The Central Ontario Region of Pony Club will hold the first of its Qualifiers for the Central Canadian Dressage Championships on Sunday, May 27, at the York Equestrian Centre near Newmarket, hosted by the Toronto & North York Pony Club. Selection for the Central Ontario Dressage team, which will compete against teams from the Western Ontario and St. Lawrence-Ottawa Valley Regions, will be based on scores achieved at this meet and other qualifiers hosted by the Pause Awhile and Maple Pony Clubs on June 24, and by the Victoria Pony Club on July 15. This year, the Central Canadian Zone Championships are being hosted by the St. Lawrence-Ottawa Valley Region August 18-19.
Dressage is a system for training horse and rider that has its roots in ancient Greece. All work is done on the flat. Early levels emphasize walk, trot, and canter on a straight line and in circles as the horse learns to carry his weight and that of his rider with safety and elegance. Horses also learn to halt on command with the four feet placed squarely, and remaining immobile for four seconds. Higher levels require the horse to lengthen and shorten strides, to turn on very tight circles, to back up, and to go along the centre of the arena in an S-shaped line called a Serpentine. In time, going on a diagonal with the feet crossing each other is added, as is trotting on the spot, changing leads at each stride so that the horse appears to be skipping, and a high-stepping collected trot. The kur, dressage to music, is one of the most graceful and crowd-pleasing of all equestrian competitions. This show will include kur competition at four levels.
In Dressage competitions, each horse/rider combination performs a set test before a judge. The competitor with the best marks wins. The test will require the rider to do one thing, for example trot from one of the letters around the sides of the ring to another, then change to a canter exactly at that letter. Circles must be round, not square, and of a required size, usually 20 or 15 or 10 metres, and the rider must ride these "by eye". The test will say, "Canter 20 metre circle at E," for example. In addition to marking on how accurately the horse and rider performed the test, the judge will give marks on the paces of the horse, the obedience of the horse, and the position and seat of the rider. Success in Dressage requires a lot of practice, discipline and sound training, as well as talent.
Dressage is an Olympic sport, in which Canada's best showing was a Team bronze medal in 1988. Three of the four members of that team were Pony Club graduates, and this show may very well feature members of the 2008 or 2012 Canadian Equestrian Team.
Competition is tentatively scheduled to start at 8:30 am. The York Equestrian Centre is on Davis Drive (Highway 9) east of Newmarket, between Highways 404 and 48. Spectators are welcome without charge.
For more information, contact Liz Inglis or Bob Inglis, Central Ontario Region Pony Club Communications Co-Chairs, at 416-493-1223 (office) or 416-491-4230 (home).