And if Trainer A turns pale at the thought, he ought to be able to pick up the phone and call Trainer B for advice. Our training at home has to be more precise, more goal oriented, more collaborative and more demanding for those combinations who will eventually compete with the Europeans.
Some of our combinations need to work quietly in the USA before going to Europe to compete. We need a leader who can recognize the different stages of development in Grand Prix horses and make recommendations to riders who need guidance in improving their horses. All horses capable of the Grand Prix have to be considered future team prospects, and we must not dismiss the horses with talent who are not yet scoring like we want them to. Heather Blitz with Paragon and Kathleen Raine with Breanna come instantly to mind. They need to be trained, honed and developed to their greatest possible performance level…starting now.
We have good trainers in America. Can’t we educate them further too? They also need more exposure to the best riders and trainers in Europe. If nothing else, they need to get over to a few big shows and sharpen their eyes once or twice a year. There is nothing more educational than sitting on the fence at a CDI***** warm-up. I have learned ssssooo much there!
Fifteen years ago, a team could medal at the Olympics with three riders that got through the test with no mistakes. Our teams in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens come to mind. Americans had perfected the conservative, do-no-harm type test that was effective back then. Unfortunately, our sport has changed dramatically since even the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong where we did not medal.
This is 2012, three years after the appearance of Totilas on the world stage, an event that changed our sport forever. Accurate is not good enough anymore. Everyone can do that. Today, full power and expression have to be evident on every short side in the collection and every diagonal in the extension. I will never forget watching Totilas piaffe under Edward Gal. I sat closer to the edge of my chair with each step as that black stallion came more and more through his neck while bouncing on the spot. It was spell-binding and suspenseful, and he pulled it off!
The Brits added correctness and relaxation to the expression, raising the bar even higher at London. Getting the Grand Prix test done is simply not good enough anymore. Unfortunately, when you kick most of our top riders into the all-out-going-for-it-mode that is necessary to win in today’s arena, they are overfaced, and all relaxation disappears. If we are going to compete with the Europeans, this kind of riding needs to be practiced at home until it looks easy, because that’s what wins today.
This means we need sound, fit horses and excellent training conditions so that we reduce the risk of injury in training. Which brings me to Parts 2 and 3 that you can read in my next blog: Management and Logistics.
More soon, Rita.
I’m Catherine Haddad Staller, and I’m sayin it like it is in Vechta, Germany.
Training Tip of the Day: Are you riding your short sides with full collecting power?