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Kerry Mack reports from the Charlotte Dujardin Masterclass (Part One)

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Charlotte's masterclass was an evening to remember!

© Equestrian Life


Stayed tuned for part two - photos from the masterclass are still to come!


By Kerry Mack

Yet again the dressage community was abuzz for the sold out masterclass with Charlotte Dujardin.

What a great idea to hold this with the Boneo Classic. The Boneo Classic is already one of the highlights of the competition calendar. A marque event, this brings together the best of dressage in a three star CDI and the final round of the showjumping world cup series.

Scheduled after the competition ended on Saturday, Charlotte needed no introduction. First rider in is 16-year-old Charlie Welsh on her 5yo gelding Rubingold. Charlotte wants this young horse to trot freely forward, rising trot.

‘Don't sit to the trot on a young horse, as it can interfere with the suppleness of the back’. ‘Ride a lot of transitions’. ‘Hundreds of transitions in each session.’

In this session Charlie is asked to repeat many walk-trot-walk, and later repetitions trot-canter-trot.

‘Always thinking forward in the transitions’. ‘Forwards to walk from trot’. ‘Look where you are going, this helps you use your body so he knows what you want’, Charlottte says. ‘Not a gripping leg. Massage the bit in his mouth to soften him’. Charlotte is asking for a quick but balanced response from the horse. She is already working on a softer horse. ‘In the leg yielding he should be almost straight so he doesn't fall over his shoulder. Look where you are going; look at the marker. Use your voice to give him confidence. Stretch him at the end of the session, rather the beginning, with the young horse’.

Charlotte finishes the lesson with the exercise of allowing the horse to trot on a long rein, stretching forwards and downwards into the contact. This is required in the Novice tests and the young horse tests. ‘Stretch him into the contact, not with a floppy rein’. Charlotte does not want a loose rein and is really emphatic about this. ‘You can take your hands wider when you ask him to stretch’.

Nothing is new, as George Morris said at Boneo last week. Charlotte emphasises hands mean stop legs, mean go. ‘It’s very black and white,’ she says. LEGS WITHOUT HANDS, HANDS WITHOUT LEG.

This principle was first written by Baucher in his 1842 book ‘The Method of Equitation based on the New Principles’. These principles were ‘new’ compared with the classical principles outlined by De la Gueriniere in his book of 1730. De la Gueriniere invented the shoulder in.

If you are buying a horse Charlotte advises ’Character is the most important thing. Then the walk and the canter. You can’t change these. The walk should not be for a 10. The really big walk is too hard to collect and keep the rhythm. You need a canter that can push and sit’. ‘The trot doesn't really bother me’ Charlotte says. ‘You can improve the trot’.


Lizzie Wilson-Fellows and Lets Jazzabit ©Roger Fitzhardinge

Lizzie Wilson-Fellows, pictured here at a previous event riding HB Rhodium.

© Roger Fitzhardinge

And in the next lesson she tells us how. Second in the arena was Lizzie Wilson Fellows with her 6-year-old HB Rhodium (co-owned by Moira Kelly). The horse is warmed up and the lesson begins with canter. ‘I want you to have a little flexion to the inside, only so you can see the inside of his eye'. ‘Never pull back with the hands. Think of pushing your hand away’. 

This is part of the fundamental tenet of riding from the back to the front. ’Turn from the outside rein, stay upright in the shoulders’. Charlotte wants a horse at this age to be developing collection. ‘Think walk with the rein and canter with the leg (to collect the canter).

Lizzie is asked to do transitions forward and back within the canter. ‘Smaller steps until he is sitting. Stretch his neck down as he collects and sits. Keep him straight,
not pulling with the inside rein, a little bit like renvers'.

I am reminded of Carl Hester’s canter exercise for straightness with counter canter feeling, and George Morris’s counter shoulder in for straightness with the jumping horses last week.

Charlotte wants these transitions smooth, soft and straight. ‘I want easy adjustment’. Forward and back. When he stiffens don't tighten the hand, soften the hand’. ‘I like shoulder fore to engage the hind leg’. So does George Morris. Nothing is new, and nothing is different.

Charlotte wants Lizzie to be soft with her hands while performing the transitions within the canter. ‘Go. Ears up, hands forward in these. Straighter in his body. The whole time you are riding you are making transitions’. ‘Carry your hands’. ‘More canter and then rebalance’.
‘Balance the canter and forwards to walk. If the balance is right in the canter the transition to walk will be correct’. ‘The more he can sit, the lighter he will be in the hand’. ‘Get him balanced and let go’. ‘Give and retake’.


Charlie Welsh and W Esther De Jeu

Charlie Welsh, pictured here at a previous event riding W Esther De Jeu.

© Roger Fitzhardinge

Charlotte helps Lizzie to develop self-carriage in the canter. Next Charlotte asks for lengthening in the trot. ‘He has to push. Go!’ ‘It doesn't matter if he canters, he has to go. If she presses he must go’. ‘This is how you improve the trot. Go! Up! Uphill. If he is a little bit quick it’s ok to start’.

Charlotte is not bothered that Rhodium speeds up in the rhythm to start with. Charlotte asks the crowd to clap to get a better trot. And Rhodium delivers. ‘Keep the neck and shoulder up. This frees the shoulder so he can get more reach in the shoulder’.

Join us tomorrow for Part Two of Kerry Mack’s recap of the masterclass where she covers Jayden Brown and the impressive stallion Legend of Loxley, as well as Abbie O’Brien and Rajah’s Rave.




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