The #1 Training Tip When Training a Grand Prix Dressage Horse

Chrissa Hoffmann competing at the Global Dressage Festival.
Photo Credit: Stephen Young- Stay Young Photography

Chrissa Hoffmann is an international Grand Prix Dressage Rider and USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist based out of Vero Beach, FL. She earned her Gold Medal on a Grand Prix horse she trained herself, and over her career, she has brought more than 20 horses up through the FEI levels, including five that competed in Grand Prix. Chrissa graciously took some time to talk to us about one of the techniques she uses in every horse’s training program:

Chrissa Hoffmann riding in her Maxtra pad and schooling a horse in piaffe.

Comfort is key to success and the Maxtra pad offers the most comfort and versatility.

– Training horses to Grand Prix takes many years and a lot of patience. All horses learn differently, just as humans do. The most important thing as trainers is to try to speak the same language as the horse. Once you understand how your horse thinks and processes information, that will give you the insight you need to proceed with his or her training. Some find certain movements easier than others, depending on their temperament, body shape, or conformation.

– I use a lot of groundwork and in-hand work to help the horses find their own natural balance and rhythm without the rider’s interference. Not once have I had a horse not make it to the top and I think the groundwork is part of the reason for their success.

– For example, I work all of my horses in-hand to learn piaffe and passage. Watching them do these two movements from the ground gives me the opportunity to see them work on their own and break down what might be challenging them or causing any sort of rhythm faults. These two movements also require a lot of swing and thrust from behind the saddle, so removing the rider helps the horse lift his back and swing through in the correct rhythm.

– Working a horse in-hand also allows a claustrophobic horse the freedom to process information without feeling trapped or distracted by the rider. I try to keep things playful and relaxed so that the horse enjoys their work in-hand. I always have sugar in my pocket and give lots of praise when the horse works correctly.

– Once the horse is comfortable with a movement, I’ll add the rider. It’s so important that the saddle fits well so it doesn’t block the horse from performing the movement, which is why I love using the Maxtra pad to ensure the horse is comfortable during every ride!

Categories: From Pasture to Performance