April 2016 - Two Thumbs Up!
Written by Elizabeth Landers
Thursday, 31 March 2016 02:12
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A rider’s perspective on the FEI Medium Tour.

by Elizabeth Landers

Growing in popularity among the dressage world in Europe, the FEI Medium Tour has provided an excellent segue from the Small Tour to the Big Tour for both developing horses and riders.

Prior to its introduction, the training gap between Intermediare I and Intermediare II represented at least six to 12 months, most of which was out of competition. Even well-executed and with years of correct dressage training foundation, the demands of the transition into I-2 and Grand Prix have so often over-faced developing horses and riders.

The new Medium Tour has provided a stepping-stone of sorts that enables horses and riders coming up through the training scale to “dabble” in the movements of I-2/Grand Prix and to give them the leeway and confidence to continue advancing with correct training - both mentally and physically.

One of the elements of the Intermediare A and B tests that is key to this successful development is the time and space for the preparation of this level’s new movements. The three prominent new movements, piaffe, passage and one-tempis, are all very challenging for horses and riders alike when considered individually. Combined, as is the case of piaffe and passage in the Big Tour, the difficulty increases exponentially. The Medium Tour removes that challenge and encourages the correct development of each movement by separating them and allowing sufficient time to prepare each one.

In both Medium Tour tests, the passage is developed between two letters from the collected trot. The piaffe is developed from the walk and can travel up to two meters as half steps. Isolating these two movements and providing ample time to prepare them is an excellent means of preparing horse and rider to confidently perform them. The tempi changes require seven two-tempis, identical to the Intermediare I test, and seven one-tempis with ample time through the corners and the short side to establish the best suited collected canter for each horse’s level of development.

As a rider and coach, I particularly appreciate the “forward thinking” element of the piaffe and passage in both Intermediare A and B. For example, in the I-A test, the passage is developed from the collected trot and followed by the collected trot. The piaffe is developed from the walk and followed by the collected trot. So very often in executing these movements, trouble arises when horses and riders lose that “forward thinking momentum.” In the case of the piaffe, when asked too much on the spot, we often see different forms of resistance like rearing or levading. While the piaffe is the preparative movement for the levade, none of our national or international dressage tests call for this movement to date!

In terms of the development of horse and rider, the Medium Tour’s forward thinking and movement specific demands, coupled with ample preparation time, really lay the groundwork to properly prepare the horse and rider for Grand Prix.

Building towards the highest levels of collection, engagement and throughness, the demands of the Medium Tour have succinctly identified and solved one of the biggest challenges of this level: the balance of the physical and the mental. For example, horses may be mentally willing to piaffe but lack the physical strength. Conversely, horses pushed too far too fast may be physically capable of piaffing but mentally unwilling to do so.

My vote on the Medium Tour: two thumbs up! One show season spent in the Medium Tour will no doubt establish a solid foundation to step into the Big Tour, both physically and mentally, for horse and rider.

Author Elizabeth Landers is an FEI coach and competitive rider with over 30 years experience training horses and riders to the highest levels of International competition in all three Olympic equestrian disciplines.