Dressage for success


dressageFor the past 30 years, Dr Peter Ewing of Ascot Dental, QLD, has been breeding, training and competing warmblood horses.

A warmblood is a carriage horse that was developed by crossing ‘cold-blooded’ draft horses with ‘hot-blooded’ thoroughbreds. The breed looks like a thoroughbred but has the phlegmatic nature of a cart horse. I’ve spent the past 30 years mucking around with warmbloods and now I breed them, break them in, train them, ride them and compete with them in dressage competitions and shows.

“It all started when I moved to Mount Samson [34km north-west of Brisbane] in 1988 and the bloke next door had polo horses. He asked me if I was interested in buying one. I was, and it just moved on from there. Recently, I moved into semi-retirement—I’m only working two days a week in the practice—so I have more time for training.

“I enter a lot of shows and dressage competitions. At the Brisbane Exhibition (the Ekka) last year, I won Champion Adult Gentleman Rider, which qualified me to go down to the Grand Nationals in Sydney in March. There were a lot of great horses and riders in Sydney and unfortunately, I didn’t make the top 10.

“It’s said that it takes a certain number of years to train a dressage horse but it takes several more to train a dressage rider. The essence of dressage is that you have to use all four limbs and the trunk of your body independently. It’s natural for the right or left side of our body to try and take prominence but when riding in dressage, all four limbs must work with the same amount of strength. It’s complicated and a lot of people fall by the wayside. Only the crazy ones keep on going.

“It’s self-defeating to put yourself under too much pressure when competing. It works best if you treat every competition as a training exercise. If you are too intent on winning, you can get tense, the horse picks up on it and the whole thing goes pear-shaped.

“Dressage is a sport where the other competitors have no influence on you. The horse is trained to do everything that’s asked of it, so it’s all down to the rider. Horse and rider should be like one organism—the rider providing the brains and the horse providing the muscle. You can’t just be friends with a horse; you have to be a benevolent dictator. If you are consistent and persistent in the way you ask for things, the horse will respond. It’s impossible to dominate a horse physically but they still have to submit to a rider’s discipline. It’s a mind game.”

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