8 Things We’ve Learned from Dressage Legend Carl Hester

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Posted by Sophie Baker for FEI



The equestrian icon is full of good advice for those looking to make improvements...British Olympian Carl Hester is arguably one of the most well-known names in the world of Dressage. Carl has taught at clinics and demos all over the world, and with a training system which has produced countless international Grand Prix riders including Charlotte Dujardin. 

Here’s a sneak peek at some of his wisdom on schooling, training, and producing horses, gathered from various clinics, demos, symposiums, and interviews.
1. Think of a magnet on your hat and the roof

At the West Coast Dressage Convention, Carl’s first ever US clinic, this was repeated a few times to different riders.

It’s meant to help you sit up taller, straighter, and improve your overall posture in the saddle. It’s a useful visual which might prevent you from hollowing or going stiff – a common problem with the usual “shoulders back” instruction.

2. Don’t buy a flashy trot

It’s a theme that you’ll see from many top Dressage riders. You have to buy a good walk and canter, but the trot is the easiest gait to improve. “Look for an overtrack in the walk, but remember that too huge a walk often means it’s not easy to collect the horse in a good rhythm.”

Carl also adds that temperament is important and he’d rather have a horse with a great temperament and movement that isn’t exceptional than a spectacular mover with the wrong temperament.

And as someone who generally buys his young horses at between ten and fifteen thousand pounds and makes them into international superstars, he probably knows a thing or two!

3. The horse should be doing the work

To be an elegant rider, the horse needs to be carrying you and doing his job. This means that as the schooling improves the rider does less and the horse does more.

4. Don’t be scared of days off

Carl and Charlotte’s horses work four days a week. Even the Grand Prix horses. His belief is that the days off in between give the horses time to learn, but also to relax so that schooling isn’t stressful and tense. 

He’s also mentioned at previous clinics that your horses will hit stumbling blocks or plateaus in their training, and suggests that you give them a break of a couple of weeks to help them recharge.

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