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War Photo: Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum

horses

Parisian hors es taken for war

In this World War 1 centenary year, H&R’s Kate Hammaren describes the part played by brave equines in this horrendous conflict 14 HORSe &RIDeR


Horse Alfred Theodore Joseph Bastien ‘Cavalry and Tanks at Arras’ 1918

I

world

t’s been 100 years since World War I broke out, and every Armistice Day we remember the servicemen and women who gave their lives to fight for our country. But it is also a time to remember the horses and other animals who worked and fought so hard, and gave their lives, too, amid horrendous conditions.

Into battle

When news of the war broke out in July 1914, Britain boasted a cavalry of about 100,000 men. Cavalry attacks were the main way of fighting and the Army only owned around 25,000 horses, so thousands had to be recruited for the Great War. A further 165,000 from Britain alone were then deployed – horses and mules aged three to 12 were bought from all over the world and trained as quickly as possible, then formed into squadrons and sent to the Western Front. However, as the weeks progressed, it was realised that this time, war was different. The introduction of the trenches, machine guns and hazardous barbed wire meant that the cavalry charge was no longer appropriate. But horses and mules were still invaluable as a way of transporting materials to the front – military vehicles were relatively new inventions and prone to problems, and the Army only owned around 80 of them. Horses, along with mules, were reliable forms of transport and compared to a vehicle, needed little upkeep. They were vital for transporting supplies and ammunition – especially to the Western Front where appalling conditions meant it was extremely difficult to use motor vehicles.

The utter horror of the war meant man and beast sought solace in each other’s company

A soldier taking a nap with his trusty steed

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PART TWO In this feature... ➤ Riding corners ➤ How to halt square Our trainer Carl Hester MBE is, “the greatest dressage rider and horseman in the world,” says Charlotte Dujardin. Rider and trainer Carl was a member of the British dressage team that won gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and bronze at the european Championships in Herning, Denmark, last year. carlhester.co.uk

Our rider

Photos: Bob Atkins, David Miller

Charlotte Dujardin OBE and Valegro have won five gold medals together. First, as members of the British team in the european Dressage Championships in Rotterdam, 2011; in the team and individual events at the London 2012 Olympic Games; and in two individual events at the european Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark, last year (see photo opposite, top right). charlottedujardin. co.uk

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The Dressage Convention


In the saddle

➤ Extended canter ➤ Improving the walk ➤ Stretching

Valegro loves an excuse to show off!

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harlotte Dujardin and Valegro need absolutely no introduction. Together they have the world at their feet, with everything they touch turning to gold. So it was a real treat watching them in action last October at The Dressage Convention, after their wins at the European Championships two months earlier where they were double gold medallists. Fresh from a month off after the Europeans, it was no surprise that showman Valegro came bunny-hopping his way into the arena. “Somebody is very, very excited to be here,” said Carl Hester, Charlotte’s trainer. Mindful of Valegro’s exuberance, the audience showed their appreciation of this duo’s worldbeating achievements with restrained applause, as Charlotte put the maestro into trot to settle him. “We don’t compete him very much, so he loves an excuse to show off,” continued Carl. “In fact, he only went to three shows in 2013 and I feel that’s enough for him. So inbetween the competing, he has a lot of holidays.”

Photo: Kit Houghton

H&R’s Jane Gazzard discovers what it takes to make dressage superstar Valegro even better than he already is!

At home. . .

Whether hacking on the roads or competing at Grand Prix, Valegro has the temperament of a champion

Away from the day job competing, Valegro has a very normal life, working four days a week in the arena and hacking out twice a week with List One dressage judge Tricia Gardiner, who’s in her late seventies. If that’s not testament to his incredible temperament, nothing is. “He literally bobbles along on the road, like a lovely old cob on a long rein,” says Carl. “In fact, during his time off after the Europeans, all he did was hack. We have just brought him back into work which is why he’s quite fresh, but that’s how I want him to feel about his work – not to be worked to death, but to enjoy it when he does work. It can take five or six years to reach Grand Prix and if you look after your horse well, then hopefully you’ll have seven or eight years of good international competition life, during which time he should improve.” It’s unreasonable, however, to expect a horse at this level to train at this level, day in, day out. “The work involved at Grand Prix is very demanding,” says Carl, and although Valegro is as much a worker as he is an athlete, working him six days a week would take a toll on him physically. So there are exercises Charlotte does to keep this super-smart superstar on his toes when he’s not competing.

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PART Two In this feature... ➤ Preparing for a jump ➤ How to ride turns

As told to Lucy Turner. Photos: Bob Atkins. Many thanks to Blyth’s sponsor, Equipe, for providing these lessons. For more information about Equipe saddles, visit zebraproducts.co.uk

Our trainer Blyth Tait is one of New Zealand’s greatest event riders, having won both world and Olympic titles, and excelled in the major three-day events. He held the world title for the majority of the 1990s and is also one of only four New Zealanders to have won four Olympic medals. Blyth retired from competition in 2004, but returned to competitive riding in 2011.

Our models Zoe Turner’s horse, Lilly, is nine years old and Zoe bought her from Ireland a year ago. Lilly is an enthusiastic jumper, so Zoe’s main focus has been to work on her straightness and on refining her talents. Lilly is quite a straightforward horse, but the pair has been having problems with ‘skinnies’. Lisa Ridgeway owns Polly, a 16-yearold mare. They have mainly done dressage and have just started doing Be80-90 events. The crosscountry phase has been going fairly well, but they are having problems with the showjumping and Lisa has lost her confidence a little.

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a o t p u g n i Build

Jumping courses are full of tricky combinations to test your skills. Talented event rider Blyth Tait shows you how to make light work of them using the canter work you practised last month

Horse&Rider training online

To see videos of the exercises used in this feature, with Blyth’s in-depth explanations, scan or click

➤ horseandrideruk.com ➤ tinyurl.com/blythtait2


In the saddle

➤ Tackling tricky combinations ➤ Making light work of skinnies

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n the February issue of Horse&Rider, we spent a lot of time working on our canter to give us all the tools we need to jump a good, clear round. Having achieved our three types of canter – the ‘sneaking canter’, the ‘ordinary canter’ and the ‘going places canter’ – it’s now time to learn how to use them on a course, so you can select the right canter for the job and transition between them smoothly.

Preparation is everything We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ and it couldn’t ➤ Sneaking around be more true. You canter is appropriate need to be proactive for tight turns, narrow on the approach to a fences and any part of fence, think about the course that the canter and help requires accuracy. your horse ➤ Ordinary canter understand what is suitable for crossyou want, to give poles and uprights, him every and travelling opportunity to jump between fences. the fence well. During your ➤ Going places canter warm-up, work on is necessary for large your flatwork to spreads, parallels and engage the canter oxers, and jumping – get him short and over water. collected when you want it, and forward and in front of the leg when you want it. This will give you the tools to balance him and put the spring together a bit into the turn towards a jump. If you don’t put the spring together into the turn, how can you expect him to uncoil out of the turn and power towards the fence? It’s all about the preparation.

Which canter?

On the turn Take your time when riding through a turn. Think about when you drive your trailer with your horse on-board. When you’re driving along a straight road and there’s a corner coming, you decelerate, turn and accelerate out of the corner. It’s the same on your horse. If you accelerate into the turn, you’ll scramble through it and be set up badly for the next fence.

Ride your turn as if you’re towing your horse in a trailer

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Simply the best In advance of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna’s 2014 tour, First Chief Rider Andreas Hausberger gives an exclusive interview to H&R’s Alison Bridge

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he Spanish Riding School is the ideal many riders look up to. Graceful, elegant riders with the perfect, classical position, riding fabulous white stallions capable of everything from light-as-air collection, to those spectacular ‘airs above the ground’. It is the best-known of the great European schools of equitation, with more than 440 years of expertise in the training of horses, riders and grooms. Its elite band of riders produce their highly-trained Lipizzaner stallions right in the centre of Vienna, in the stables and magnificent Winter Riding School of the Hofburg Palace. Here they give daily, spectacular displays of

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horsemanship and they also tour the world to sell-out audiences. But the Spanish Riding School riders all start as novices, like the rest of us. How do they reach that pinnacle of performance? Who better to ask than Andreas Hausberger, Chief Rider for the last seven years?

Starting school

Andreas explains the entry criteria for potential Spanish Riding School Élèves – the youngest, least experienced pupils. “The school takes Élèves from 15 to 20 years old – they need to have completed their basic academic education. We look for pupils of a suitable height and build, ideally from 172 to 175cm tall with a slim stature.” Athletic ability and creative talent are also sought in the candidates. The work of the Spanish Riding School is physically tough but also requires artistry to create a beautiful picture of horse and rider in harmony, and interpret the performances’


In the saddle

The perfect line-up (above) and the courbette (far left)

accompanying Baroque music. We shouldn’t forget, the Spanish Riding School was performing dressage to music hundreds of years before Valegro came on the scene! The school tours internationally and also trains students from all over the globe, so good German and foreign language skills are desirable in pupils – English is preferred. And last but not least, Andreas says potential pupils need: “A strong connection to horses and at least basic equestrian skills – that means the applicant has to be able to ride and control a horse.”

Learning the ropes

Once they have been chosen, what’s involved in the training of new Spanish Riding School pupils? It starts from the ground – or should we say the hooves – upwards. “An Élève’s early years are spent learning not only proper horse care and maintenance, but also the correct handling of all the equipment,” says Andreas. “Saddles, bridles, everything needs to be painstakingly cleaned, neatly stored and properly used.” All the horses at the Spanish Riding School are stallions, all grey except for one black stallion who traditionally makes up the complement of around 25 horses who live in the Hofburg’s stables. Their lessons in stable management and horse care are

supervised by the School’s Stable Master, and take into consideration the special characteristics of stallions. It’s quite a challenge keeping entire horses fit and healthy, yet calm and obedient in the centre of a city, with just an indoor riding school for exercise, but the Spanish Riding School has it down to a fine art! Élèves, of course, also receive regular riding lessons, and these are aimed at laying the foundations of a correct, classical seat – in the classical way. Andreas explains: “In daily sessions, an experienced Rider patiently but firmly teaches the Élève the correct seat on a fully-trained school stallion – for the first years on the lunge.” He adds: “The history and long-standing traditions of the School and of classical horsemanship are also part of the curriculum.”

Promotion time

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna’s First Chief Rider, Andreas Hausberger

After about four years, the Chief Rider and his colleagues evaluate the Élève’s progress, expertise and skill. “A positive evaluation results in the Élève’s promotion to the position of an Assistant Rider,” says Andreas. “This also means that a young stallion is entrusted into his care and he may ride a fully-trained school stallion in the School Quadrille during a performance.” He (or she –

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InsIde hIs mInd

The

fear

factor

Most of our behaviour problems with horses have their roots in fear. Prof Natalie Waran explains

Photos: Bob Atkins

Our ethologist Professor Natalie Waran BSc (Hons) PhD is Professor of Animal Welfare at the Royal (Dick) School for Veterinary Studies in edinburgh, where she is Director of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare education. She also co-founded the International Society for equitation Science (ISeS).

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Mind matters

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s a prey species, horses have been shaped through millions of years of evolution to keep themselves safe so that they can reproduce and survive. They do this by fleeing, usually at high speed, from potentially dangerous situations. This is why they have earned the name, ‘flight animals’. Just as humans, their behavioural responses to pleasant and unpleasant events are the natural expression of their underlying emotional status. The way a horse behaves, what triggers him and how big his response is, for example, is individual to each horse and is based on his previous experience and genetic factors – his natural temperament, which varies between breeds. These interact in complex ways to determine how fearful a specific horse may become when he is exposed to what we owners may consider to be routine situations, such as being handled, trained, being transported or attending a horse show.

Safety for horses, danger for humans While a behavioural response may serve to keep the horse safe when he’s living in the wild, it’s often problematic in the domestic situation where horses have much closer interactions with their owners. These fear responses potentially place both horse and human in danger. When frightened or anxious, horses will show escape responses ranging from agitation, involving a raised head and neck, through pulling away from their handler, to extreme explosions and bolting. So it’s not surprising, perhaps, that a report looking at causes of horse-related injuries stated that, of all the self-reported accidents in the UK involving horses, 70% were due to horse behaviour and training reasons. In fact, one author has suggested that we are 20 times more likely to have an accident when riding or being

While a behavioural response like fleeing may keep them safe in the wild, it’s often problematic in a domestic situation where horses have close interactions with their owners

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Horse&Rider Magazine - March 2014