Horse Sports 101

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Locally Based Rider, Lane Clarke, Wins Market Grand Prix Qualifier Aboard Wardance

Final Markel Insurance Grand Prix Qualifier Win
Goes to Clarke Aboard a Brave Warrior


With 39 entries and 11 clean, the final qualifier of the Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix Series at the Rancho Mission Viejo Park on Saturday, September 19th kept everyone on the edge of their seats and saddles, as top contenders raced to be the fastest.

With several speed demons aiming for the top prize, it was Lane Clarke piloting MH Wardance (owned by MH Warbucks) who took the quickest route without a fault. Demonstrating true warrior mentality, ‘Brave’, as Clarke calls him, performed this feat even after pulling a shoe partway through the jump-off round.  Lane Clarke is based at the Nellie Gail Equestrian Center one of the closest stables to Laguna Beach.

Lane Clarke and MH Wardance

FEI Course Designer Catsy Cruz of Mexico knew she had a competitive group of starters. “I have a very good group of riders and horses and a good number in the class. So I think I have to build a little more technical to be able to get some interesting development. So the course is playing with distances – a little long, a little short, and also with the material. I think some will have rails; and I think we’ll have a good jump-off.”

As expertly predicted by Cruz, a solid group of horse and rider combinations finished the first round without fault, including the aforementioned five riders and nine horses, plus Austrian Peter Petschenig and amateur competitor Michelle Kerivan.

First to return, Enrique Gonzalez with Chacna (Daniel Chavez Anicet, owner), was double clean in 43.01. Five riders followed but failed to catch Gonzalez, including Clarke and Semira De Saulieu (owned by Brookelane Farms), who had the time, 39.58, but dropped a rail at fence 11b.

Eduardo Menezes and Carushka

Menezes on his second mount, Carushka, set the new time to catch, speeding around the course clean in 39.36, almost four seconds faster than Gonzalez and seemingly unbeatable. Clarke proved that, in fact, he could be faster, when he returned on his second mount, MH Wardance.

Turning quick and tight after the first fence, an oxer set along the rail, they held a fast pace until they landed off fence 6 and let loose at a full gallop to the second to last fence (16, a tall vertical) and continued over the last oxer, fault free, with the winning time of 38.68, just under a second faster than Menezes.

Clarke was fully aware that the competition was going to put the pressure on. “I knew it was going to be really fast from the beginning. Eduardo on Carushka was extremely fast, my mare Semira is extremely fast, so I knew I was going to have to go really fast on Brave. I really wanted to win the last Grand Prix [of the season], it’s home and I love it here,” Clarke explained. “I have never pushed my nine-year-old that fast. Every time there was an option, I left the stride out and went as fast as I could go. I really just put the pedal to the metal and trusted my horse was going to step up. I was extremely happy with him.”

This was Brave’s first grand prix win. “I’m just really happy with my horse and thankful for all the support I get from all the people around my home. Also, to the Percivals for sponsoring the horse, Mickey for all the coaching and all of my sponsors. And a special thanks to Brave. He’s grown up a lot this year, he left his heart on the line and it was successful. I’m super excited for how good he was today.”

With well over $50,000 in prize money, the Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix Final at The Las Vegas National is on the horizon, and Clarke has his eye on the possibilities.

Lane Clarke celebrates the win with Nancy Percival, Mickey Hayden, April Branson,
Melissa Brandes, Robert Ridland and Brandon Seger
Photos by McCool

Dressage 101

Printable Version of Dressage 101


Dressage is a French word that means “training” and is an international equestrian sport sometimes referred to as “horse ballet.” The purpose of dressage is to develop a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to listen to his rider’s cues. A dressage horse performing at his peak levels will be calm, supple, and in complete harmony with his rider’s minimal aids. Dressage, is one of the few Olympic sports in which men and women compete against each other.

Classical Dressage

Classical dressage began as early as the time of the Ancient Greeks in the training of horses for beauty and for war. It was during the Renaissance period, however, that the training of horses became an art form. Places such as the Spanish Riding School in Vienna were, and still are, dedicated to this style of riding in complete harmony with the horse.

Warhorses needed to be obedient and maneuverable, and a system of training was created that reflected that need. This training system evolved from the first writings of Xenophon in the 4th century B.C. to the inception of equestrian sports into the Olympic games. Early Olympic tests of military horses included exhibiting the horse’s high level of training and obedience (what would become dressage) and the ability to jump obstacles (what would become show jumping). By 1912, the three modern Olympic disciplines as we know them were distinguished into dressage, show jumping, and three-day eventing.  Until the mid-1940’s, the United States equestrian teams were only open to military personnel.

 Modern Dressage

Nicole Bhathal and Sir Cedrik  Photo: Nancy Albright

Nicole Bhathal and Sir Cedrik Photo: Nancy Albright

Modern dressage, or competitive dressage, is the sport we see today in international competitions such as the Olympics. At dressage shows, horses and riders perform individual tests, or complete a predetermined pattern of gaits and movements.

Horses are scored for each movement on a scale of one to ten, with ten being “excellent.” There are tests at different levels of difficulty, and competitors train to work their way through each one.

In the United States, there are five levels of “national” tests: Training Level, First Level, Second Level, Third Level, and Fourth Level. The national levels are governed by the United States Dressage Federation (USDF).

Once a horse has worked through the national levels, they move onto the international levels, governed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI): Prix St. Georges, Intermediare I, Intermediare II, and Grand Prix. The tests performed at the Olympics and World Equestrian Games are Grand Prix level. In addition to the individual tests, riders at the FEI level can also perform musical freestyle routines. These routines are choreographed individually for each horse and set to music that accentuates the horse’s movement. Musical freestyle classes are great fun for the horses, riders, and audience alike

 Dressage Movements

As a horse progresses through the levels, it learns more dressage movements,which increase in difficulty and precision as they move up. At the Grand Prix level, all of these advanced movements are included in the test. (Source:!dressage-101/c1kyh)  These movements include:

  • Collected gaits: The horse shortens his stride at the trot or canter, bringing his hindquarters more underneath himself and carrying more weight on his hind end.
  • Extended gaits: The horse lengthens his stride to its maximum length at the walk, trot, and canter.
  • Flying changes in sequence: Also called “tempi changes,” the horse changes canter leads every stride up to every four strides.
  • Half-pass: A movement in which the horse travels in a diagonal fashion, moving both forward and sideways, bent slightly in the direction of travel.
  • Passage: A very collected trot, in which the horse picks his feet up very high and seems to pause momentarily before bringing his feet down. This is described as suspension.
  • Piaffe: A calm, elevated trot in place. The horse may move slightly forward, but should never move backwards.
  • Canter Pirouette: A 360- (full circle) or 180-degree (half circle) turn in place performed at the canter.

In this video, you can watch Elizabeth (Beth) Ball, perform these movements in a recent Grand Prix test in Wellington, Florida.  Beth and her horse are based in Escondito (at the same barn as Nicole Bhathal) and she will be performing the morning we are the horse show. If our timing is right, we’ll be able to see them live!  The video does not do justice to how magnificent this horse is.  The commentator on this video is Axel Steiner, the Vin Scully of dressage. If you like you can meet him on Saturday as well.


Source: Los Angeles Times


























FEI Prix St. George Score Sheet

Jumping 101

Printable PDF Version of Page

Rules of Show Jumping

Horses and riders must jump a course of obstacles in a predetermined order created by a course designer. The courses consist of eight to fourteen jumps, and vary with each day of competition. Horses and riders must also complete the course within a certain time allowed, usually around 75 -95 seconds.

Show jumping is judged objectively on speed and execution, scored upon thebasis of faults, or penalties, incurred. Faults include knocking down rails or elements of a jump, refusals to jump an obstacle, and taking longer than the time allowed to complete the course.

Faults are as follows:

  • Pole knockdown=4 faults
  • Foot in water (open water jump)=4 faults
  • First refusal to jump an obstacle=4 faults
  • Second refusal=Elimination
  • Fall of horse or rider=Elimination
  • Time fault=1 fault for every second over the time allowed

A horse and rider go “clear” if they do not have any faults. They then advance into the jump-off, which is a shorter version of the original course. Here, time is of the essence! Typically, the pair that goes double clear with the fastest jump-off wins the class.

Rich Military History

Show jumping stems from military traditions in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Competitive horse jumping grew out of the cavalry exercises military riders performed with their horses. Until the mid-1940’s, the United States equestrian teams were only open to military personnel. The sport evolved drastically after World War II and began to more closely resemble the types of competitions seen today. Today, the sport is dominated by civilian riders, both amateurs and professionals alike, rather than members of the military. Show jumping, is one of the few Olympic sports in which men and women compete against each other.

Examples of Show Jumping Classes

Robert Ridland current Coach of US Olympic Jumping Team

Robert Ridland current Coach of US Olympic Jumping Team

Speed Derby: This type of class involves one timed first round and no jump-off. Riders and horses must negotiate the course as quickly and accurately as possible without lowering any rails to be the winner.

Classic: A classic is the penultimate class of any division. It will involve the most technical course and highest jumps allowed for that division. Classics involve a first round and a jump-off for the horses and riders that complete the first round with no faults. The winner of the jump-off with the fastest time and no faults will take home the blue ribbon in this class.

Grand Prix: The Grand Prix is the highest level of competition in show jumping. Like a classic class, a prix involves a technically challenging first round set at the maximum height for the division –over five feet tall and six feet wide at international levels – and a jump-off for those who complete the first round in the clear. The rider who completes the jump-off with the fewest faults and the fastest time will win the class!

High Child/Adult Division: This division is open to junior riders (under the age of eighteen) and adult riders that are non-professionals, or amateurs. Riders in this division may not enter any other class above 1.20m. The jumps will be set at 3’9” in height and up to 4’ in width.

1.20m Open Division: This class is open to juniors, amateurs, and professionals, making it the broadest spectrum of exhibitors at the International. The jumps will be set at 4’ in height and up to 4’6” in width.

Low Junior/Amateur Division: This division is the next step up for junior and amateur riders from the High Child/Adults, and riders may not cross enter into a class below 1.20m. This class is more technically difficult than the previous divisions, and the jumps are set at 4’3” in height and up to 5’ in width.

Sample Jumping Score Sheet

Sample Jumping Score Sheet

High Junior/Amateur Division: Another step up in difficulty for the junior and amateur riders, this class will have jumps set over 4’6” in height and up to 5’ in width.

Open Jumper Division: Like the High Junior/Amateur division, this class will be include highly technical courses with jumps set over 4’6” in height and up to 5’ in width, but it is also open to professional riders.


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