Open Training Day

Feb 1, 2013 - 4:46 AM
Training at Casa Lusitana in Loxahatchee, Fla. Photo by Anna Sylvan Jaffe.

Dear Rita,

A few weeks ago I spontaneously held an open training day at my stable in Loxahatchee, Fla. Lendon Gray brought along a group of eager young riders, I opened the seminar to the public, and all in all about 40 people showed up on short notice.

I started off the demonstration with my working student riding an older schoolmaster. The theme of the day (which has been the theme of my life) was that in reality, we do not train our horses. They train us. I wanted to show this by putting a relatively beginning rider on a schooled horse to show how the horse does the teaching, not the instructor.

Maximus JSS did not let us down. I shouldn’t describe him as an older schoolmaster when he is actually a retired Grand Prix horse. He performed all the tempi changes and some passage with my working student who had recently (within two months) learned to sit the trot.

The other point I wished to make is that dressage is good for your horse. Maximus is 19 years old, sound and still enjoying his work every day. Through proper training and management a good dressage horse should maintain enough elasticity and strength to enjoy exercise well into his old age. Dressage improves health, happiness and longevity!

We moved on from Maximus to a 4-year-old mare that was relatively green and another working student showed the way for horse and rider to learn the ABCs.

For me, riding is a shared language between the rider and the horse. If you are going to be fluent in this language, you both have to learn the letters in order to form the words. The words become sentences, and sentences begin to form a story. By the time you reach Grand Prix level with your horse, your daily work should be (sweating aside) like an intense, interesting conversation over coffee with your best friend.

We showed not only the basic training of the young horse and rider, but also how to train your horse to handle new situations and electric crowds for the first time.

Next on the agenda was a 5-year-old gelding that demonstrated the next level of training. He showed lateral movements and beginning flying changes. We also went a step beyond his current training when we put him in the double bridle for the very first time.

After that, I got on Hotmail to show the observers how one carries over basic training into the everyday work of a Grand Prix horse. How horse and rider develop exemplary communication skills at this level. Hotmail rose to the occasion by showing everyone the difference between a straight leg passage and a bent leg passage and demonstrating which movement worked best for him to get in and out of piaffe. He also showed everyone the secret to a “sitting” pirouette.

And then my assistant trainer got on Hotmail and showed everyone that he could do what I can do on my own horse.

Here’s the deal, Rita. You should train your top horse so that another competent rider can get on and do everything that you do. If you are the only one who can ride your horse, you are doing something wrong.

The purpose of dressage is to develop the universal language between horse and rider so that it can be understood by any being who becomes fluent.

If you didn’t get the chance to see this demonstration, Dressage Training Online has posted it on the website at  Just for reading this blog, you can have one month free viewing until the end of February if you enter this code when you register: chopen

And if you need further incentive, here is an excerpt!

I’m Catherine Haddad Staller, and I’m sayin’ it like it is from Wellington, Fla.

Training Tip of the Day: Teach the horse to teach the student. Teach the student to listen to the horse.


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