Schooling and Turnout For Dressage – Top Riders Share Their Secrets


When it comes to dressage, there’s no doubt that schooling and turnout are the two most time consuming aspects of successful preparation and getting them right means patience and hard work.

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Three very successful dressage riders, who all feed Blue Chip, definitely know how to ‘get it right’ and provide an insight into managing schooling time and using effective turnout tricks.

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Jo Bates, producer of top show horses, successful dressage rider, trainer and judge, says, “When you’re schooling, it’s important to concentrate like you would in a competition. Take time to get your transitions right and work on free, forward movement, with the poll the highest point. Horses should also be quick off the leg and you should be accurate, as correct circle diameters are essential for success.”

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Talking turnout, Jo feels rider presentation is as important as the horse’s. “A well fitted riding jacket can make a lot of difference and change the rider’s appearance, an ill-fitting one can spoil the whole look!

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“Neat plaits are important, as is a nicely pulled tail and quarter marks, if done well, can be really effective. In terms of other preparation, I use Blue Chip’s Joint RLF to ensure my horses’ joints always have correct nutritional support.”

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For international young rider Charlie Hutton, “Schooling is only beneficial if time is used correctly and it’s important to allow enough time to warm-up and cool down. When you’re doing high intensity schooling, adequate breaks are essential to ensure you and your horse don’t lose concentration or get tired.

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“Planning is also important, so make sure you’ve planned your schooling strategy for each individual horse and focus on specific elements that will enable you to improve. It is also important to know when enough is enough and remember not to ‘over-ride.’ If things do go badly, don’t give up, just try and approach things from a different angle; you’ll be surprised how often that works!”

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For Charlie, “Correctly fitting tack and clothing is a vital part of turnout and it’s also important to get the focal points right, for example the mane should be nicely plaited, making a short neck look long with lots of plaits or vice versa.

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“Quarter marks can be a nice finishing touch and at the European Championships for example, we did Union Jack quarter marks, which looked really effective. Hoof oil is also a nice touch but I prefer clear hoof oil – it looks cleaner!”

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Determined and ambitious dressage rider Henry Boswell advises, “always start schooling with a relaxed and positive attitude and before every session have a clear idea about what you want to achieve. Being realistic though, not everything is achievable, therefore be prepared to take small steps towards your goal. Don’t get flustered if things start going wrong; take a break, analyse why and start again. Always reward your horse whenever he/she makes progress, no matter how small or slow.

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“Turnout is about being spotlessly clean and polished. A lot of the turnout work is done in day to day routines and a disciplined daily grooming regime will show days easier. I also find talcum powder a brilliant substitute for chalk on white socks. Finally, a relaxed and focused rider completes the picture.”

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