David Blake began riding at four years old in Paris, France and won his Bronze Medal in Dressage at only fourteen. David went on to win his USDF Silver Medal in 1998 and Gold Medal in 2003. From there David was chosen to train in the USEF’s Young Horse Program and also trained with the world’s top dressage riders including Guenter Seidel, Axel Steiner, Jan Ebeling, and Christine Traurig. Currently, David competes at the CDI Grand Prix level in Europe and also works and trains alongside Steffen and Shannon Peters in Del Mar, California. As someone who successfully competes at an international level, David knows the importance of keeping his horses happy and healthy to ensure optimum performance. Below are his tips for preserving soundness in competitive dressage horses.
"The best way to keep a high performance horse sound is to try to listen to the horse as much as you can. I personally ride my Grand Prix horses a maximum of five days a week. If I have a horse that is doing really well I will maybe just do four days a week and a little trail ride. I think that is very important to remember not to overdo it.
Icing is a big thing for us. We use the Professional’s Choice Ice Boots a couple times a day. I think it’s important to attend to any heat or swelling. Also, we use standing wraps again to prevent swelling. I think it’s very important for the horse’s legs to feel tight and stay cool, so as not to stress their body.
Many of us know that if your horse’s back gets sore that is a very difficult thing to recover from. For me I really try not to push the horse 100% everyday. Very seldom do I go 100% with the gaits. To really take care of your horse’s back is important, it’s what connects the front end with the hind legs, and also carries the rider, so it is a high stress part of the horse.
Boots are an absolute. I don’t think there’s any reason not to, especially if you are riding a high performance horse. It’s just an all around tool.
You can’t keep horses too safe in the trailer. We will wrap them, put bell boots on all four legs, and we’ve been known to put shipping boots on top. Just to protect everything from the hock, down to as low as we can go so they don’t step on themselves. Also, a nice cooler on your horse protects them from rubbing against the sides. Also, you want a halter with a nice quick release snap so if they get in a bind the horse can break away. And the biggest thing we know is that horse’s live through their stomachs so (to keep them calm) we’ll put a lot of hay and carrots in the trailer. Sometimes it could even be deemed overboard! I think keeping them comfortable with feed though is fairly uncomplicated, and much appreciated by them."