A weekend jam-packed with stunning horses, top Canadian talent and words of wisdom from one of the world’s best dressage trainers and riders concluded today, as a two-day master class with Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin wrapped up at Caledon Equestrian Park.
The day began with a pair of lovely young horses demonstrating the early stages of training. Magda Moyseowicz, the only amateur rider of the weekend, rode her 4-year-old gelding Sam I Am while Alexandra Reid piloted 5-year-old Jewel’s Iodkarde. Dujardin emphasized the importance of developing self carriage and acceptance of the contact with both horses, even at this young age. She encouraged frequent stretching breaks to allow young horses to relax their muscles after the more difficult work.
Next in the ring was Jaimey Irwin riding Fortissimo. The original plan was to showcase some of the First Level work, but with Fortissimo clearly overwhelmed by the intimidating atmosphere and the proximity of the audience, Jaimey instead demonstrated the importance of patience and building confidence in young horses by tactfully riding through tense moments and rewarding moments of relaxation.
“It’s no trouble to see the quality of this horse,” said Dujardin. “We all want to see what he can do but in a situation like this the only goal is to get the horse to a point where he’s not afraid and finish the session on a positive note.”
Janine Little and Billionaire were next up in the ring, representing Third Level. In sharp contrast to the younger horses, Billionaire was a bit too complacent for Dujardin’s liking, despite the large crows. As Dujardin introduced the audience to the more advanced dressage work such as shoulder in, travers, half pass and flying changes, she pushed Janine to always take risks and ask the horse for more energy, activity and expression.
“It was a great experience; I really enjoyed it,” said Little, who has trained privately with Dujardin in the past but never in a large symposium such as this one. “It’s nice to be able to do it in front a crowd because this horse is young. He’s only 7 and he’s never been in front of an audience so I didn’t know how he would react. In Canada we don’t get that kind of atmosphere even at shows, so its wonderful to be able to expose them to that in a training situation with someone of Charlotte’s level to guide you.”
The afternoon session began with Tom Dvorak and Cyrus, a very experienced pair who demonstrated the Prix St-Georges work with ease. Dujardin put them through some of the more difficult combinations of the Intermediate 1 test, including how she likes to teach the zig zag, tempi changes and pirouettes.
The final rider of the day was Evi Strasser aboard Disney Tyme, a 10-year-old gelding who made his Grand Prix debut this year. The knowledgeable audience appreciated the difficulty of the work at this level as Evi worked with Dujardin to perfect the full pirouettes, steep half passes and transitions from piaffe to passage which are a hallmark of the Grand Prix tests.
“I really enjoyed working with this group of horses and riders this weekend,” said Dujardin. “Everyone has been brave enough to risk making mistakes in public and work on issues they struggle with, not just the things they already do perfectly. That’s where the learning happens, for the riders and the audience. Huge thanks to Craig, Helen and all the Caledon Equestrian Park team for having me back. It’s always an honour to be asked to do these types of events.”
“We are so honoured to have Charlotte here with us for the second time, sharing her knowledge with Canadian dressage fans,” said Craig Collins from Caledon Equestrian Park. “We are committed to hosting top-notch dressage competitions and bringing in world-class instructors and clinicians for more events like this one, but we couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors, riders, owners, and of course all the spectators, so thank you to all of them.”
Here are a selection of scenes from the weekend, shot by photographer Karie Alderman: