Katherine Bateson, (36 years old) - born in Great Britain and moved to New Jersey when she was 13, worked for Robert Dover starting at age sixteen until his retirement in 2007. For a total of sixteen years, she tacked up and assembling horses for his business, at home, as well as traveled with the horses to international competitions including the 1994, 1998 World Equestrian Games and 1996, 2004 Olympics and several World Cups. She’s worked hard. Now, Bateson and Alcazar, the eight-year-old KWPN (Contango x Polina x Ferro) build their foundation for a strong medal future in a program with Carl Hester. We caught up with Katherine who said, “I have now spent four summers at Carl's and have been friends for seven years. The very first time I came to Carl's to look at horses for clients, I knew it was a place I wanted to bring my horses to train, if I was ever given the opportunity. Just sitting and watching how he works, you can see how the training makes sense to the horse."
She continued, "That may seem like a given because he is a top trainer, but I have to say there are many trainers even at an international level that you can watch in confusion, not sure exactly seeing what their goal is. If I'm confused watching I have to guess that the horse is confused too. Carl operates in a clear and fair way in his training and the horses know every day exactly what is required of them. I think that makes them content in their work. Carl has an incredible work ethic and above all always keeps a sense of humor about training horses and life in general. I have to say for me this is a priority or I can get too intense in my riding. Everything in prospective.
I have been so lucky to have had a variety of horses with very different temperaments at Carl's yard. I love how he can adapt his training. In the end the system is whatever works for each individual horse.
All the horses go for a fifteen minute walk either down the road or around the field before they go to the arena. And then they all get a fifteen minute trot and canter stretch to warm up. Usually then we start with some basics such as square halts, and center lines, followed by leg yields in trot and canter, before the more serious work begins. Walk breaks are very important, and if the horse does an exercise well, they get either a quick trip the sugar bowl, or we get up and off their backs to let them have a big forward stretchy canter.
There’s lots of suppling work, a big part of Carl's program, varying the size of their stride and the shape of their outline; very important, is the reactions to the leg and rein, and that all horses think forward at all times. A lot of praise is given to let the horse know he is heading down the right path in their training, which fits right in with how I was always taught to train. The horses are only in the ring four days a week and the other days they hack out on the back lanes which keeps them fresh and able to cope with different environments. Carl tells people this schedule and sometimes I think most people think he's exaggerating but it is 100% the truth!
It's lovely that I've come to Carl's for so long, so it really feels like home. Even though I was born in the UK, I owe America so very much, and I definitely would never have had the opportunities I was given in the States had I stayed in England. I'm proud to be over in Europe representing the USA and hope to do everyone at home proud.
I am competing in Hickstead in a week and then we will decide what's next. Alcazar, Lonzie, is only eight years old, but is doing almost everything from the Grand Prix now. I try to make sure he thinks it's all a bit of a game so he stays happy and enjoying his work. I will let him tell me when he's ready to get a bit more serious, and then I know he will be ready to try a Grand Prix. We will see!"
To conclude she said, "I am so incredibly lucky to have the support and friendship of someone as generous as Jane Clark. She took a risk and supported me when I was not a big name competitor, but at that time, a groom, with huge ambition - with an all-consuming love of horses. It's hard to express my gratitude to Jane. We, as Americans are very lucky to have a fantastic support system behind us that we can always count on whether we are at home or abroad, and now that Robert is our team advisor, for me personally, I couldn't have a better scenario because Robert and I are like family.”
Photo Credit: Risto Aaltonen