Equestrian teams put to the test

Equestrian dressage show gives riders and horses a chance to shine together

Janette Lauritzen and horse Breezing to Win during a dressage test. During the test

Janette Lauritzen and horse Breezing to Win during a dressage test. During the test

To the untrained eye, equestrians make the way they and their horses gracefully glide over the ground look easy. Those who are familiar with riding can see the immense time and training which took place to have the rider and 400-kilogram horse function as a single unit.

On Sunday, the Penticton Riding Club held an event to test and develop this connection. The first Annual B.C. Heritage Discovery Dressage and Western Style Dressage Show took place at Parkway Stables.  Dressage has existed for thousands of years, tracing some of its principles as far back as ancient Greece. While the forms may have changed, the purpose is still the same; test the training and abilities of horse and rider.

During a dressage test, a rider must take their horse through a series of actions and movements inside an arena. They are judged on how well they run the routine, as well as how their horse preforms. Riding a horse that has been well trained in dressage is “like driving a Mercedes compared to your old farm truck,” said Jane Windeler, who has been involved in dressage for nearly 40 years.

“It’s learning to speak to your horse I suppose,” she continued. “As your horse develops in training, you would just think the movement and your body would just facilitate it’s happening. The aids, the ques to tell your horse what to do become invisible.”

Windeler served as the judge for Sunday’s event. It was a schooling show, meaning the focus was more on improvement than competition.

“Because it’s a low-key schooling show I can actually mark their tests and see where the deficiencies are and see where they are struggling, and then go out as a coach and help them through some of these things,” Windeler said.

Janette Lauritzen was one of the riders at Sunday’s event and, while being a performance coach, still learned how to improve her riding.

“The experience has been great,” she said. “The people are wonderful, it’s a relaxed atmosphere, the judge has been fabulous, she has shown us a lot of little hints that have improved things immensely.”

While classical or English dressage has existed for a long time, a new style is beginning to emerge.

“The new thing too is the western dressage, which has really been introduced in the last year,” said Sherry Ripplinger, horse show secretary of the Penticton Riding Club. “We were the first ones. Now other clubs are picking up and having it.”

While English dressage riders wear very proper attire, such as knee-high boots, tails and occasionally top hats, western riders are much more akin to the traditional image of the cowboy. As well, there is a difference in the equipment each style use, most notably in the saddle.

“It’s going to be huge,” said Lauritzen. “I was at a coaching thing in Olds College a couple of weeks ago with coaches all over Canada and it was one of the main things.”

While the event was the final dressage show the Penticton Riding Club will offer this year, the group has a number of other horse shows and events. For more information, visit www.soha-online.com.