The International Arena Empowers Communications Between FEI Rider and FEI Horse

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Juan Matute Jr here with Don Diego Ymas at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival

The basic training of a horse by its rider is the view at the side international ring at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF). Behind those mere 7 minutes lay the imaginable thousands of hours devoted toward building the ability and confidence in a horse through effective communication.

One example this past weekend at the Dutta/Havensafe Week 7 at AGDF, seventeen-year-old Young Rider Juan Matute, Jr. could be seen directing his horse, Quantico Ymas in a perfect rhythm. Matute's quiet use in a half-halt related to a viewer that his horse listens contentedly to him. One could see his soft slightly open rein with the aids for a half-pass. It is as if the horse said to him, “Is this what you mean?” The young Matute assures, “Yes, that’s it. You understand.” That reciprocal comprehension remained throughout the test, evidence of mutual understanding and trust. Matute, Jr. works hard to sharpen his rider-to-horse communication skills. Ongoing encouragement and support from sponsors Yeugada de Ymas and step-by-step coaching from his father fuels young Matute’s drive as he benefits from his father’s mastery. Matute, Sr. was awarded the Spanish National Dressage Champion six times, competed for Spain in the Seoul Olympics, the Barcelona Olympics, the Atlanta Olympics and was reserve rider in 2008 for the Beijing Olympic Games. It is certain the young rider will achieve his own successes and will show the way for many others to come. His horses are pleased to do what he asks of them.

Danish dressage rider Lars Petersen represented his country at the Atlanta Olympics, in three World Equestrian Games and at two World Cups with Blue Hors Cavan. For the last few years, he and Mariett work together with full trust and understanding. To watch how Mariett bends around his inside leg in the half-passes is an art form he has perfectly mastered. The bond between the horse and rider is evident in the apparent “want to please” attitude that shows in the international competition arena. They developed a special bond together through many days together training at home and in the international setting of international competition.Lars Petersen and Mariett in the Grand Prix at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival

Watching Steffen Peters and Rosemunde at the AGDF Week 5 Diamante Farms 5*/3* competition was like watching poetry in motion. The clean changes in bend with clear quiet aids shows a horse mentally and physically fully engaged into listening to her rider and executing the movement she fully understands.

Mikala Munter Gundersen and My Lady are of one mind. It’s like watching a large horse use her power and fluid changes in the bending of her body with ease and seeming little effort.

Last summer, watching on video, Lars Petersen win the Hamburg Derby after a strong season in Florida builds strength and confidence for those training and competing in North America. The Hamburg Derby is a unique competition where the top three riders change horses for the final results. Fellow teammate, Mikala Münter Gundersen also competed at Hamburg and placed second. She, too, built her horse’s confidence through the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival Florida season series. Both competed to high results in their home country at the 2014 Danish National Championships with Lars achieving second place and Mikala third. The amount of prize money along with the development in their horses encouraged them to make the journey from the United States, helped them leave their businesses for a short time, and gave them the chance they needed to achieve great success. To these Europeans, “accomplishment” is important, and accomplish they have done and will continue to achieve.

We all can see the amazing benefits to North America and preparing many more riders for the top ten, twenty, or thirty positions on the FEI Dressage World Ranking List. It's now possible. 

Equestrian Sports Productions managing partner Mark Bellissimo with Michael Stone, and Thomas Baur think of everything in their support of a competitor. If they see a need that will make the life for the rider easier, they respond almost immediately. Once when the lights for the international arena needed to go up and only the noisy portable lights worked, after they got the all clear through the city, the huge 50-foot permanent steel lights came on just before show time. If a railing could look better, a new railing is seemingly put into place in a matter of minutes.

The press conferences, the support of Adequan®’s Allyn Mann, Director at Luitpold Animal Health, makes the riders feel as if they are part of a family. The many sponsors fully support the efforts that these athletes worked, up to seven years, training these horses for the international arena. The show management, the judges, the national side, the stabling, the warmth are all welcoming. There is kindness and support here.Arlene (Tuny) Page and Woodstock at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival

Other examples of achievement are Tuny Page’s up and coming Woodstock, seen here in a Florida rain-storm. (Photo)

Europeans continue to bring their international horses along here. The benefits of participating in the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) are innumerable and dressage athletes view this international competition as a stepping stone to scoring big in Europe.

It has been a joy to watch the horses go through stages to full trust in their riders. The list is endless, riders have included Tinne Vilhemson-Silven (SWE), Mikala Münter Gundersen (DEN), Steffen Peters (USA), Allison Brock (USA), Shelly Francis (USA), Anna Marek (USA), Belinda Trussell (CAN), Christilot Boylen (CAN), Karen Pavicic (CAN), Jill Irving (CAN), Sharon McCusker (USA), Ashley Holzer (CAN), Lisa Wilcox (USA), and many many more.

The Festival series is to be seen as a place to thrive, encourage the horse to experience clanging tableware, flapping table clothes, odd time Florida rain-showers, along with strange moving horse art at the end of the competition arena. That is what the facility is all about; prepare the horse to focus and trust in their riders. In the end we are a community together, with everyone believing that any person and any horse has the chance to succeed in the sport of Dressage.

 Tinne Vilhelmson-Silvfen and Divermento at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival

Lars Petersen and Mariett in first, Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 in second, and Mikala Munter Gundersen and My Lady in third at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival