Skip to main content

Sail A Big Yacht. Drive An F1 Car. Ride a Grand Prix Horse.

It's always fun to play with the 'big boys' in any sport. Who wouldn't like to try their hand at handling the best of the best. Many companies make a ton of money by offering folks the opportunity to do just that.


This Grand Prix horse with his GP rider Paul have worked together for over 22 years..still going strong.


For a considerable fee you can visit a racetrack and take a turn driving your dream Ferrari. Under supervision of course. Sailing the seas as part of an experienced crew for a few hours aboard a racing yacht that cuts through the waves like butter is also an expensive 'experience' that can be purchased if you have the right access. What about riding a Grand Prix dressage horse? Can you go out and do that, even if you can't afford to buy one for yourself?

The answer of course is yes. It is entirely possible to work with a dressage trainer that has a suitable Grand Prix schoolmaster available for lessons. Naturally, this time will be spent under their watchful eye with instruction included. Just as you wouldn't even know how to get an F1 Ferrari into 1st gear and move through the gearbox, a neophyte dressage rider wouldn't know how to manage all the 'buttons' that a classically trained dressage horse has to offer.

But just as the graceful racing yacht moves differently to a smaller craft, and the F1 Ferrari (if you can fit into it) comes with less gizmos than its road legal counterpart, a Grand Prix horse takes some sincere talent to 'sit upon'.

The gaits of the horse will be entirely different to a medium level horse, the activity of the hind end will be elevated to a whole other plane. The rider will experience 'gears within gears' throughout the gaits, and the combination of Grand Prix dressage horse with the lesser trained equestrian aboard can confuse both equine and human.


Trust is Essential Between Horse and Rider


My husband and I have made several horses from birth to Grand Prix level over the years and from time to time have offered ' Master Classes' to our current students on our privately owned horses. It is so hard to learn the feel of a movement or a gait within a gait unless you have experienced it yourself from the saddle. How do you know what you are trying to attain or when your horse offers it to you if as a rider you have only seen it from the ground and never experienced it in the saddle.

Of course all trainers don't have a Grand Prix level horse in their yard. For those of us that do the decision to allow access for a student to ride the horse even under our watchful eye and keen instruction is not one taken lightly. 

It takes over 7 years to fully make a Grand Prix horse, and even when the horse is working confidently at FEI level Grand Prix, the difference between a national level Grand Prix horse versus and international level one is massive. The last few years of 'dressing' the training are full of nuance, and interrupting the training to allow even a neophyte FEI rider aboard is not a good idea. It is simply not fair to the horse. Confusion will reign!

If you own a horse that you are working up the dressage levels, it is also smart to be very careful who you let aboard. And that includes your trainer 'du jour'. Amazingly many dressage trainers have never actually mastered training a horse from start to finished 'haute ecole' level. This doesn't mean said trainers cannot be helpful in educating the rider in the basics of dressage, but it does beg the question - if they haven't ever completed the entire training process with a horse successfully how do they know what is involved?

There is much that can be learned from a video or a book, and attendance at carefully selected clinics and symposiums for tips and training advice. 

We receive many inquiries at Willowview Hill Farm from folks that seek the experience of working with a Grand Prix horse. Dressage trainers call us asking if they can 'borrow' one of our Grand Prix schoolmasters just to garner their USDF gold medals and attain the few scores required to hang that achievement on their business shingle to lure in clientele. I don't blame them, making your own Grand Prix horse requires a lot of work and expense, and a fair amount of luck! But making it through the 7-minute Grand Prix test, achieving a score based on someone else's training of the horse is hardly the point of the USDF system.

So when choosing who you work with in your dressage training ask yourself if the trainer has the experience at the level you need to progress your horse past medium level. And if you call requesting a Grand Prix trainer a 'go' or lessons on their FEI trained horse, ask yourself whether you would say yes to the request if you were in their position i.e is it a fair ask.

A Man and His Horses ~ Paul Alvin-Smith


It is not an elitist attitude that has your trainer deny you access, whether handling or riding their Grand Prix horses, it is simply that they wish to protect their horse from experiencing confusion or regressing in the training. Horses' minds are fragile. While their bodies are strong and well-muscled, and a horse can always protect itself using its physical attributes of size and athleticism to outwit a rider, that is not the point. It is a point of respect between trainer and their mount. And it doesn't have to be a Grand Prix horse in order for the owner/rider/trainer to wish to protect it from being ridden or handled by others. 

Remember. It's your horse and he/she is your responsibility. Always carefully consider who you work with, who rides your horse and what access you allow. Just because your horse may be pushed aside as a primary mount for yourself due to its limited ability to progress to the level of training you wish to attain, does not mean it should be cast aside.

When you relinquish your horse to another rider, always answer this question honestly:

" Is this the best decision for my horse?"

Millions and Millions of Bonding Moments Go Into Making a Grand Prix Horse



Popular posts from this blog

Dressage Bit Contact: The Dreaded Break at the 3rd Vertebrae and How to Resolve it

Schooling challenges: Inheriting a horse that has been trained incorrectly and breaks at the 3rd vertebrae - It is much easier to work a horse correctly from the beginning than to have to 'fix' an issue later on as we all know. Our latest equine protegee, this lovely stallion - has received minimal training and but has shown at Training Level in Canada ~ however somewhere along the line he was ridden incorrectly and allowed to hide behind the vertical. Though he scored well the judges comments noted inconsistent contact. As he does not have an excessively long neck this is an interesting achievement. How to resolve it? We'll begin by working him a little in front or above the bit, sending him forward and setting a good rhythm from the get go. Then we'll encourage him to take the reins and stretch over his back and out down in front, without putting his head too low i.e. not below the knee - he must learn to take the contact and to take his part of it consistently. T

The Grand Prix Dressage Test ~ All Chopped Up With No Place To Show

The new shortened version of the Grand Prix dressage test will be showcased at Olympia, London, UK, this December. The new test has not been well received in the dressage community and there are many good reasons why.   Are You All In With The New Test? ( Photo: Brittany Fraser and All In) The FEI seems to have gone for a shorter test, thinking this means more spectator interest which is ridiculous as the reduction of the test by 2 minutes per test will not mean more viewers. What it will do is to reward the horses at the very top of the sport already, that have crowned their talents with excellent 3 'p's movements.  The new test offers lots of activity early in on the test which means no time to allow the horse and rider to settle into the test. While much of it feels more like an Intermediate test than a Grand Prix, the missing elements such as the zig zags would have Wolfgang Niggli turning in his grave. The rein back also missing will have many clas

Flying Changes Problems Answered

The fun to do, fun to train, dressage flying change is truly like dancing with your horse. Unfortunately all too often issues arise during training that make them less than perfect. Major issues which are very common include swinging of the hindquarters ( which will cause lots of issues with tempi changes so be warned), changes that are late behind, swishing tails during the change, changes that are not forward, where the croup is high and the horse shows stiffness behind. In the latter event the horse will cover very little ground as he is not 'flying' through the change. Other issues that occur in training are running off after the change, bucking, coming above the bridle and the riders hand. Do not despair! There is some discussion as to which leg should push hardest during the change and to whether there should be a lightening of the seat during the movement. From my experience and training, lightening the seat is to be avoided. Stay straight, do not collapse a hip and