony’s Boitano with another blue ribbon, this time in the Intermediaire I on a score of 70.14 percent.
“I am so proud of him,” she said of Leslie Malone’s Dutch Warmblood (Santano—Roma Jackson, Whinny Jackson). “I’m honestly still kind of trying to get that that just happened because once was like, ‘AH!’ and twice was just crazy.
“He was just with me every stride,” she said. “There were a couple moments where I could feel him getting a little, ‘All right, all right,’ and we had a few moments—our little change in the half-pass and our one pirouette was pretty fast, and he stepped back. But other than that, what he gave me in there was so honest and so great. I’m so proud of him.”
Since Tano dealt with back problems in the past, Hassler focuses on getting the gelding supple and soft in the warm-up to ensure the 13-year-old gelding is ready to perform his best.
“I basically like to make sure that I’ve softened and suppled every part of his body, so we do a lot of, not extreme bending, just soft here and there, making sure he’s on my seat and he’s soft in both reins,” she said. “That way when we go in the ring, I can be as quiet as I can and I know that even if there’s not a movement I warmed up in the warm-up, at least every part of his body has warmed up so that it’s fair to ask him.
“But for him, less is more, he’s like a strict 15 to 20-minute warm-up, and then we go and we do it. Cause mentally he’s ready to go. So the longer I take to go, he gets frustrated. He’s like, “Let’s go, I wanna go,” so for him, it’s a really quick start. I just make sure he’s warmed up, he’s soft he’s happy and then he goes in and does his thing.”
We caught up with Hassler to learn about some of her favorite ways to get a horse supple.
“My dad [top dressage rider Scott Hassler] and I have an exercise we love to call ‘inner, outer,’ ” said Sara. “It’s basically taking a slight flexion to the inside and yielding the horse off your inside leg just a few steps on a 20-meter circle, and then we’ll repeat the same thing on that same circle with the counter flexion, pressing him off your outside rein and then when you go to straighten, they should be completely soft and balanced into both reins.
“It just really helps supple the hind leg, the shoulder, the topline, the poll,” she said. “Everything just kind of loosens and wiggles together and then you can find your alignment. It’s one of my favorite [exercises]; I do it with every horse I have, and it’s one of his favorite exercises.”
Sara said she primarily does this exercise at the canter, and for the trot, she’s got a different—and fairly simple—exercise she likes to employ.
“We do not do tight circles, but a 15- to 10-meter circle depending on where he’s at in his warm-up, and we kind of just let the circle allow his body to do the hard work, so I can just kind of be there to support him with my inside leg and my outside rein and just kind of open his shoulder, soften his back, activate his inside hind leg. The less I have to do to set him up the better, that way his body is kind of doing it himself, so that’s what he does at the trot.”
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