Report from the Annual Course Dressage Training with Gareth Hughes

Firstly, very many thanks to Ann and all of the Committee Members for organising a fantastic and inspirational two days of training at the F&I conference. For all of us, this was our first visit to the conference since qualifying in 2018, 2023, 2006, and 2018 respectively. We met in Hong Kong and have been supported by many ‘F’s’ and ‘I’s’ whilst being overseas, but nothing compares to seeing and meeting so many people in person and reconnecting. A huge thank you to all the F&I members who made us feel very welcome!

Addington Equestrian Centre was the perfect setting and being able to see and learn from Gareth and Dickie (plus Sam, Eric, Kylie, and Jayne, who we also unexpectedly had the privilege to watch in action) with a wide variety of horses and riders, was thought-provoking in many ways. The ongoing discussions and study groups were insightful and another superb addition to the two days. 

On to the dressage…
Throughout all of his sessions, Gareth was very patient and persistent with the combinations he was working with, ensuring they were being the best they could be at all times.

Gareth continually worked on the basics, the scales of training, and the balance of the horse in accordance with the horse’s stage of training. He used a range of different suppleness exercises to encourage the horses to really bend and loosen their bodies, and used a variety of different lines to help the riders achieve what they wanted without losing fluency – all offering much opportunity for discussion. He was passionate about the importance of repetition, and the detail and discipline of the rider and coach, in order to get every step, exercise and movement as correct and as fluent as possible.

The discussions on visualisation of the movement, and being able to ‘see’ the movements across a specific line, helped and resonated in a clear way to understand the requirements of a variety of movements. Gareth couldn’t stress enough about the importance of riding specific lines and how the training had to be correct and accurate at all times, making it easier once in the ring when outside influences occur.

Gareth has a fantastic eye for detail with rider positional corrections and helped the riders understand why the corrections were occurring in specific movements, helping them stay aware of them. He also encouraged riders (who admitted themselves they needed a lot of reminding) to think about certain things with their position every time they came out of a corner, or every time they passed a marker, which made them more self-aware and able to make their own positional corrections. The small changes he suggested were not necessarily easy to deliver, especially if they related to ingrained habits that we all have, but they were incredibly effective in improving the horses!

The development forward to the second day with the same combinations further enhanced the finer details of the combinations with a noticeable increase in the harmony of horses and riders.  Gareth spoke a lot about the riders being quiet and clear, and riding more subtle changes in their horses, rather than making a few big changes. This really helped to create a more harmonious overall picture and kept the horses more attentive to their riders.

We are walking away feeling very inspired by the two days and are looking forward to attending these courses again in the future!

Christian, Laurel, Sarah and Gary

Christian Allderidge, Laurel Cooke, Sarah Corner, Gary Johnston