In the final part of our behind-the-scenes series with FEI Grand Prix Competitor and Dressage Judge, Melinda Hart and her magnificent Grand Prix Stallion, Richmond H, Melinda shared with us some of her key learnings and advice along with her training, travelling and competition routine that she practices with the Stallion.
The trust and bond shared between Melinda and Richmond H has been developed over the years, from the very beginning of his dressage career as a young Stallion, through to the highest level of Grand Prix competition in Australia.
A highlight of their career together to date was competing in 2018 as one of the top 15 FEI combinations in Australia, at the first four-star CDI in the Southern Hemisphere, held at Willinga Park Equestrian Centre.
Training and Consistency
Melinda was new to owning a Stallion when she purchased Richmond H. Since the start of their journey together she has surrounded herself and Richmond H with as much experience and support as possible. As a young Stallion with a lot to learn, Richmond H was in training five days a week with a focus on the training scale and perfecting the basics before progressing to more advanced moves. The consistency of he and Melinda’s training together, was key to developing the foundation of their partnership. Melinda lives by the motto that “you never stop learning with horses”, and owning a Stallion reminds you of that daily.
Like many Grand Prix combinations, they didn’t get there overnight. Rather, their success has come from dedication, commitment, consistency, and hard work.
Consistency of routine is one of the most important factors of successfully managing a Stallion. Melinda has had three children during the years of owning Richmond H, during her third pregnancy, he stayed and trained flying changes with Judy Dierks to ensure that this routine of training and competing was not disrupted or delayed.
These days as a mature Stallion, Richmond H is in training three to four days a week, with Melinda, under the watchful guidance of Robert Schmerglatt, with a strong focus on consistency remaining.
Preparing for Competition
Most of the competition preparation and training is undertaken in the indoor arena, where Richmond H works alongside other horses, including other Stallions, mares and geldings; preparing him for the conditions that will confront them at competitions.
The outdoor dressage arena at Mirabella is designed to imitate a competition experience as closely as possible. Prior to an event, Melinda will replicate a day at the competition, warming up in the indoor arena before walking down the driveway to the outdoor arena. Taking Richmond H out of his comfort zone and into a different environment, allows Melinda to check in with him to ensure that his training and manners are on point. The bond between a Stallion and their rider is particularly important for both safety and success. The Stallion must trust that the rider will never put him in danger, whilst always respecting the rider’s commands, no matter what situation unfolds.
Travelling to Competitions with a Stallion
Richmond H’s first competition experience was in America, where as a young Stallion he travelled with other mares and geldings on the truck, all fully tacked up ready for competition.
Since his arrival in Australia, Richmond H has been travelling by himself. Melinda has continued to travel with him saddled to local competitions so that on arrival to the showgrounds he can be bridled in the float, lead down the tail board and is ready to go. A contributing factor for this is, at public showgrounds it is not always safe to tie a stallion to the float to tack them up; in fact at some it is not allowed.
Stabling a Stallion at Showgrounds
Melinda shared with us a valuable learning experience, from her first long haul show where Richmond H was stabled. Arriving at the grounds after being on the road for 12 hours, Richmond H was allocated a Stallion stable. The High solid walls meant that he was not able to see other horses. The environment was so different from how Richmond H is stabled at home, he tried to see other horses that were stabled around him by climbing the wall and unfortunately sustained a soft tissue injury, which put him out of work for a significant amount of time.
Learning from this, from that day on when entering a competition, Melinda requests that he is stabled in a normal stable that replicates his home stable environment as much as possible. Keeping the Stallion’s environment as close to what he is used to at home ensures that Richmond H can be relaxed and happy while stabled at competitions.
Show Day Routine
Melinda keeps Richmond H’s show routine very simple and again as close to his regular routine as possible. In the morning, he is given his feed and left to eat his breakfast in peace.
Once tacked up, Richmond H is walked in hand, as close to the competition arena as possible, giving Melinda an opportunity to check that his manners and respect are safely in order. Melinda and Richmond H will then warm up under saddle, for around 25 to 30 minutes before performing their test.
Tips and Advice for Managing Your Stallion
Melinda describes owning a Stallion is one of the hardest, but most rewarding things you will ever do, and shared some tips and advice that she has learned through her experience with owning a Stallion, Richmond H:
- Consider the experience “lifelong learning”; there is always something new to learn
- Routine and consistency are key to ensuring that your Stallion is at ease with his surroundings
- Always be firm but fair – positive reinforcement builds trust between Stallion and rider.
- Surround yourself with the right people for you and your Stallion’s journey together.
- Don’t ever give up on your dreams!
Melinda refers to Richmond H as her “one in a million”. She would love to have her time over again with Richmond H and is so grateful that he has been such a forgiving Stallion that has allowed her to make so many mistakes and learn along the way.
Richmond H’s progeny are all blessed with his impeccable temperament and nature, with the bloodline producing consistent and successful dressage careers. Melinda currently has three of his stunning fillies at home in training, who are all proving to be typical Richmond H progeny.
This week Melinda welcomed a beautiful healthy colt by Richmond H, named Ramesses II. At last, the heir to the throne is Born!
Melinda is looking forward to being able to put all the lessons she has learnt with Richmond H into practice as the colt grows into a Stallion.