Over the years horse riding has developed a lot: the first riding schools were born in the sixteenth century and there are many disciplines that derived from different cultures.
To get more insights into Dressage and the discipline of horse riding we spoke with Numa Verberne and Anouk Daris.
Numa Verberne is one of the talented athletes who practice the discipline of dressage in horse riding. He and his amazing horse Gatano have a special relationship that lasts over two years. This connection between them has given them. Meanwhile Anouk Daris is a horse trainer whose passion for horse is linked to her childhood, when she encountered a horse for the first time, precisely a pony.
Men and horses have always been a particular relationship: in the previous centuries these animals were indispensable, they were actual transports and they were able to carry loads and heavy stuff. Then with the coming of the first motor cars, the role of horses have changed. These animals are very intelligent and sensitive and they are men’s perfect allied. Precisely for these characteristics these beautiful creatures are employed to help children with disabilities or even people in need. Horses relax who is around them. Calm and cool head are very important features necessary in competitive sports. Actually another thing that horses and men share is right sport. Over the years horse riding has developed more and more: the first riding schools were born in the sixteenth century and there are many disciplines that derived from different cultures.
Sara: The connection between you and your horse is special, during a competition you rely on him and he relies on you. How did you build this mutual trust? What’s his name?
Numa: So his name is Gatano, he is a 9 year old gelding. I’ve had him for about two years now and we’ve only been to 2-3 competitions so far in the past weeks included the Belgian Championships 2 weeks ago where he performed really well for his first
multiday tournament. Like you mentioned before it is vital to have a special connection with your horse, it is a two way street of mutual trust. It’s not something that you can build in a couple of months, we’re talking about years. You’ve got to been through depths and hights in your sportscareer as a combination with your horse to be able to build on that mutual trust. To answer on your second question I couldn’t give you a simple answer in a few sentences, so many riders and trainers have written books about the technical aspect of dressage and still with all that knowledge you couldn’t be able to put “a stamp” on how you should train or teach a horse something, so many horse are so different and not every method works for every horse.
Sara: How was your passion for horse riding born?
Anouk: It comes from my parents. I have been riding ponies since I was a child. Before I could walk! I grew up with horses and can't imagine life without them.
Sara: Can you tell us about your work? How do you train a horse?
Anouk: I work as a teacher at school, train horses and teach a lot. Gymnastics and basic work. I focus on relaxation and a 'happy athlete'. I always try to keep the work
DRESSAGE that in French means straightening, is one of the disciplines of horse
riding. It consists in reproducing geometric figures, called arie, in a rectangular field
that measures 20x40 meters or 20x60 meters. This discipline includes different
difficulty levels that go from the elementary one to the most difficult which is Grand
Prix and Gran Prix Special, elected also at Olympic Games. In these categories
some particular movements are required, for example "piaffer" or passage in which
the horse is asked to move its legs in an extremely difficult manner.
Sara: Are there any particular techniques to train a horse? I mean to teach him the movements and the patterns of dressage?
Numa: You’ve got to put a lot of feeling in your training and try to find a way to make the horse understand what you’re trying to tell him. Dressage is a team sport where
you’re trying to communicate with your horse through very small aids, or at least
that is the goal.. Every time I get amazed how subtle and small changes in
your way of riding can change so much in the outcome at the end of a training, it is
Sara: How long does it take to prepare a competition?
Numa: Well I’ve been in a long routine of competitions before with my previous horse with whom I became twice Belgian champion with and competed at three European
Championships. So once you’re in the competition routine, it doesn’t take that
much preparation more, or at least not really for the horse if he knows his job. Then
I mostly focus next to the riding aspect on my mental condition as a rider, mental
coaching etc. It is really important to be in a focused, unstressed and clear mental
place, because the way you feel as rider influences your way of riding more than
you would think. So that is really important. Regarding Gatano, when we bought
him around two years ago he wasn’t ready for the level required to go on
competition, so yeah that took around two years to get him ready. It takes a lot of
patience, but at the end it is all worth it!
Dressage could be thought as a dance that horse and its knight perform. These kind of movements are learnt by heart by the horse that has to be trained very well from its jockey. The connection between horse and man is really strong: during a competition, in a field, they have to be one thing. The main figure of dressage are judged by experts who are responsible of observing and giving points to the rider and his horse. The reviews are really strict, for this reason the preparation for a competition is very tough. “Kur” or freestyle is another shade of dressage. It consists in mixing different elements, including the most important required by the discipline, accompanied by the rhythm of music that rider has to choose. The choice of the music is really important in competitions because it can influence the vote. It is better to choose something not sung. For the competitions of Kur at the Olympic Games, champions can also spend thousands of euros because they commission the composition work to professional musicians.
Sara: What feeling do you experience the most during a competition?
Numa: Well to be honest with you, during the test I am so focused on my horse and the test that I never really think or feel anything else besides that haha. Sometimes if it really goes smooth and we’re in some kind of flow it feels amazing but that doesn’t
happen a lot, and on the other way if an exercise was bad and I feel bad because of it, it is important for me to be able to let it go and focus on my new exercises, because like I mentioned before, the way you feel as a rider influences the way you ride and communicate with your horse.
Sara: The relationship between you and your horse is really important. Does this special connection help you in training sessions?
Anouk: Yes, I always try to give a horse a lot of confidence so that they have the feeling that they can take on the world.
Obviously to practice dressage the rider has to wear specific clothes such as black
or dark jacket, white pants, white shirt with plastron which is a white scarf with a
pin, a top hat, white gloves, spurs and black boots. The perfect horse breed for dressage is the “Hannover” one because is an elegant and harmonious horse with a good tamper. The horse Totilas is considered one of the best horse in the world to practice dressage, the stallion measures 1,75 meters at the withers and he is holder of different records in the classical dressage and in the freestyle discipline.
Sara: What is one of your biggest satisfaction so far?
Anouk: Building my own company and train and training 2 horses myself from foal to the highest level. In addition, with all other horses that have been sold previously, have also reached the maximum at that time.
Numa: I think the biggest satisfaction for me was two weeks ago when I became 2nd in the overall charts of the Belgian Championships with only 0,04% difference from the rider that won. The feeling I had after my third test was amazing, I knew it was a really good test and when I came out of the ring my trainer, my parents and everybody were so happy and excited and congratulated me. And the reason I got so emotional was because I was out of the ring for 3-4 years because I didn’t own any competition-ready horses, so the last Belgian Championship I participated at was in 2015, and to be able to ride it again 5 years later with a different horse and for which it was only his 2nd competition it felt amazing.. Normally I am not an emotional person, but I can tell you that I was almost in tears when I came out of the ring from my last test haha.
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