Power It Up!

IMG_6749_edited-1Spanish Olympian Josie Daniel Martin Dockx visits Bay Area with productive clinic for PRE enthusiasts.

A broad spectrum of riders and horses participated in the clinic including Young Rider Rebecca Gonzales on the First Level PRE Jocoso LXXI, sired by Feugo de Cardenas; Para-rider and WEG competitor Susan Treabess riding the PRE stallion Kamiakin owned by Katie Hill at Third Level; Katie Hoefs-Martin riding the Second level PRE stallion Magiar, owned by Jesse Mendoza and also a Morgan stallion at PSG; Cindy Ramirez riding the PRE stallion Decoroso HGF at Third Level; Angela Ridgway riding the PSG level stallion Faralay III, owned by Betsy Ketcham; Justine Frazier riding the I1 Lusitano stallion Signo; and Michael Etherly, riding the PSG level stallion Noble GF owned by Erin Lohec.

Owners and riders of the Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) horse where treated to a two-day clinic sponsored by the United States PRE Association (USPREA) February 18 & 19 with Spanish Olympic Team Rider Jose Daniel Martin Dockx of Mijas, Spain.

“Dani,” as he likes to be called, rode the PRE stallion Grandioso III, owned by U.S. breeder Hampton Green Farms, in the 2012 London Olympics. He has also been very successful training young horses and coaching young riders. He has brought along horses to numerous titles in Spain and coached two youth riders to National Championships at Junior and Young Rider levels. His own coaches include Arthur Kottas, Lendon Gray and, currently, Jan Bemelmans.

Good basics and getting 100 percent of their horse’s power were Dani’s recurring themes for participating horse/rider pairs at all levels.

Cindy Ramirez, riding Decoroso HGF, was impressed with Dani’s attention to detail and his insistence on good basics. “With his help I was able to get my horse much more in front of my leg and more through in all of our lateral work. It was a great feeling! I learned both from my own lesson and from watching the lessons of others and I could see them all show improvement from the beginning of the clinic to the end.”

Dani first asked for more forward energy and that the horses respond immediately to the aids to put them in front of the leg. He noted that many of the horses where only using 50 percent of their power. He had the riders work on a lot of transitions within the gate; from the working gait to the extended gait for the lower level horses and collected gaits to extended or medium gaits for the upper level horses. He coached riders to always make sure their horses responded immediately and with 100 percent power when asked. “Only when the horse is giving you 100 percent of its power can you ask for collection or develop more expression in the gaits,” he explained.

“U.S. riders tend to ride their tests slowly and the horses lack forward energy because the riders are more concerned with accuracy,” he continued.  As a result, our horses tend to lack expression. He sees many riders receiving scores in the low to mid-60s when they could and should be scoring in the 70s. “This should not be good enough, you are not really riding or doing your job until your scores are consistently in the 70s and your horses are forward and giving 100 percent of their power and pushing from the hind leg and coming up through their backs into the hands with effective and soft half-halts consistently.”

Among trainers with a background in training Warmbloods, it’s a common thought to not push a horse out of his tempo, especially for a horse that is a little tighter and tends to be quick in his strides. But Dani surprised us all by doing exactly that.

Katie Hoefs-Martin, riding the PRE stallion Magiar, said, “My horse can be quite tight in the back and behind the leg, especially at new places, causing his stride to be short and quick. Dani had us ride very forward and to stretch to the bit and work with a slightly lower poll, which encouraged him to relax in his back.”

Dani had Katie do quick transitions, from lengthening to extended gaits in both trot and canter, to make Magiar more sensitive to her leg while at the same time helping him open up his stride and cover more ground. “At first he was just quick and over tempo,” Katie said. “But eventually he relaxed into the stretch, letting go of the tension in his back and his stride got longer in the hind. When this happened we were able to use the transitions from the extended gait to a medium or lengthened gait and back to start collecting him and slow his tempo, while reminding him to keep his stride open.”

On the second day of their ride they were stricter about Magiar not working over tempo. “We worked on the same transitions within the gaits, asking for the same stretch, relaxation and bigger stride but insisting that he maintain a slower tempo.” Magiar pleasantly surprised us by maintaining his longer hind stride and relaxation and showed us that he understood. From there, the pair moved on to the lateral work. Katie was happy to report a few days later, “Magiar surprised me and started out where we left off at the clinic; forward and with a longer stride!”

Poll Points

The Spanish horse is very supple in the poll and he can easily give the appearance of being on the bit, while at the same time lacking in throughness over the back. All of the riders were asked to lower their horse’s poll, extend the neck out and to make sure the horse was working over its back consistently.

“You should be schooling your horse daily with a lower poll and constant attention to the horse working over his back and only right before a show should you start to ask the horse to come up in the poll without losing the throughness.”

Another common theme for riders of all levels was the use of more inside leg and less inside rein and providing more support with the outside rein.

For the upper level horses, Dani continued his insistence that they be forward and responsive to the aids, from there they worked on developing more expression in the gaits.  “I found his emphasis on keeping the hind legs active during all work, and especially in half-halts, to be extremely valuable,” said Angela Ridgway on the PRE stallion Faralay II.  “Dani also encouraged me to maintain the half-halt until I’d received the full cooperation of the horse, rather than asking and repeating. This allowed me to finish movements clearly.”

Dani also had the riders of the upper level horses use more half-halts before the changes. “I would normally ask Noble for more forward energy during the changes,” said Michael Etherly, who rides my PRE stallion Noble GF. “But Dani had me collect Noble, then let him out and immediately ask for the change. This kept Noble active in the hind-leg and more balanced through the 4 and 3 tempis.”


A Grateful Group

California has the largest population of Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) horses in the U.S. and our country has the second largest population of breeding stock outside of Spain. The large and growing demand for the PRE horse for the sport of dressage is becoming more evident each year with the number of PRE horses being shown by both professional and amateur riders alike.

Since its inception, the United States PRE Association has supported the dressage rider and PRE owner through their USPREA High Point Awards, USDF All-Breed Awards participation, USPREA Dressage Scholarships, USPREA International Dressage Rider Sponsorship, Adequan Global Dressage Festival Sponsorship, recognition of PRE horses in dressage on their website and by sponsoring clinics such as this with high caliber clinicians from Spain and Europe.

“I can’t thank the USPREA enough for hosting this clinic,” said Susan Treabess. “I think it’s important for trainers and riders of PREs to put themselves in front of high caliber trainers who have experience bringing this breed to the top of the sport. It was evident that Dani has a great deal of experience and knowledge in bringing out the best in these horses and we look forward to the next clinic!”

To learn more about the United States PRE Association visit their website at www.USPREA.com.

Author Erin Lohen owns Andalusian Dressage Partners in the East Bay Area’s Pleasanton.


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