Owners and riders of the Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) horse were treated to a two day clinic sponsored by the United States PRE Association (USPRE) February 18-19 with Spanish Olympic Team Rider Jose Daniel Martin Dockx of Mijas, Spain. “Dani”, as he likes to be called, rode the PRE stallion Grandioso III owned by U.S. PRE breeder Hampton Green Farms in the 2012 London Olympics. Dani has been very successful bringing along young horses and has won numerous titles including Champion of Spain, 6-Year-Old Horses, Champion of Spain, Developing Horses, Champion of Spain, Grand Prix, Reserve Champion of Spain, 4 Year Old Horses, Reserve Champion of Spain, Developing Horses, Champion of Andalucia, Intermediare I, Champion of Andalucia, 6-Year-Old Horses, Three time Reserve Champion of Andalucia, and most recently Member of the Spanish National Team in Rotterdam, Aachen and London Olympics 2012.
Dani has also coached two youth riders to National Champions at Junior and Young Rider levels and has trained extensively with Arthur Kottas, Lendon Gray and currently with Jan Bemelmans. He trains all breeds of horses at his training facility outside of Malaga and is especially talented in the in-hand work with horse and rider training piaffe and passage.
A broad spectrum of riders and horses participated in the clinic including Young Rider Rebecca Gonzales on the First Level PRE stallion Jocoso LXXI, sired by Olympic dressage competitor Feugo de Cardenas; Para-rider and WEG competitor Susan Treabess riding the PRE stallion Kamiakin at Third Level, Katie Hoefs-Martin riding the Second level PRE stallion Magiar owned by Jesse Mendoza and a Morgan stallion at PSG, Cindy Ramirez riding the PRE stallion Decoroso HGF, Angela Ridgway riding the PSG level stallion Faralay III owned by Betsy Ketcham, Justin Frazier riding the I1 Lusitano stallion Signo and Michael Etherly riding the PSG level stallion Noble GF owned by Erin Lohec.
The consensus amongst the riders during the clinic was that Dani quickly identified the areas where the horse and rider needed to work most. Cindy Ramirez, riding Decoroso HGF, was impressed with Dani’s attention to details and his insistence on good basics, “with his help I was able to get my horse much more in front of my leg and more through in all of our lateral work. It was a great feeling!” “I learned both from my own lesson and watching the lessons of others and I could see them all show improvement from the beginning of the clinic to the end”.
Dani started off asking for more forward energy from the horses noting that many of the horses where only using 50% of their power. He had the riders work on a lot of transitions within the gaits; from the working gait to extended gait for the lower level horses and collected gaits to extended or medium gaits for the upper level horses, always making sure the horses where responding with 100% power when asked to do so. Dani explained that, “only when the horse is giving you 100 percent of its power can you ask for collection or develop more expression in the gaits”.
Dani also commented that, “U.S. riders tend to ride their test’s slowly and the horses lack forward energy because the riders are more concerned with accuracy, therefore their horses tend to lack expression and he sees many riders receiving scores in the 60’s when they could and should be scoring in the 70’s. “This should not be good enough, you are not really riding or doing your job until your scores are consistently in the 70’s and your horses are forward and giving 100% of their power and pushing from the hind leg and coming up through their backs into the hands with effective and soft half-halts.”
It’s a common thought amongst trainers and PRE owners to not push a horse out of his tempo. This is especially true for a horse that is a little tighter and tends to be quick in his strides, but Dani surprised us all by doing exactly that. “Dani was able to assess each horse/rider combination and bring the focus of the lesson to the areas which would benefit them most. I was impressed with the improvement in the quality of the gaits of my stallion, Faralay II. He was able to show more expression and through-ness in his half passes, pirouettes, and extended trot”, said Betsy Ketcham of Ketcham Ranch. His rider, Angela Ridgway, happily reports that she has carried these improvements through the subsequent weeks of training to help her prepare for the upcoming show season.
Katie Hoefs-Martin riding the PRE stallion Magiar says, “My horse Magiar can be quite tight in the back and behind the leg, especially at new places causing his stride to be short and quick. Dani had us ride very forward and to stretch to the bit and work with a slightly lower poll which encouraged him to relax in his back.” Dani had Katie do quick transitions from lengthening to extended gaits in both trot and canter to make Magiar more sensitive to her leg while at the same time helping him open up his stride and cover more ground. “At first he was just quick and over tempo” Katie said, “but eventually he relaxed into the stretch, letting go of the tension in his back and his stride got longer in the hind. When this happened we where able to use the transitions from the extended gait to a medium or lengthened gait and back to start collecting him and slow his tempo but remind him to keep his stride open.” On the second day of their ride they reviewed the previous work and where more strict about him not working over tempo, “we worked on the same transitions within the gaits, asking for the same stretch, relaxation and bigger stride but insisting that he maintain a slower tempo. Magiar pleasantly surprised us by maintaining his longer hind stride and relaxation and showing us that he understood; from there the pair moved on to the lateral work. Katie was happy to report a few days later, “after a day off, Magiar surprised me and started out where we left off at during the clinic; forward and with a longer stride”!
The Spanish horse is very supple in the poll and he can easily give the appearance of being on the bit and at the same time lacking in thoroughness over the back. All of the riders where asked to lower their horse’s poll, extend the neck out and to make sure the horse was working over its back consistently. Dani stressed that, “you should be schooling your horse daily with a lower poll and constant attention to the horse working over his back. Of course, for the show, should you start to ask the horse to come up in the poll without losing the thoroughness”. Another common theme throughout the two-day clinic for all level of riders was for the use of more inside leg and less inside rein and providing more support in the outside rein.
California boasts the largest percentage of population of Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) horses in the U.S. and our country is the second largest population of PRE breeding stock outside of Spain. The large and growing demand for the PRE horse for the sport of dressage is becoming more evident each year at the shows and we currently are second to Wellington, FL with the number of PRE horses being shown in competitive dressage by both professional and amateur riders alike. Since its inception, the United States PRE Association has supported the dressage rider and PRE owner through their USPRE High Point Awards, USDF All-Breed Awards participation, USPRE Dressage Scholarships, USPRE International Dressage Rider Sponsorship, Adequan Global Dressage Festival Sponsorship, recognition of PRE horses in dressage on their website and by sponsoring clinics such as this with high caliber clinicians from Spain and Europe.