Charlotte is a Master
If you didn’t go watch the Charlotte Dujardin Masterclass at RMSJ on July 21, 2018, then shame on you! One of the best dressage riders – no, she is actually the current world record holder of the top score for the Grand Prix, Grand Prix special and Freestyle internationally, as well as WCF Gold, WEG Gold, and Olympic triple gold and silver medalist – and she was in Calgary for one day this year!
The Masterclass was a unique symposium/clinic style teaching session, in which those in attendance had the opportunity to learn about developing young horses for top sport in dressage, teaching young riders to grown and learn their craft, and mastering the finishing touches on Grand Prix level horse/rider combinations.
Clearly a lot of ground was covered that day, and so much of it is applicable to riding in general (not just for dressage!).
A few take-aways from my experience include:
2 reins 2 legs – I took this to mean don’t get pulling on one rein or over-using one leg, but instead use both aids and create a sort of funnel;
Soft and round – first accomplish this before attempting to raise the neck or complete a movement; this is the starting point for learning and challenging the next thing;
Soft forward hands – the horses should be reaching towards the bit;
Laugh at yourself – don’t take things too seriously;
Small details matter – corners, set up, start, middle, and end of any exercise, and so on;
Mistakes are how we learn – don’t be afraid to try for a 10/10 quality movement even if you don’t get it the first time. Mistakes are ok and let you know where you stand.
She also had a fanstastic exercise for flying changes: take a 20m circle or the short end of your arena and make a figure 8 using a diagonal line to bisect the circle to create the figure 8. The short space on the wall as you arrive into the corner helps underline the balance, collection and patience to help make a straight change.
Most of her other exercises had mostly (if only) dressage application, but as a ‘black tack’ enthusiast I was watching intently and holding my breath all day.
The riders were exemplary and it was fantastic to watch superb horses and riders not only performing well but also making mistakes, and to watch them shrug them off and move forward was a real moment for me.