Training Day with Judy Harvey – 22nd June 2009

As a BHSII SM, aspiring to complete the BHSI Certificate, it was with interest and anticipation that I, as a guest observer, attended the training day at Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire.
The day provided a privileged opportunity to watch 7 training sessions, which introduced the audience to a variety of horses including; an ex  racehorse now enjoying a career change to dressage, eventers and pure dressage horses competing up to Grand Prix level. Their respective riders, who ranged from aspiring youngsters to seasoned campaigners, all desired that “competitive edge”, and sought to improve their performance under the watchful eye of Judy, who “coached” the first 6 sessions and then delighted us by riding Fitzcerraldo in the last session.
Overall the training sessions followed a structured pattern, with a segmented approach, interspersing “work periods” with “relaxation periods”, which gave the horses’ muscles a chance to stretch, whilst the riders reflected on their progression. Introductions and brief histories were provided at the start of each session, and then the riders were encouraged to continue their warming-up in their usual manner, with emphasis on looseness and relaxation, but with respect for the aids, both upwards and downwards, which must be answered by the horse. Having fully warmed up, riders were encouraged to demonstrate movements they required help with, prompting performance enhancing comments from Judy, or specific exercises designed by her to facilitate quality and accuracy. I particularly liked the use of the “medium” pace on the diagonal within a half-pass exercise. This helped to refresh the horses that had a tendency to become “shut down” within the half-pass movement.

From a rider prospective, particular attention was focused on riders “looking for their lines” early enough, so that movements flowed and markers were met. Rider discipline and awareness of the aids, that they were giving, was also challenged. Judy stressed that riders must be clear about what they are asking and the resultant feel of what they should expect. Homework in the form of theoretical knowledge, reflection and mental thought processes, which can be done away from the horse, all help to prepare the rider, so that when they get on to practice, the mind is ready and therefore they have a better chance of achieving the desired outcome, through correct actions.
In the last session it was encouraging to see Judy ride in the way that she coaches. She employed a firm but fair approach, whist promoting a relaxed way of going.
The day was most enjoyable and it was inspiring to be able to watch the transformation of horses who appeared “ordinary” in their warm up to “eye catching” at the end of their session.  Thank you Judy and “F and I” for a super day.
Report by Suzie Seymour