She started off riding Weronique (Lily), pictured left. Lily is a nine year old who is competing at Pre Novice (BE100) level. She has relatively low mileage for her age. Vittoria explained that in her dressage she had been looking very pretty, but hadn’t been working properly over her back. Vittoria started her off long and low before picking her up. She works on lots of transitions to supple and encourage engagement, as Vittoria mentioned she's very good at 'conning you' into thinking she's working correctly without fully engaging.
Vittoria worked her in thoroughly before starting off with some poles.
Exercise 1 – A grid of four fences starting with a cross pole, with seven paces between each to allow for 1 non jumping stride. The other three fences are parallels about 1m high, and each time they come through the grid, the parallels become wider which in turn shortens the distance. The exercise helps the horse to become adjustable, work on different strides, but also to become athletic. She has to stretch to make the distance, but immediately collect balance and shorten before picking her shoulders up to clear the front rail of the next fence. The width ends up about 7ft. Vittoria stressed the importance of starting the exercise without much width, to get the horse accustomed to jumping through it comfortably.
She also repeats the exercise with no reins, ensuring has the horse has complete freedom in her neck, and that the rider is independent and completely balanced. See the video below.
She's a completely different type of horse, quite looky but leggy and very
After thoroughly warming her up Vittoria starts to introduce some jumping exercises.
Exercise 2 – A grid of 7 fences, starting with a cross pole. The rest of the fences are half crosses – ie just one pole raised at one end, and on a bounce stride. The mare has to be very straight and quick to pick up in front. She
develops the exercise to put the last fence as a vertical, with one non
jumping stride into it.
Exercise 3 – Placing pole, to a vertical, and another placing pole after landing. This encouraged her to think about where she took off and landed.
Exercise 4 – Another grid, this time a cross, one stride to a vertical, one stride to a parallel. Each fence requires something different.
Vittoria works him in long and low and tries to get him working over his back. She also doesn’t mind with him that he works in slightly behind the vertical as it helps to keep him rounder over his back.
Exercise 5 – Vittoria's team set up various style fences, all on related distances so that she can jump a few in succession or on their own. Different fences such as a corner, arrowhead etc and wings only one side so they are more open but still have a good target to jump towards. See the video below.
When putting together a couple of fences, she plays with the distances. She goes on seven, and then tries collecting for 8, and pressing on for six.
I think it's important to mention too that on occasions throughout the evening, if any of the horses had a pole, on a few occasions would say that he was still happy with how the horse had jumped in terms of straightness and approach. It wasn't the end of the world if they knocked a pole.
The weekend following this demo, Vittoria took all three horses to compete at Goring Heath, and clearly all her work has paid off. The lovely chestnut mare Monica won her Open Novice section on her dressage score of 25.5 in only their second event together. Freeby came second in his Open Novice section on a dressage score of 28, and Lily finished 18th at BE100, with a dressage of 29 but had two few poles down which Vittoria attributed to the fences not being quite large enough for Lily's liking!