trudi dempsey creative equine training

Welcome to my first newsletter of 2015

I hope the first half of the year has gone well for you. My intention is to produce the newsletter quarterly but I’m afraid moving home and other life changes have rather got in the way- I should now be on track to produce them regularly.  

Since last writing I have taken on responsibility for writing tips and advice at Interdressage, this is in addition to judging the Baroque classes which I designed. This means I can be viewing over 70 unique combinations every month and am refining my distance training skills even further. I am heartened by the interest in the Baroque classes; it seems an increasing number of you want to learn how to ride in lightness.

Summer clinics and trips are already underway with clinics at Swang Pony Centre near Bridgwater proving popular. I aim to start some un-mounted demo/discussion days with small groups in a friendly environment- using some demo equines (mine if at Westcott farm) to illustrate groundwork techniques- let me know if you have a suitable venue and would like to host one of these days.

I spent time in June working with Emma Rennison and her equines in the North East- without exception we made good progress with them all. Patrick took photographs on the second day when the sun gave in and made an appearance; Emma’s herd have big personalities and we got some super shots.

I have completed part 2 of the article on Contact that I started for the previous newsletter, it wasn’t easy as the subject is so involved; it should be more book than article length but I hope, even in its less profound way, it makes you consider things or at least reaffirms them for you. I am starting a series that unscrambles the common terms used by judges and trainers and beginning a more in depth look at the basic training I use.

Don’t forget to like and follow my Facebook page where I post special offers along with interesting links to dressage/training related topics and my regular blog. For students of Creative Equine Training I have also set up a private Facebook group where you can ask pertinent training questions and share video of your own training and see videos of mine- please ask to be added if you would like to take part.

Well that’s all for this time, enjoy your training,


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Newsletter - Summer 2015

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Where to Start?

It is no fluke that many books on equestrianism start with a look at conformation and physiology, a good look at the ‘raw materials’. Along with most trainers I spend much of my time in an initial lesson evaluating conformation and movement of the horse (and rider). Why is it so important to assess these criteria before putting a plan of action together, is there a choice of action? There is a big difference in, for example, the ability of various horses to collect, stretch, and canter etc…literally everything they do is governed by what their physiology allows for.

Those of you who have experienced personal training with me will know that not only will I assess with my eyes but also with my touch. If a horse is bitted I will feel the weight of the bit lightly on my finger and see what response there is. I will raise my energy to the quarters, massage the neck, again to gauge reaction – even in just a halter/head collar I will test the response. These opportunities will give me so much important information about how the horse has been trained and judge his natural responses.

 There are many armchair critics on the internet these days, your job is to become your own critic and hone your eyes and feel so that you have a good feedback loop. Don’t accept what someone tells you unless you can see it for yourself, build your own information pack so that you can begin to understand the way a horse is built and the implications that has on his training. There are so many resources for you to use from books, dvds, online courses and the wonderful painted horse demonstrations that allow you to see what happens ‘under the skin’ as it were.

So my starting point is- know your horse! Know your horse from inside out; understand his mental capabilities and his emotional balance as well as his physiological abilities. Right from the start you can determine, for instance, whether your horse will have a natural ability to collect or extend and plan your training accordingly.

Next time I will take a look at how we might assess the horse, what to look for and how it makes a difference to the way we train.

The Judge’s Code Breaker

1. ‘Round’

What does a judge or trainer means by ‘round’? In the majority of cases they are considering whether the horse is hollow- with a dipped back and tight muscles or ‘round’ with de-contracted/tension free muscles. The use of the word round can prove difficult if you look at the science so bear in mind that use of it is purely for shorthand rather than perfectly correct terminology. The basic premise being that for the comfort and welfare of the horse and the ease of us sitting on his back it is essential to have supple back muscles able to do the job.

I cringe whenever I read advice to keep the back free by sending the horse forwards in a super active trot. Why? Well aside from a small percentage of purpose bred superstar dressage horses the majority come with shortfalls in conformation and with natural asymmetry; in other words completely normal! Just like the human race there are few examples of physiological perfection in the horse world. In order to balance a horse better, to develop a supple back and soft neck we first need a plan of action to eradicate the imbalances caused by nature, otherwise we will only compound the problem when we add our weight to the equation and pound onwards in trot. Respecting this my first port of call is the neck. Often if a horse is tense over his back and working ‘upside down’ (shorthand to mean inverted and tense over the back) you will usually find a good deal of tension in the neck.

A lack of ‘roundness’ will prevent a horse from showing the beauty of his natural paces and create pain; supple backs can move correctly and in time cope with carrying us on top. Teaching a horse to release and soften his neck via the lightest signal from the rein is of great importance and one of my early lessons in lightness.

So ‘round’ is good, it indicates a supple back and a coming to (or at least towards) a light contact with the hand. Being over ‘round’ will mean your horse has come behind the contact and is over flexing; hyper- flexion is very bad for the horse both mentally and physically and shouldn’t be part of any training plan!

Contact Part 2

The first contact with a young horse is likely to be via a hand on a rope that connects to its head. The horses head is blessed with great sensitivity (both inside and out) and yet how much time is taken to prepare for this connection? It's probably a measure of the good nature of the horse that most accept this with good grace but if we wish to develop this, refine and finesse it then we should consider our very first step very carefully. Foals are usually handled from an early age but the amount of care taken during this important stage of their lives plays a big part in their later confidence around humans. I have no intention of discussing foal handling and only draw attention to the fact that even when you start your untouched horse it is worth remembering that they are almost certain to have had previous contact and a hand on a rope attached to their head; how this was perceived by your diamond in the rough you may never know unless you have been there every step of the way.

Read or download the PDF for the full article