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BLOG: Brumby Dressage - On the road to advanced training

Cooper - untamed in the wild! © Donna Crebbin

Cooper - untamed in the wild!

© Donna Crebbin


The Australian Brumby Challenge is a competition designed to test both wild horses and their trainers in a multi-discipline environment. The Challenge at EQUITANA in November will include several classes across four days - a ground skills test, ridden pattern class, obstacle challenge, and Freestyle class.

As a horse trainer and educator, my training approach to starting any horse under saddle is all about The System. Two year’s ago we proved that our System could start a wild horse in all equestrian disciplines from dressage to show jumping and endurance. Cooper’s adaptability and versatility using the exact same approach and training methods will be showcased at the 2018 Brumby Challenge.

In a departure from the traditional image associated with Australian horse breakers, I have chosen to ride Cooper in an English saddle. Why do I choose dressage? Primarily, it’s because dressage provides the advancement necessary for Cooper to be a well-balanced and supple horse. Brumby Dressage is dressage for a purpose and my brumby will need these tools to demonstrate a level of physical ability that will help him to carry me across four days of diverse and challenging competition.

Horses may vary in personality, size, and conformation but the only variable in my training system is TIME. Some horses learn lessons fast while others require more repetition. In Cooper’s case, initially, I spent extra time working him on the ground with one rein. This cemented his understanding of how we would communicate and work together going forward.


Cooper has learnt to focus on Lara’s instruction as his training advances

Cooper has learnt to focus on Lara’s instruction as his training advances.

Riding a horse with the use of only one rein and one inside leg, seems odd to many dressage riders.  For Cooper, however, there are two major benefits:

1.    Simplicity – Cooper only has to focus on my instruction down one side of his body at a time.

2.    Freedom – Cooper is not restricted by an outside leg or outside breaking rein. He is free to make the decisions he needs in order to learn.

In my last blog, I spoke about breaking down each aid into simple cues and educating each cue, one at a time. For our first ride together, Cooper learnt the feel of an inside leg and the action associated with a cue. For example, inside leg at the girth controls the bend through Cooper’s rib.

Advance a little – learn a lot. Learn a little – advance a lot!

Advancement is about adding these simple cues together to perform more complex and more advanced movements. Inside leg combined with contact on the outside rein will create shape (roundness) through Cooper’s body. By introducing a half-halt on my outside rein Cooper is now able to piece together the aid for a leg-yield.

The Challenge will demonstrate that dressage is more than just a discipline for competition. I will use the dressage aids that Cooper has learnt to open gates, load him onto a trailer, and even lie down at liberty in our Freestyle event.

Cooper is learning about strength, rhythm, balance and impulsion — a horse’s equivalent of Pilates — training that will help him to carry a rider further and for longer. I love horses. I love trail riding, and I love to compete in FE1* international endurance. My focus as a rider at this year’s challenge is not just about classical dressage. Over the four-day event, I am keen to demonstrate the sound training principles of The System combined with the dressage movements that Cooper has learned.

Lara Beth Poynton

For further updates go to: Brumbydiaries/Lara Beth

To read Lara's previous blogs on her journey with Cooper click here.

2018 Naming Rights Partner, McDowells Herbal Australian Brumby Challenge

EQUITANA Melbourne, 15 to 18 November





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