Posted on 15th February 2020 by Sue Tomlinson
With winter breaks for both the hard working staff and horses here at DEHQ well and truly over, our sights are firmly set on the season ahead. Whilst Kate and Lauren set off with bags packed on their Spanish adventure with some of the older horses to the Sunshine Jumping Tour, Hayley, Craig, Amelia and myself are turning our attention to the new recruits who checked into team Dassett this January.
Along with some of the established campaigners who we have been carefully producing for sale over the past few seasons, such as Boleybawn Dassett Cruise and MBF Dassett Legacy, whom we hope will both be competing at Advanced level this season, each year brings a new crop of Dassett Babies for us to get to know and work with.
It will come as no surprise to hear that no two horses are the same and with each new recruit comes a new challenge in working out the best way to bring each individual to the height of his or her potential, whilst encouraging the trust and confidence they will need to go on to have successful careers both as a part of team DE and just as importantly, beyond.
One of the driving factors that influences the way we train and produce our horses is the fact that they need to be, for want of a better phrase, “user friendly”. Producing a horse for sale, by its very nature means that the horse fundamentally has to be a horse that somebody will actually want to buy otherwise, the whole system will very quickly fall apart! This underlying motivator however, I believe, helps more than hinders the ability to bring out the best in the horses that we train. When producing a horse for a hereto unknown rider, there are no corners to be cut you are constantly and acutely aware that the horse that most people will want to ride is not only one that wants to do its job, but also, the one that feels easy doing it.
Confidence is key. Time spent building this is never time wasted, I often times catch myself remembering the famous phrase that we all have two options when it comes to training horses, you can either give them time…or…you can wish that you had. Spending time on the groundwork of confidence in all phases is the cornerstone of producing a horse that not only you, but also someone else, will be able to enjoy. The ability to produce the same level of work in the dressage arena as you do at home is as much a reflection of this as the ability to jump a clear round in the showjumping or tackle the biggest of ditches on the cross country.
The physicality of each horse must also be taken into consideration. For example, a big forward thinking horse such as the uber talented Dassett Empire, must learn to be balanced and polite before it can learn speed which can often take until well into its 2nd or 3rd year eventing. Overlooking this vital step as a 5yr old may result in short term gains but also a horse that as a 6yr old is too strong through lack of training for a potential customer enjoy.
While some horses such as Mr Perfect Pants himself, Dassett Select, seem to have done their homework, read all the books, and watched the “how to be an event horse” video before ever setting foot in the ring, others take a little longer to get their heads in the game. This is not a reflection of future success, but it is certainly an indication of the route you will need to take to get there!
Being “ready” is always a tricky one to gauge; some horses will rise to the challenge of being tested and, as a result, make massive leaps forward in their education while others, will shrink away and need to think about things before moving on. As with people, experience is something horses often only ever gain shortly after they actually need it which, can lead to frustrating times. However, an ability to keep an eye on the big picture and not worrying about things being too perfect will often mean that some mistakes are worth making. Navigating the youngsters through the fundamental stages of their training and watching them develop into well rounded, educated horses that we can be proud to show to a variety of different clients is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
With 7 (yes 7!) new kids on the block hoping to make their debut this time around, we are going to have our work cut out making sure we get all the training boxes ticked this spring as we work away with this talented and exciting bunch.