Grand Prix dressage rider Lara Butler on older horse training

  • It is one thing to train a horse at Grand Prix level. But keeping them there for the long haul and maintaining their physical shape and shape as they enter old age is a whole other challenge altogether. Lara Butler is a top rider with a lot of experience training older horses – her international grand prix winner and Olympic reserve horse Rubin Al Asad (Rufus) retired earlier this year at the ‘age 18, while his successor Kristjan is now 16 and in the shape of his life.

    “Kristjan doesn’t really have the classic body for dressage so we took our time building her strength,” said Lara, who recently triumphed in the grand prix and grand prix special at Keysoe CDI with gelding. Polarion, who was raised by the Bechtolsheimer family.

    “Every horse is an athlete and we want it to last as long as possible; the philosophy with the Bechtolsheimers is not to push a horse too fast. Kristjan needed time to grow in her body, ”said Lara, in episode 79 of The Horse & Hound Podcast.

    “Kristjan and I have a really good relationship – he’s been a bit of a challenge along the way but he is thriving in his slightly older age. Now Rufus is retired, he’s the best dog and he’s doing well. assure you know it!

    “The older the horses get, the more you, as a rider, get to know them both inside and out, so you know if they need an adjustment here or there. The extra years with them allow us to spend even more time with them.

    So how does Lara go about training older horses to keep them fresh, fit and loving life?

    “We try to give them as much variety as possible, including going around the fields. I think it’s great for dressage horses to access a different surface. We do pole work – no vault, but cavaletti work that helps strengthen them and keep their minds busy. Kristjan is so smart that he needs something to occupy his brain at all times or else he will be bored.

    “Kristjan is similar to Rufus in that they both need a flexible job, but Rufus was easier to get out for a gallop in the fields – Kristjan has a lot of money in him! But with both, I’m not doing movement after movement; it’s about keeping their reactions quick and keeping them soft and supple on the back.

    “As older horses, they know their stuff, so it’s about keeping them interested in the work so that they always want to go out and do their best.”

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    Richard V. Johnson