The Young and Future Event Horse article series is being provided through a partnership between Mythic Landing Enterprises, LLC., and the USEA.
Balance, balance, balance. This is a key concept that Eric Dierks instills in his young horses from the very beginning through very simple exercises that allow his horses to gain confidence in not only themselves and but also their rider.
An exercise that you can work on every day is having them stand next to the mounting block. Lead your horse up to the mounting block and once they’re standing there without an abrasive attitude, put a loop in your rein so that they’re standing in a completely independent balance. Keep that loop in your rein as you place your foot in the stirrup. As you go to swing your leg over, your horse may start to walk away, avoiding the idea of re-altering their balance as you get on. Dierks encourages riders that instead of pulling back or holding the contact and to make them halt, apply a rein aid but immediately release to a loop in your reins so that they have to have accountability for their own balance without the rider taking that opportunity away. Continue to practice this until your horse stands still as you mount. This may take a handful of times initially, but keep practicing before every ride.
Dierks explains, “As riders, we’re so quick to want to help our horses when we feel them lose their balance. Giving them the opportunity to figure it out on their own starts to create a true relationship between horse and rider. You’re beginning to tell the horse that you trust them to figure it out and that starts to create confidence within themselves.”
When you’re training young horses, and especially off-the-track Thoroughbreds, taking them on regular hacks should be worked in your training schedule as it has a true emphasis on finding balance. Dierks explains that the hardest thing for most riders is to take their young horses on a walking hack while on the buckle. It’s so easy for us to pick up the reins or try to help our horse if we feel them stumble or pick up the trot instead of allowing them to find their balance, before re-establishing the walk.
Dierks continues, “When you keep your reins long on hacks you’re allowing your horse to cope through that challenge. They’ll start to use more muscle groups and ultimately use their head and neck to stretch. Walking in a relaxing rhythm out on the trail shows trust between you and your horse. This a big milestone in my training program.”
Building a relationship with your horse early will mean having a horse that's willing to go the extra mile when it really counts. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
The biggest idea to remember is that building a relationship with your horse requires giving each other room to grow. “I respect my horse’s misunderstanding of an exercise and, in that moment I’ll simplify it a bit to allow them to figure it out and as a result, gain more confidence,” Dierks describes. Allowing your horse to find their own balance is so important. When we give our horses room to find their balance is when the partnership is starting to happen. You have to sell the concept to your horse and have them start to embrace the challenge.
Dierks explained that watching the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event this year you could really see the horses and riders that have a true partnership. Those riders did their homework and had horses willing to go that extra mile for them. “Those horses embraced the challenge and kept going. Every time I ride my horses I’m always thinking that I’m allowing them to want to do it for me. When your horse is tired on that last stretch of a four-star event, you want to be sitting on a horse that wants to get you home and jump to the other side of the jumps. And that happens when you’ve created a true partnership.”
About Eric Dierks
Eric Dierks is graduate “A” pony clubber that bases himself out of Renovatio Farm in Tryon, North Carolina. Eric has earned many accolades throughout his career including being long-listed for both the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Spain and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. A strong advocate of education, Eric believes, “The equestrian world is an art of peace, rhythm and communication, no matter what discipline, and that success is measured through horse and rider understanding.” His program allows him to take a patient and sympathetic approach to the training of young horses to be successful in the sport of eventing.
To learn more about Eric and his program, please visit his website: http://ericdierks.com/Home.aspx
Boyd Martin claimed the CCI4*-L victory at the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event riding Luke 140, owned by The Luke 140 Syndicate. California rider Tamie Smith held the lead and second place with Danito and En Vogue, respectively, with the two swapping placings after cross-country, and Martin and Luke 140 maintaining third place through both phases. But two rails down for Danito dropped him to fourth place and En Vogue was relegated to third with three rails down, opening the door for Martin and Luke 140 to clinch the win.
Will Faudree shared the news yesterday that his legendary event horse, Antigua, passed away at the age of 32. In a Facebook post he said:
“I always thought I would have something profound to write. A eulogy that would encapsulate the impact you had on my life. And maybe those words will come. You taught me what a work ethic is, how to think in slow motion and how to just keep going. You laid the foundation for a career I dreamed of as a kid. Thank you will never be enough. I will miss you every day- rest easy my friend.”
While her two horses swapped places for first and second after cross-country, Tamra Smith maintained both the lead and second place with two clear rounds and minimal time faults at the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event Presented by BW Furlong and Associates and Zoetis. The 16-year-old Hanoverian mare En Vogue (Earl x Laurena) is just a little more experienced than her barn mate Danito, also owned by Ruth Bley, so she was also a little quicker around the big, challenging course that twisted and turned through the Horse Park of New Jersey. En Vogue leads on a 27.1 and Danito is second with 31.9, with Boyd Martin maintaining third place with the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding Luke 140 (Landos x Omega VI), owned by the Luke 140 Syndicate.
California rider Tamra Smith holds the lead and second position in the CCI4*-L at the Jersey Fresh International (JFI) CCI at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown. Smith scored 23.9 today with Danito, Ruth Bley’s 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Dancier x Wie Musik), to take the lead from her other mount, the 16-year-old Hanoverian mare (Earl x Laurena) En Vogue, also owned by Bley, who was the overnight leader after scoring 24.3 yesterday. Boyd Martin of Cochranville, Pa. holds third place with Luke 140, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Omega VI) owned by the Luke 140 Syndicate, on a score of 25.6.