Young rider Charlotte Fry has competed at four European Championships, finishing best of the Brits at three. She is the winner of two national titles at advanced medium and Prix St George. She was previously trained by her late mother, Laura Fry, and then by Carl Hester, who helped to secure her a place at her current base, Van Olst Horses in Holland.
Finding the right trainer to help you is a really important step in progressing up the grades in dressage. It can be tough to know what to do when working alone, but with a good trainer to help you on a regular basis you will find that you will quickly improve.
Dressage is a long, slow process. You can achieve lots in a short time, but you have to remember that it’s difficult for both horse and rider to achieve success overnight. Always remember that your horse is trying for you and it may take him a while to perfectly perform what you’re asking of him.
Make small short-term goals to help you get to where you want to be in the future. Booking in for local competitions, for example, can give you something to aim for — whether it’s a prelim test or advanced medium, the idea is the same. After local shows maybe aim for regional championship qualification. You will find yourself progressing quickly once you have a sense of where you want to go.
Always remember the basic scales of training when working your horse in the dressage arena. He may not be Valegro or Totilas, but he can be straight, rhythmic and balanced. This will help both with short and long-term progression.
With dressage, there are often setbacks and great highs and lows. Be prepared to deal with these and find ways of doing so that work for you. Don’t let others affect your confidence and enjoy every minute of training with your horse. You may find it useful to chat to a sports psychologist to help you on your journey.
Go and watch events where the pros compete, such as the BD National Championships. It can be really inspiring to watch riders at the top level, but don’t discount the competitions closer to the level at which you are aiming. Visit clinics and demos with trainers and riders. You never stop learning with dressage, so it’s always worth checking what’s on in your area.
Dressage can be great when you work in a team with other people. Whether you observe each other in training and offer tips, or compete together (check out BD Team Quest), help from others is always a useful thing. Eyes on the ground are really important to help you improve as a rider and trainer.
Finding the right saddle or bit can make a huge difference to your dressage career. Take the time to research and gain professional advice to find the equipment that works for you and your horse.
It’s important to always praise and reward your horse in his work. Whether that’s a pat on the neck or short walk breaks in between exercise, knowing that he’s doing well will encourage him to become better and remember what it is he’s supposed to be doing. Always try and end a schooling session on a positive note, even if you’re having a bad day. Finishing on a negative note is not any good for you or your horse.
Dressage is supposed to be enjoyable, so even when it seems tough, think why you’re doing it and what you have achieved so far. It can seem like a never-ending journey, but it is one that can be rewarding when you work hard. Enjoy your achievements, no matter how big or small they are.