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“Not just another Masterclass” - Kerry Mack wraps up An Evening with Carl Hester

Brett Parbery and PPH Zeppelin in session 6, Carl Hester Masterclass - Photo Stephen Mowbray

Brett Parbery and PPH Zeppelin in the final session of the evening.

© Stephen Mowbray


By Kerry Mack

Wow, what an event the Carl Hester Masterclass was!

This was not just another Masterclass. Run by Dressage Masterclass, it was a really special occasion. The biggest social event on the dressage calendar, many people came from interstate and even New Zealand. If you expected to see something different you might have been disappointed. deLa Gueniere wrote the book on classical dressage in 1754. Horses and people have not changed much since then, and the principles are the same. But Carl is a great communicator and his easy relaxed style, lively sense of humour and fun is hugely engaging. He was quick to find the strengths and weaknesses of each combination. He was clear that the weaknesses had to be addressed. He was specific on how to correct the difficulties.


Steph McDonald and Che Du Jeu, session 4, Carl Hester Masterclass - Photo Stephen Mowbray

Steph McDonald and Che Du Jeu.

© Stephen Mowbray


In the first class, with two beautiful young horses, he was clear that 'the objective is the Grand Prix'. A Grand Prix horse might not be successful in the young horse classes. A potential Grand Prix horse will have a good canter and walk, as these paces are more difficult to improve than the trot. The walk should not be too big, but must have a good rhythm. A potential Grand Prix horse will have a desire and will to work. It may be a little hot; the Grand Prix requires positive tension. Carl prefers hot horses. He recommends not to sit to the trot until the horse learns to accept the correct contact. The contact might be more positive (stronger) in a young horse, before you can teach lightness. Sometimes you might not push the horse so much forward, as he has to learn to balance. Too much impulsion can make it harder for a young horse to balance.


David Shoobridge and Amaretta, session 1 Carl Hester Dressage Masterclass- Photo Stephen Mowbray

David Shoobridge and Amaretta in the opening session.

© Stephen Mowbray

Always work on the opposite of the horse’s natural tendency, make a quick horse slower, and use the leg so he accepts it. Make a slow horse quicker, use less leg, take the leg off but ensure he keeps going. Stretch the horse. He must have a long frame to stretch. Test the self-carriage by giving the rein. Bring your hands together. This instruction made a really big difference in David Shoobridge's 5 year old mare. She came more up, less rolled under, more true in the contact, and her mouth started to foam.

'Straightness is a lifetimes work' Carl says. This was a theme he came back to a number of times. 'Ride the corners and let the long side look after itself'. 'Use the canter to improve the trot'. The pearls of wisdom just kept coming. I will write more about the other classes another day.


Tori Stuckey and Mayfield Frizzante in session 2, Carl Hester Masterclass - Photo Stephen Mowbray

Tori Stuckey and Mayfield Frizzante in Session 2.

© Stephen Mowbray

To succeed at the highest level in the sport requires focus and professionalism. The Masterclass was the epitome of professionalism, from the ticketing, the meals and the bar,  through to the trade stands. And of course the organisation for the riders. Riders were invited; there was no application process. And wasn't it refreshing to see a new group of riders, some unknown, some young, mounted on a wide range of horses? There were collateral benefits. Werribee Park had a tidy up and looked great. The trade stand area was located in indoor two, out of the wind. The surface in this indoor was improved to make it suitable. We will reap the benefits of this much-needed maintenance in future events.


The arena looked a picture at the Carl Hester Dressage Masterclass - Photo Stephen Mowbray

The arena looked a picture!

© Stephen Mowbray

The Dressage Masterclass organisers, former EA board member Melissa Cannon and Adam Fawcett, have a vision to contribute to improving the sport. They are not sitting back saying someone should do this or that, criticising the people involved in the sport. They have just had a great idea, and made it happen. They have shown us what can be done by people getting together, and just getting on with something. There is a benefit in not having a committee to deal with. An organisation such as EA has to have representative committees. A private group can just get on with things. The funding of the sport is very uncertain, post Rio. Sports funding has hinged on Olympic results. After London we had funding until Rio based on our performance in London, and expectations of performances in Rio. Currently there are changes anticipated in the model of funding, but it's not completely clear what this will mean for us. It is likely that we will need to return to a more self-sufficient approach, where we raise money for squads etc. ourselves. We will need to attract sponsorship for the sport based on our commercial value to companies with advertising dollars. The Masterclass was more than a Masterclass. It shows us a commercial direction we can go in to grow the sport. Imagine incorporating this type of Masterclass into a big show. Running a show like the Australian Championships is really expensive. It has been a challenge to get sponsors, and audience. There were 2500 people at the Masterclass, all paying a good price to be there. Imagine what a Masterclass like this could contribute to a show like the Australian Championships.

At the end of the long evening people left excited, wanting to try the exercises themselves. It was a great event.

Trade stalls at Carl Hester Dressage Masterclass - Photo Stephen Mowbray

The trade stands were a hit.

© Stephen Mowbray



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