Annual Course – Dressage with Carl Hester 

Britain’s number one rider and trainer, Carl Hester, honoured us at our Annual Course at Addington this January.  What a treat it was for us all to have two days to gain an insight into Carl’s training methods and system. First on was myself riding Billy the stallion.  Suppleness was the main theme and Carl’s take was that a rider should be able to position the neck almost anywhere; this proved difficult for a number of us throughout the day.
Day two gave me a much more supple horse and we progressed to straightening exercises using shoulder-in and then changes. That was a laugh, as being a rather laid-back person my flying changes generally happen at some point within the next 10 seconds and Carl expected them within 1.  (And being male I find it difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, therefore becoming rather challenged when faced with multiple instructions! Still I’m told it made entertaining viewing.) Summarising, my experience was inspirational with excellent training.

Next on were national champions Judy Harvey and Fitzceraldo. Grand Prix movements were on the menu and canter pirouettes were greatly improved by lowering the neck and increasing the bend. Justine Sole and new Inter II horse were looking very impressive and also worked on canter pirouettes showing a substantial improvement with super relaxation. Carol Bennitt’s horse clearly impressed Carl with some great work and super movement.
Rob Lovatt’s session was very interesting with huge emphasis on attention to detail within the walk-halt transition, Rob and Carl worked on being in charge of every single step which appeared extremely difficult but showed great improvement.  Sue Pimbley and mount were put through their paces, largely working on suppleness and developing greater self carriage, Sue’s horse at the end of day two looked fab being really round with added throughness.
Sabrina and Wenica were ideal pupils for Carl as they worked hard to produce all his demands.  By the end of their sessions, transitions within paces showed very clear differences and all the movements were sharp and clean. Jenny Ward’s super big horse showed the most impressive piaffe and passage, watch this space! Lizzel as always rode beautifully and showed great concentration really enjoying Carl’s challenges. Hilary Hughes’ horse showed huge improvements in suppleness and throughness. Clarissa Dawson worked numerous transitions, all helping to improve balance and engagement, with her soft riding which Carl thought really aided the horse’s throughness.
Everybody whether mounted or not (and there were always over 20 watching avidly) was really grateful to have access to Carl’s ideas and to be able to watch him communicating those ideas with enthusiasm, humour and patience, coupled with brilliant timing. It was a delight.
report by Andrew Fletcher