Road to Dressage

One young thoroughbred’s journey from the race track to the dressage arena.

Brooke McLaren is a professional rider and trainer, and the owner of McLaren Elite Dressage.  She is passionate about helping both horse and rider reach their riding goals through clear and correct work based on the training scale.  Over the coming months, Brooke will share her training journey, through to competition, with Benji, an off the track thoroughbred.

Part 1 ….the journey begins

Dressage riders across the board face challenges in their rides every day. Regardless of the level we ride at, we are confronted with obstacles on our quest to move forward in our training. It could be horses resisting, spooking, bucking, weakness, running through the half halts, position problems, and the list goes on. We’ve all been there, and we’ll be there again. As riders, more often than not, when we’re riding and training (unless you’re lucky enough to have lessons everyday) we can feel alone in our struggles. It’s all too easy to forget that everyone in the WORLD is still working on improving something, even those who are out there breaking world records. That’s the joy of dressage!

It’s because of this universal affinity with the struggle that I decided to write a blog following the progress of my young horse from the very beginning of his training through to his competition career.  I want everyone to see that we are all dealing with the same stuff in one form or another, and that we are not ALONE!

I should start by formally introducing you to my horse. Benji is a 3yo, Bay Thoroughbred gelding, standing at approximately 15.3hh. Finding Benji was a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time! I was doing some ground handling with my 2yo colt when I was approached by a Thoroughbred trainer named Terry. He had seen me at the local indoor a few times and had enjoyed watching me train. He told me that he had a 2yo thoroughbred that he wanted to re home. The horse had just finish trialling and he was never going to be fast enough. I can remember Terry saying “I don’t know much about dressage but I think this horse would be pretty good because he does this flashy trot across the paddock” I couldn’t help thinking if only that was all it took!

bennjiI headed to Terry’s place with the thought process that if he was a sweet enough horse on the ground that perhaps I would have a client who might like to take him home. When I got there I couldn’t believe how cute and tiny he was. He was very timid but polite. It was there and then that I decided that he would be a perfect turnover horse. Now all I needed to do was convince my husband but that didn’t really take too much!

A couple of days later, Benji came home. Because he was still so young and little, I turned him out and he spent 6 months in the paddock maturing. I have to admit though, as I watched him move around the paddock each day, I couldn’t help but think Terry was on to something!

In the next “Road to Dressage”, Benji turns 3 and it’s time to start training!


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