Equestrian Life
Carl Hester’s Masterclass – What an evening it was!

Brett Parbery and PPh Zeppelin, Dressage Masterclass with Carl Hester - Photo Roger Fitzhardinge

Brett Parbery and PPH Zeppelin in action.

© Roger Fitzhardinge


By Equestrian Life

Nearly 2,500 dressage fans flocked to Werribee Equestrian Centre yesterday evening to see a true star of the sport.

An Olympic gold medallist and part time comedian, Carl Hester had the crowd enthralled from the moment he stepped onto the arena. Concert-quality sound, lights and big screens ramped up the entertainment factor, but it was Carl’s knowledge and quick wit that thrilled the crowd.


The crowd waiting at An Evening with Carl Hester Dressage Masterclass 2016 - Photo Roger Fitzhardinge

The crowd awaits the first horse.


© Roger Fitzhardinge


The evening began with two young horses. Rebecca Williams-O’Brien showcased her chestnut warmblood Hollingrove Dazzler, a lovely young horse who handled the atmosphere well despite being a little hot and perhaps being the most inexperienced of those selected. Entering in “piaffe”, the horse settled well despite tension. A young horse still trying to find balance, Carl worked on rider position – explaining that it’s easy for this to go out the window when riding younger horses. Dazzler was a little unsettled with the applause at the end, but what an experience for a five year old!

Sharing the ring with Rebecca was David Shoobridge’s Amaretta. Carl was clearly impressed by this horse’s paces, explaining to the crowd that the canter was of a very high quality with active hindleg action. Since this mare had a brilliant canter, Carl explained that much of her training should be in canter as this would help the trot. He also worked with David to help the horse work towards an uphill frame; at the start of the session she was often downhill.

In session two, we saw two very different horses in action. Mayfield Frizzante – ridden by Tori Stuckey – is a nine year old showjumper contemplating a career change. Frizzante was a little hot and Tori’s main problem was being able to keep her legs on the mare – hence she was the only rider sans spurs. Carl worked on maintaining leg contact by using plenty of shoulder-in on the circle. This certainly appeared to help the mare accept the leg and stretch her neck, which was important as the she had a tendency to come too short.

Sharing the ring was a far more seasoned horse in Bluefields Furstentanz, ridden by Alicia Ryan. A lovely quiet chestnut who couldn’t have cared less about the atmosphere, the Medium/Advanced level horse brought everyone back to basics with straightness. Carl worked on straightness with many horses throughout the evening, explaining that “no horse is born straight – and if one was, you’d never sell it!” With Furstentanz, the straightness in the canter proved to be one of the biggest issues, and this was affecting his flying changes – which were often late behind. Working on rider position and horse straightness, the pair were able to achieve some sharper, more accurate changes by the end of the session.


Alicia Ryan and Bluefields Furstentanz, Carl Hester Masterclass - Photo Roger Fitszhardinge

Bluefields Furstentanz, ridden by Alicia Ryan.

© Roger Fitzhardinge


In the final session before the break, Riley Alexander impressed the crowds with Fiderhall – a truly outstanding horse that left most in awe of his swinging, easy rhythm. As Carl noted, you could barely hear the horse’s footfalls – he was so light-footed in his paces. Carl worked on canter to walk transitions with Riley, “scoring” him an 8 (later revised to 8.5) and then finally a 9.5 under the pressure of the crowd. It was lovely to see a horse and rider working so harmoniously and making it all look easy!

During the break, the gourmet BBQ was almost as much of a hit as the bar (which Carl joked was emptied before the first horse even set foot on the arena). The crowd had plenty of time for a bit to ear and a debrief, and then it was back to the seats for the final three sessions.


The trade stands where a hit - Photo Roger Fitzhardinge

The crowd enjoyed dinner and explored the trade stalls during the interval.


© Roger Fitzhardinge


In session four, it was Steph McDonald and Steph Spencer – which confused Carl and led to plenty of laughter in the opening minutes. Steph Spencer did a fabulous job on Redskin R; the horse was very spooky in the arena on the Friday and although he had his moments last night Steph did well to keep him on the job. When Redskin got a little spooky, he channelled his inner riding school pony and followed Che De Jeu to help settle the nerves. Riding him in a snaffle, Steph’s riding abilities seemed to impressed Carl - he noted that even though the horse was an “average mover”, Steph was doing a great job of doing the best with what she has. Their four-time and three-time changes were accurate and smooth; Carl explained that it was really about trying to improve this horse’s paces. Lots of transitions within the canter (i.e. riding forward and back again), were prescribed to help create more “jump”.


Steph Spencer and Redskin R, Carl Hester Masterclass - Photo Roger Fitzhardinge

 Steph Spencer and Redskin R.


© Roger Fitzhardinge


Steph McDonald and Che De Jeu – a Dutch import from the stables of Edward Gal – was a little too reliant on the curb rein and went a little heavy in the hands. Carl worked on getting Steph to ride more on the snaffle, while also giving and retaking the reins to ensure he was in self carriage. A lovely mover with a calm attitude, Che did lack impulsion at times – which Carl pointed out was evidenced by the head bobbing in the canter. Carl worked on getting the horse lighter through working pirouettes.

In session five, David Shoobridge returned to the ring on his horse Agent De Jeu. Son of 00 Seven, Agent has recently stepped up to Grand Prix and although he can “do” the movements there’s still plenty of room for refinement. This is a horse that tries hard – as Carl noted, a little too hard. In the passage, Agent had a tendency to overdo it – thus loosing the rhythm. Carl explained that with this horse, David actually needs to do less and let the horse move. In the piaffe, the gelding tends to tuck too far under at the back and not step out enough at the front – ending up “stuck”. Carl worked with David to develop a “forward-thinking” piaffe and there was a marked improvement by the end of the session.

The last rider in the ring, Brett Parbery and the 18hh+ chestnut PPH Zeppelin wowed onlookers. A real crowd pleaser, Zeppelin is also new to Grand Prix – although he finds collection easy, he needs to relax and make the paces bigger. The horse has a tendency to throw his hinglegs out the back and dip his back in the piaffe – therefore Carl worked on getting the horse’s hindlegs more beneath him. Being a little tense, the horse also tried to run at times – with Brett working on making him wait.


Carl Hester and X, Dressage Masterclass 2016 - Photo Roger Fitzhardinge

Carl Hester and Event Director Melissa Cannon.


© Roger Fitzhardinge


The evening finished with Carl answering audience questions, before everyone set out into the night to make their way home. An Evening with Carl Hester certainly provided riders of all levels with plenty of insight of tips to keep in mind when working at home. Carl did a great job of making even the higher level horses relevant to the everyday rider. After all, we can all work on our straightness!

Roger Fitzhardinge will be providing his take on the event – plus an exclusive interview with Carl – in the January/February issue of Equestrian Life magazine. Be sure to stay tuned – it’s an article you won’t want to miss!




M ad out now issue 33



© copyright. Equestrian Life. Sunday, 3 July 2022