We had another great week in Jacksonville. This week we were minus our leader, Tony Weight, the President of NFHJA, because he had shoulder surgery, but somehow we made it through. We all wish Tony a speedy recovery. It’s hard to believe that four weeks have gone by this fast.
The Jacksonville Winter Series is quickly drawing to a close. Four exciting weeks have flown by, but there is still another week of fun! The Jacksonville Finale boasts yet another $25,000 Grand Prix on Saturday, Feb. 6th at 7:00 p.m. The $10,000 Bruning Foundation Equitation Classic presented by Jerry Parks Insurance Group will be held Friday, Feb. 5th at 7:00 p.m. Come out and cheer on your favorite horse and rider in both of these exciting events! Plans are already underway for 2011.
Green Cove Springs, FL — January 30, 2010 — Tonight’s $25,000 Jacksonville A-Z Grand Prix sponsored by North Florida Hunter Jumper Association closed out Week IV of competition with one of the most successful riders in show jumping, Aaron Vale, adding another win to his illustrious career.
After a week of observation, course designer Allen Rheinheimer put all he learned about today’s starting field into a lengthy and technical 13 obstacle/6 effort test with a time allowance of 96 tight seconds. “It was a little bit on the snug side for sure,” chuckled Vale about the tick tock of the clock. A vast majority of the faults in round one occurred from battling the clock, with 3 horses retiring and 6 having time issues. It wasn’t until the 6th in the field of 21, birthday girl Claire Lee, that the audience saw a clear round. Lee and partner High Roller posted a clean run of 91.786, which held as the only perfect ride until 3 rounds later when Vale and Platinum assured a jump off with a clean 94.083 seconds. Only one other horse and rider combo, Tony Font and Gardenio (owned by YZ Partners LLC) with a clean 93.776, would accompany them to the final round. Vale said, “This was surprising. When I walked the course I thought, wow – we had 9 clear last week, we’re going to have more clear this week. We only got 3 so sometimes you just can’t tell. Allen did a great job.” Read more> http://www.horsesinthesouth.com/article/article_detail.aspx?id=10050
Photo Caption: The Netherlands’ Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas swept to victory in the seventh leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage series in Amsterdam this afternoon to rocket up to the top of the series leaderboard.
Amsterdam (Ned), 23 January 2010 The Netherlands’ Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas swept to victory in the seventh leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage series in Amsterdam this afternoon to rocket up to the top of the series leaderboard. Once again thrilling both judges and spectators alike, the dynamic Dutch duo recorded a score of 87.70% as they high-stepped their way to success with their unique sparkle and panache. But the most remarkable thing about today’s competition was the exceptionally high level of performance throughout the entire class. The sport of dressage has raised its game in dramatic fashion over the past 12 months, and horses and riders are meeting the challenge head-on.
Today, Great Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer produced a wonderful test from Mistral Hojris to slot into second place with a score that was only just over four points behind the spectacular winners while Holland’s Imke Schellekens-Bartels and Hunter Douglas Sunrise, double-winners already this season, finished third. The host country’s Anky Van Grunsven and Painted Black were fourth ahead of Germany’s Isabell Werth and Warum Nicht FRH in fifth, and Bartels now jointly-shares top spot on the league table with Gal.
HELD THE LEAD
It was Hans Peter Minderhoud who held the lead going into the second-half of the competition following a bright and happy test from Exquis Nadine. The 15 year old chestnut mare executed her extended trot and passage with lady-like delicacy and precision, and her forward-moving canter was perfectly balanced by her Dutch rider’s sensitive and sympathetic hand to achieve a mark of 76.70%.
This would only be good enough for sixth place in the final analysis however, and the first to better that score was multiple champion Isabell Werth from Germany. Quickly back in harness after the birth of her baby son Frederick last October the 40 year old rider has lost none of her competitive edge, but despite excellent pirouettes and canter-changes there was a loss of rhythm several times so the score of 79.80% from Warum Nicht might easily have been improved upon. Next to go, and fourth-last into the arena, was Bechtolsheimer and the chestnut gelding Mistral Hojris whose confidence and character seem to have grown in leaps and bounds since claiming team silver and individual bronze for Great Britain at the Alltech FEI European Dressage Championships in Windsor last summer. They showed exuberant half-pass, piaffe and extended trot that oozed quality while Bechtolsheimer’s ear for her musical score ensured their timing was impeccable. Taking the lead with 82.30% on the board, they were always going to finish strongly.
But Moorlands Totilas had the edge once more, although his rider has clearly learned the weight of the expectations now placed upon his able shoulders. Every time this partnership go in the ring now they are expected to break yet another world record, which is not altogether surprising since they have done so three times over the past 12 months. At Olympia in London just before Christmas they wowed the crowd with a breath-taking performance that achieved a spectacular score of 92.30% to finish a full 10 marks ahead of their nearest challengers, fellow-Dutch team members Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival. Today’s test was not of the same calibre – but it was still awesome and in a class of its own.
“Totilas felt a bit tense today” Gal admitted afterwards, “but he is an amazing horse to ride and he exceeds my expectations time and time again. I want to ride better next time” he said, but added, “people have high expectations though. When I was in Stuttgart I scored 79% and I was receiving text messages in which people were asking me – “Oh, didn’t it go well?!” – and I would be like, well Yes, it did, but I can’t score really high every time!”.
Second-last to go was Van Grunsven who understands all too well the situation in which Gal now finds himself. The reigning Olympic champion has won more titles than most people would ever dream of and was an almost-untouchable force in the sport for many years, but the arrival of a whole new generation of contenders has changed everything. She demonstrated her determination to stay in the game today however with a great test from Painted Black which slotted her into fourth behind last-to-go Schellekens-Bartels who produced a lovely performance from Sunrise for third place today, and level-pegging with Gal at the top of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage leaderboard.
And with just two more qualifying legs remaining – at Neumunster (Ger) and Goteborg (Swe) next month – before the final at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Ned) in March that is a good place to be…..
RESULT: 1, Moorlands Totilas (Edward Gal) Ned 87.00%; 2, Mistral Hojris (Laura Bechtolsheimer) GBR 82.30%; 3, Hunter Douglas Sunrise (Imke Schellekens-Bartels) Ned 82.05%; 4, IPS Painted Black (Anky Van Grunsven) Ned 81.20%; 5, Warum Nicht FRH (Isabell Werth) Ger 79.80%; 6, Exquis Nadine (Hans Peter Minderhoud) Ned 76.70%; 7, Watermill Scandic HBC (Patrik Kittel) Swe 75.50%; 8, Nartan (Jeannette Haazen) Ned 74.75%; 9, Apollo Van het Vijverhof (Jeroen Devroe) Bel 74.40%; 10, Ovation (Christa Laarakkers) Ned 73.55%; 11, Premier (Aat Van Essen) Ned 72.70%; 12, Krawall (Jenny Schreven) Ned 72.40%; 13, Poko Loko (Manon Van Hylckama Vlieg) Ned 69.10%; 14, Randon (Michal Rapcewicz) Pol 68.25%; 15, Wito Corleone 2 (Alexandra Bimschas) Ger 67.40%.
2009/2010 FEI WORLD CUP™ DRESSAGE – STANDINGS after Round 7 at Amsterdam (Ned) – Provisional
1, Edward Gal, Imke Schellekens-Bartels – 55
3. Jeannette Haazen – 48
4. Anky Van Grunsven – 47
5. Adelinde Cornelissen, Monica Theodorescu – 41
7. Aat Van Essen – 38
8. Patrik Kittel – 36
9. Mathias Alexander Rath – 35
10. Laura Bechtolsheimer – 32
Green Cove Springs, FL January 22, 2010 – The third week of competition at the 2010 Jacksonville Winter Series got in full swing this afternoon with the $5000 Open Jumper Classic being won by Lebanon, Ohio’s Wilhelm Genn, as both owner and rider, piloting the brilliant mare Happy Z.
Presented by Farm House Tack, the Jumper Classic served as a prelim to Saturday evening’s featured event, the $25,000 Marco Family Foundation benefitting H.O.R.S.E. Therapies, a nonprofit therapeutic equine program to air people with special needs as well as military personnel in the Horses for Heroes and Wounded Warriors programs. This week’s course designer Buddy Brown of Stanford, CA got a good gauge of the talent on hand while the competitors learned how tough grabbing that prize money would be with only 6 clean first rounds. Genn was the only rider to bring two mounts into jump off runs, Chantal for owner Laura Ryan-Barnaclo and his own Happy Z. Despite some fierce competition the afternoon’s glory belonged to the popular chestnut Happy Z whose winning time of 33.025 simply couldn’t be caught. “She’s very much like a fine wine- better with age.” a happy Genn proclaimed.
Finishing in second place was teenage phenom Samantha Schaefer riding Sugar Ray –owned by Schaefer- to a clear time of 35.980, third place to veteran rider-owner Mary Lisa Leffler taking Gerona 92 to a clean time of 37.000, fourth place went to Wisconsin based Denise Wilson aboard the Blue Gate Farm entry Life is Life with a clean time of 40.194, and completing the top five was Indiana’s own Erin McCabe as rider-owner of Midnight Hour finishing with 4 faults in a quick 33.825.
As evening fell the lights of the covered arena seem to shine extra brightly for rider Samantha Schaefer as the 16 year-old received top marks in the $10,000 Jerry Parks Insurance Group Hunter Classic. The number one horse of the evening was Castle, owned by Ashley Toffolon and piloted by Schaefer with a first round score of 169.500.
In all, 22 horses competed on the course designed by Paul Jewel of Lambertville, New Jersey. The class consisted of two sections, with amateurs and juniors jumping 3’6” while professionals had an option of 3’6” or 3’9” fences depending on the horse’s level. The layout of 10 fences required strenuous efforts of both horse and rider with its bending and broken lines throughout the course. Judges Sue Ashe, William Sparks, and Chris Wayne presided over the scoring, returning only the top 12 pairs for round 2.
Schaefer is no stranger to winning this Classic- in 2007 she won aboard Lyle, the 17-year old German Warmblood then owned by Stephanie Keen and in 2008 with Lazy Sunday, a 9 year-old Zangersheide owned by Keli Colby at the time. Schaefer has made transitioning from being one of the nations most acclaimed pony riders to a top junior rider look effortless, but will be the first to say it’s only through daily hard work that she’s stays in the upper rankings. Sixth in the order, Castle and Schaefer finished the first round strong with combined judges’ score of 168. “I was very confident coming into the class with him [Castle] because I knew he would go right around, if anything it would just interest him a little bit and maybe spark him up a little, because he’s a really quiet easy going horse.” Schaefer said of the 11 year-old Dutch Warmblood, who along with both owner Ashley Toffolon and on occasion Schaefer train with Andre Dignelli of Heritage Farm in New York.
Regarding their round one ride Schaefer admitted, “I needed a lot of lead changes in the first class and I should have asked him in a few places to land on the correct lead, so that may have made it not quite as smooth.” Those who know Schaefer well will state she is always far more critical of her rides than any judge, as evidenced by the duo’s scores. “But in the second round he landed on every lead so it all flowed really well. He kind of glided around- real nice! He’s really good at this type of class because he’s brave and just awesome!” Schaefer added. The pair’s second round score of 177 was added to give a total score of 345. As things progressed Schaefer’s biggest competition became herself.
Corvet Z a 12 year-old Zangersheide gelding, also ridden by Schaefer and owned by Manhattan Mortgage Co., Inc. actually led the first round with a score of 169.50. “He’s just coming off of a little vacation and he was just great! In the second round I got a little excited at the last jump and he just nicked it a bit but overall he was really nice.” Schaefer said of her second place winning mount that finished with a combined total of 334.50. “I really have to thank Don Stewart for all his help! And Kim Stewart…and Andre…it’s really a team effort and I’m the fortunate one who benefits from them all.” a beaming Schaefer said.
Schaefer has become a master of balance, both in and out of the saddle as she juggles the pressures of high school and a full competition schedule with the appearance of ease. She explained, “I attend a special school that is a self paced type, when I’m not showing I do a lot more. I’m in a classroom about 3 hours a day and some online class work. It’s scheduled for me, which is really good because I have a structure to follow that’s well organized. I work really hard late fall and early winter to get ahead and now [show season] I have two classes to finish up while I’m here.” After the Jacksonville Winter Series the precocious Schaefer will take a week off to relax at school before heading to compete in West Palm Beach.
Official results for the $10,000 Jerry Parks Insurance Group Hunter Classic were:
1st Place- Samantha Schaefer and Castle owned by Ashley Toffolon
2nd Place- Samantha Schaefer and Corvet Z owned by Manhattan Mortgage Co., Inc
3rd Place- Shawn Casady and Eastwood owned by Kelly Tropin
4th Place- Taylor Adams and Chrystalle owned by Meridian Farms
5th Place- Taylor Adams and Rio’s Splash owned by Sarah Robin
6th Place- Gary Young and Cliché owned by Isobel Goldsmith
7th Place- Hasbrouck Donovan and Falcao owned by Donald Stewart
8th Place- Shawn Casady and Caruso owned by Bettina Richman
9th Place- Joy Janouskovec and Samaritan owned by Jennifer Munday
10th Place- Hasbrouck Donovan and Raquel owned by Ann Garnett
11th Place- Olivia Chowdry and Enchanted owned by Sage Flynn
12th Place- Mark Ferris and Promo owned by Ruth Douglas
The Jacksonville Winter Series continues through February 7th with classes Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 8AM until about 5PM except for special events on Saturday evenings at 7PM. Admission to the shows is free – parking at special weekend events is a $5 donation, which goes to support local charities.
For more information or results on the 2010 Jacksonville Winter Series please visit http://www.classiccompany.com/ or call the show office at 904-284-1579.
Flashpoint Media Services, based in Harrodsburg, KY, is a comprehensive public relations firm specializing in the equestrian sports. For additional information contact Robbi Meisel, 859-734 3713, email@example.com
Wellington, FL – January 14, 2010 – Today the first championships of the 2010 FTI Wellington Equestrian Festival were awarded in the professional hunter divisions. The Green Working hunters, sponsored by Western Hay & Suncoast Bedding, took center stage in the Rost Arena this afternoon.
The season’s inaugural First Year Green Hunter Championship was awarded to Peter Pletcher of Magnolia, TX, with Double H Farm’s HH London. Pletcher describes HH London, a 7-year-old Dutch bred gelding by London Times and Voltaire, as “fantastic.”
Double H farm bought the bay gelding in the middle of the summer, and Pletcher sat on him for the first time in October 2009. Pletcher and the team from Double H Farm knew immediately that this would be a great match. “I tried him and I thought that he was really nice, easy, and straight forward,” Pletcher commented. This was only the second show for HH London, and his first time competing at the 3’6″ height. Read more> http://www.horsesinthesouth.com/article/article_detail.aspx?id=9815
The North Florida Hunter Jumper Association five week 2010 Jacksonville Winter Series will run from January 6th – February 7th, 2010. This will be the 16th year of the annual Winter Series, which has donated over $900,000 to local charities over the years, including the Clay County 4-H and has an annual economic impact of over $16 million to the surrounding community.
The first week of competition, the Jacksonville Kick-Off, runs from January 6-10, 2010. It is an “AA” nationally rated horse show and will feature a $10,000 Jumper Classic.
Perhaps the most exciting of the weeks is the second week of competition. The Jacksonville International will be held from January 13-17, 2010. It is an “AA” nationally rated horse show that also boasts the $125,000 Green Cove Springs CSI-W. The $25,000 Welcome Class will be held on Friday, January 15th and the $100,000 World Cup Qualifier Class will be held on Saturday, January 16th. These two classes will draw a large and very exciting field of national and international Olympic riders and their mounts. A children’s carnival, rides, pony rides and a petting zoo will be offered to entertain the young and young at heart during the day. Admission is free with a $5 donation for parking. All proceeds from the day’s events will benefit the Clay County 4-H Foundation.
The Jacksonville Mid-Winter, January 20-24, 2010 follows with its own attractions, including “AA” nationally rated hunters and jumpers. The highlight of the weekend will be the $5,000 Welcome Class to be held on the afternoon of Friday, January 22nd in addition to the $25,000 Marco Family Foundation Grand Prix on Saturday, January 23rd that will benefit Horses for Heroes and the Wounded Warriors Programs. Cedar River Seafood will cater a reception for Exhibitors and Sponsors prior to the event. A string of pearls generously donated by Beard’s Jewelry and cufflinks generously donated will be auctioned off to raise money for the worthy causes. The $10,000 Jerry Parks Hunter Classic will be held the evening of Friday, January 22nd. This Hunter Derby type class is always spectacular to watch in the big covered ring under the lights!
The Jacksonville Winter A to Z ~ January 27 – 31, 2010 features “AA” nationally rated hunters and jumpers, a $5,000 Welcome Classes to be held on the afternoon of Friday January 29th in addition to a $25,000 Grand Prix to be held the evening of Saturday, January 30th. Exhibitors and sponsors will be treated to an Exhibitor Party on Saturday evening preceding the Grand Prix in addition to a Pizza Party Luncheon on Saturday during the day at the rings.
The series concludes with the fifth week, the Jacksonville National that runs from February 3 – 7, 2010. It also features “AA” rated hunters and jumpers. The final $5,000 Welcome Class will be held on the afternoon of Friday, February 5th and the final Grand Prix will be held on the evening of Saturday, February 6th.
All events are held at the Clay County Fairgrounds on SR 16 W in Green Cove Springs, FL. Each week of competition draws approximately 550 to 600 horses, which is the full capacity of the show grounds. Our exhibitor base draws heavily from North Florida and South Georgia and the entire East Coast. It includes international riders from approximately 25 states, three provinces of Canada, New Zealand, Brazil, Columbia, Ireland and Mexico. We are very proud to be chosen one of the only 12 shows in America to host a World Cup Qualifier.
Sponsors are in front of a very qualified audience for each of the five weeks and are in very good company. Some of our sponsors include, but are not limited to the following: Glen Kernan Golf & Country Club, Hodges Boulevard Development Group, Inc., Ring Power, John Deere, Mac Paper Company, Greene Hazel & Associates, the Marco Family, SKANSKA USA Building, Inc., Arlington Toyota, Auld & White Constructors, Inc., The Gift Horse, Pat’s Nursery, Ronnie’s Wings, Top of the Reef, Rick Baker’s RV Sales, Clay County Tourist Development Council, The Bruning Foundation, SunBelt Springs Water, Woody’s BBQ, Bridlebourne Stables, Baptist Primary Care, James D. Hinson Electrical Company, Jerry Parks Insurance, Diamond D Trailer Sales, Corrigan Trailer Sales, Canadian National Railroad, Six Mile Marina, Club Continental & Cedar River Seafood.
16th November, 2009 – Fierce winds and testing going challenged entries at Cheltenham’s Open meeting, reputedly the most important venue in the first half the National Hunt season in England. Each of the 3 days presented a feature race, the highlight being the highly competitive ‘Paddy Power Gold Cup’ which has been a high point in the racing calendar since 1960.
SURPRISINGLY, the Irish, with their impressive winning record at the Cheltenham Festival in March, had not won the Paddy Power Gold Cup or its equivalent for almost three decades but this year the Edward O’Grady trained ‘Tranquil Sea’ cast adrift his 15 rivals before the home straight to the sheer delight of the crowd. Jubilant jockey Andrew McNamara couldn’t hide his joy when the well backed 11-2 favourite came home four and a half lengths in front of ‘Poquelin’, with ‘Hold Em’ third and ‘Ballyfitz’ fourth. The seven year old bay travelled comfortably throughout the two and a half mile race to scoop the lion’s share of the £150,000 prize fund. More reasons to celebrate followed when two hundred people in the Club Enclosure took advantage of a full £30 ticket refund, promised to them if the Irish won the big race.
Friday’s hugely popular Countryside Raceday with its traditional country fair atmosphere featured the unique Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeplechase – a course combining hedges, banks and timber rails over a distance just short of four miles. Irish horses have dominated this race in recent times, this running being no exception. Favourite ‘Garde Champetre’ powered home to an outstanding success when given a confident ride by jockey Nina Carberry, beating stablemate ‘Headsontheground’. Sporting the well known green and gold colours of legendary gambler JP McManus and trained by Enda Bolger, ‘Garde Champetre’ follows in the footsteps of four times winner (2004 – 07) ‘Spotthedifference’, owned and trained by the same duo. Although ‘Garde Champetre’ may now return to Cheltenham for the cross-country race next month, he is not expected to run in the Grand National in April. Read more> http://www.horsesinthesouth.com/article/article_detail.aspx?id=8878
October 26, 2009 – The FEI is aware of the video filmed at the FEI World Cup Dressage qualifier at Odense (DEN) and posted on YouTube by Epona TV at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hIXGiV4N4k. FEI’s main concern has always been and will always be the welfare of the horse. We are taking the issues raised in the video and in the comments made by members of the public on social media and by email very seriously and have opened a full investigation. The conclusions of this investigation will be made public in due course.
Please read Dr. Gerd Heushmann’s book “Tug of War” and see his DVD “If Horses Could Speak” about the dangers of using this method of training and the long term effects of forcing horses to be hand ridden, ridden incorrectly from front to back which is is SUPPOSED TO BE as in Classical Dressage – from back to front, and pushing young horses into doing Dressage levels at too young an age before they have completely developed. I had posted that I interviewed him last week and will be posting more on this in the very near future. Click below to purhcase his book and DVD.
“The FEI held a successful seminar on Hyperflexion in 2006. There has been no change in the scientific evidence since that review. There are no known clinical side effects specifically arising from the use of Hyperflexion. However, there are concerns for the horses’ well-being if the technique is not practised correctly. The FEI does not permit excessive or prolonged Hyperflexion in any equestrian sport, and has a strict stewarding program to protect the performance horse in all disciplines.”
“The FEI regulates international competition principally. Also through its work it seeks to educate riders, trainers and judges thru their NFs how to deal with issues which have a bearing on the welfare of the horse. Where there is a specific training issue which brings the welfare of the horse into question it is for the NF to legislate at National level. At international competition level it is for the FEI to act. Through the ongoing training of stewards and all officials we seek to develop peoples understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable training techniques.”
British Horse Society chairman Patrick Print has since written to HRH Princess Haya requesting the FEI launch a second investigation into the practise of hyperflexion.
Print’s letter reads: “The concerns so widely expressed are reasonable and therefore deserving of an urgent two-part investigation: first, an inquiry into the treatment of this particular horse on this particular occasion; and, second, a broader inquiry into the ethics and consequences of hyperflexion. In this second aspect The British Horse Society stands ready to assist the FEI in any way it can.”
Forums are rife with angered comment on the topic and several facebook groups have been set up in condemnation of rollkur.
Olympic gold medal winner Gigolo FRH, horse of renowned equestrian Isabella Werth, has died at the age of Twenty-Six.
On September 23rd, Isabella Weth’s top level dressage horse was put down after declining health resulting from an injury. Winner of four Olympic gold medals, two Olympic silver medals, four World Championships, eight European Championships and four German titles, Gigolo proudly served as Isabella’s friend, teacher and sport partner for many years.
Bred by Horst Klussman (Pursau) (Graditz x Bunett by Busoni xx), Gigolo was discovered by Dr Schulten-Baumer. Although a plain horse to look at, but he thrilled spectators with his precision and charisma. Born in 1983, he was ridden by Werth for twenty years.
Werth and Gigolo won both team and individual gold at the European Championships at Donaueschingen in 1991. They repeated the double in 1993 at Lipica, in 1995 at Mondorf, and in 1997 at Verden. At the 1994 World Equestrian Games in The Netherlands and in 1998 in Rome the pair also won two gold medals each time.
Gigolo’s four Olympic gold medals were won in 1996 in Atlanta (individual and team gold), 1992 in Barcelona, and 2000 in Sydney (team gold). The two individual Olympic silver medals were in Barcelona and Sydney.
Lots of you tell me you’re confused about the correct length and height of your horse’s neck so I thought I’d address that in this article.
1. Neck too high: The height of the neck is determined by the degree of engagement of the hindquarters. So, the height of the neck changes as you go up through the levels and your horse becomes more collected.
Always keep in mind, however, that if you ride with the neck too high and short and the angle of the throatlatch too closed, there can’t be any bridge from the back end to the front end.
The neck has to be in line with the power train of the hindquarters-not above it. When the neck is too high, the hind end is disconnected from the front end.
2. Neck too short: I like to say the length of the neck is proportional to the length of the stride taken by the hind legs. So, if you crank the neck in and it gets too short, the hind legs take shorter steps.
Always strive to keep your horse’s neck long.
Even though you want more and more of an uphill balance as you go up through the levels, you still want to see a long neck blooming out in front of you.
This is an exaggeration, but I like to pretend that I have 1/3 of the horse out behind me, and 2/3 of the horse blooming out in front of me. The last thing I want to see is a short neck with 1/3 of the horse out in front of me and 2/3 trailing out behind.
Now, it’s really not 1/3 behind and 2/3 in front, but that gives you a good visual for always having a long neck blooming out in front of you. And that’s the case whether you’re in the horizontal balance of Training Level or the uphill balance of Grand Prix.
One of the mistakes you see at the FEI levels is that riders think they’re collecting their horses, but all they’re doing is shortening their necks.
This creates all kinds of problems because the hind legs are blocked. For example, in a canter pirouette, a horse might switch leads behind or break to the trot. In piaffe, the diagonal pairs might break up, and the piaffe is no longer a real 2-beat trot.
3. Rules of thumb for your horse’s balance: At Training Level, the horse has approximately 60% of his weight on the front legs and 40% of his weight on the hind legs.
That’s the same balance that a horse has in nature because a horse is built like a table with a head and neck on one end. By virtue of the weight of the head and neck, horses naturally have more weight on the front legs than the back legs.
So, at Training Level, with 60% of his weight on the front legs and 40% of his weight on the hind legs, the horse is in what I call “horizontal balance”. His topline looks pretty much parallel to the ground.
At First Level, exercises and movements like smaller circles, leg yields and a little bit of counter canter, cause a slight shift in the center of gravity back to the hind legs. That’s because those exercises create an increase in the bending of the joints of the hind legs. The horse’s croup goes down a little bit, and the forehand goes up proportionately. So at First Level, you might have approximately 55% of the weight on the front legs and 45% behind.
At Second Level, you begin “modest” collection. More weight shifts toward the hindquarters by virtue of the exercises such as shoulder-in, haunches-in, renvers, and simple changes of lead. So you end up with about 50% of the weight on the hind legs and 50% of the weight on the front legs.
At Third Level, you have the beginning of real collection with more weight on the hind legs than on the front legs.
As you go up through the levels there’s a progressive increase in the loading of the hind legs. As a result, the horse, like a seesaw, gradually sits more behind and comes more “up” in front.