Daisy Jackson’s insights into her Ambitions and the Obstacles that Lie Ahead.
This month I wanted to give you a little insight into the sport of Dressage.
My long term ambition has always been to compete internationally at senior level. In order to do so you need a horse that is at Grand Prix level. I prefer to train my horse to GP level rather than have a ready made horse. Even a horse that is already trained cannot be ridden without suppleness; coordination and high level of fitness from the rider.
British Dressage currently has a total of over 55,000 members. There are over 200,000 competition entries each year. However, there are only around 100 horses at GP level in the UK at any given time and most of these will not be considered good enough for international competition.
Horses cannot begin their training until their fourth year. It then takes upwards of 6 years to train a horse to GP level. The training period cannot be rushed and every horse is different. This is because training a horse takes years of muscle building and strength training with the aim to produce a highly supple gymnast, capable of extremely complex movements executed in perfect balance. They must get big scores to be considered for internationals. Scoring close to 70% is just the start! Charlotte Dujardin has set the bar high.
Out of my current horses, 2 of them I have trained to Prix St Georges level (PSG). As you may know Tango had most of last year off which put paid to his training and our hopes for doing Young Riders. I have been concentrating more on Blackberry who is co-owned by her breeder Tracey Bywater, whilst bringing Tango back up to scratch.
There are 10 levels to get to GP. Every horse must learn each level to progress to the next. Most people do compete their horses at each level but it is not necessary. Riders must have competed at Advanced Level and gained a good score to qualify for the higher levels. I have been training Blackberry for just over 2 years and we are now at PSG level, the fourth level down from GP. We have already touched on all movements required for GP and are showing definite GP potential. I am obviously delighted with this but of course so many things can go wrong before we reach our goal. Horses that make top level must be tough enough to stay sound in all areas of their body and must possess a trainable and intelligent mind to cope mentally. At all times you must be prepared for disappointment and be resilient enough not to let it affect your drive to continue.
One of the best things about dressage is that unlike other Olympic sports there is no time limit in which you have to ‘make it’. As the training itself is so long winded it is not often that you see very young riders at GP or indeed at the Olympics.
The most important tool for becoming a great dressage rider is the brain. The older you are, the more you understand and have learned so theoretically the better you should be. Great riders are thoughtful, intelligent, problem solvers with the drive to be determined and disciplined enough to put in the time and effort. Core strength, superb dexterity, coordination, suppleness, balance and immense fitness are also vital.
In the past, I was lucky enough to be selected onto the GB squad with a horse trained to GP but sadly my squad horse passed away. Early on I learned the lesson of having to start again and am lucky enough to now have several horses in training as potential GP horses. The next 5 years will be working towards Under 25’s GP and then seniors all the time bringing on horses from the beginning and training on. I am very lucky to have an amazing team of people, including clients; owners; co-owners; breeders; my sponsors; our grooms and home staff; Wonderful trainers; Nicky Barrett and Anna Ross.
My strongest ambition is to compete internationally at Grand Prix and be part of team GB.
I am loving the journey and having the best time enjoying my career and the adventures that it is taking me on.