Discipline : Dressage
Born : 1970
Edward learned to ride at the age of 14, and riding was all he wanted to do.
He got his first pony at age 17 and took up dressage when the animal did not want to jump anymore. He rode at the 2006 WEG in Aachen on Lingh. He formed his most successful partnership with Totilas. The pair twice broke the world record dressage score, and won three gold medals at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexingtones. More recently, Edward rode Glock’s Undercover at the European Championships in Herning where the pair were third.
In May 2010, Chris Hector sat down for an exclusive interview with Edward.
Every time you appear in the arena, it seems to be such an emotional experience – do you find it tiring, all this drama? At Windsor it was amazing – but the retirement ceremony for Gribaldi at the KWPN Stallion show that was sensational?
“That was very special when all his children came in, and he came in last, and you knew it was the good bye for Gribaldi… quite emotional. It started all with Gribaldi for me. I rode him for 12 years and that is a long time. Together with Lingh, he was my first real international horse. After Lingh was sold, he took over his place, and it was good to have him because I could keep on riding in the big competitions. Then comes his son, Totilas, and that is even more amazing. Every time you are surprised at what he can do, he astonishes me every time!”
Do you find the father in the son?
“A lot, not only his appearance but also his ability for collecting, for piaffe and passage, and the pirouettes – Gribaldi had it too.”
Totilas seems so strong – every time you see the footage of him doing the canter pirouette at Windsor, it seems so perfect, so effortless for him…
“You just say, now pirouette and turn and he starts doing it and it’s so easy with him. Most of the things are easy with him. In the arena, when there is a lot happening, at the prize giving, you can let him walk normal and he just stands there, and when you want him to do something, he immediately reacts, and that is good.”
His temperament seems to be extraordinary? On the Friday night of the KWPN show, he did that incredible performance at the farewell to Gribaldi, but the next day, he came in to accept the Horse of the Year, and you would have thought he might get excited remembering the night before but he was so cool…
“That’s why I did it like I did, because I don’t want him to get like ‘oh I go into the ring I get excited’ now he also knows it is good again and he can be cool – and that is also a talent from him, that he can switch in his mind and go, okay relax. And he relaxes. That is very rare.”
I was watching you ride the younger horse, United, and he started to get excited and you just put him into halt – he went in immediately, total immobility – is that something you work on?
“Of course we train that. We want very much energy – and then also stop. We train it at home, okay, you can’t train it like this with this atmosphere with all the people. When you practice a lot, then I think you can do it, even when it is very exciting.”
How would you describe your training system?
“I don’t know. I don’t really want to call it a system. I just adapt my riding to every horse. I train every horse different. Okay I have some basics like I want to have tempo control, and they must be quick on my leg. Some horses I ride a little bit high, some I ride really deep, and it really depends – what I think is the best for the horse, that’s the way I train him.”
Do you like to use the quote, unquote – Rolkur Method?
“Yeah when it is necessary, but there is some kind of negative thing about rolkur, but I don’t think it is negative, when it is done properly, then it is good. But when you ride in the old classical school way and you don’t do it well, then that’s not good for the horse either. You really need to get into it before you can judge it, and I think people see something and say ‘oh that’s bad for the horses’ but I don’t think that’s right. I think everything is bad for the horse when its not trained properly.”
With Totilas, would you use this method to warm him up?
“It depends how he is. Sometimes I need to make him a little bit rounder when he gets more excited, sometimes it is not necessary. But when it is necessary, I do it.”
There are some times then when you would go into a test without using rolkur at all?
“Yeah, when he is really relaxed… but okay I think he is an exceptional horse, he doesn’t need a lot of training to do these things. It’s always difficult to compare other horses with him.”
How far can this roller coaster roll?
“I don’t know, I hope for a couple of years. He is only coming ten this year, so he is really really young.”
Are you worried when he starts have his semen collected, it will be more difficult for you to train and ride him?
“He has now been covering for one and a half months, and I haven’t noticed any change with him, no change – so that is good.”
What are the plans in the run up to Lexington?
“We’ll have a rest period, and then Kentucky… I don’t know exactly when he comes back into work. I don’t give him a complete rest. Maybe for two or three weeks, we just hack him or lunge him, then I do normal basic conditioning training. I don’t think it’s good for horses to do nothing for two months and then get them started again. So three weeks where I don’t sit on him, then I train him lightly, and take him for walks outside.”
Are there areas that he can do better?
“Most of that is in the test, because at home, he can do everything for a 10. In the test there is always something else going wrong, not really wrong but you say, this time the walk can be better or I had some mistakes in the changes. It changes in every test, so I think when he goes really like he can do it at home, with no mistakes, then it is almost perfect.”
You trust him a lot, at Windsor, the walk hadn’t been great in the Grand Prix, but when you were in the Kür, you just went, bang, walk and threw the rein at him, right in front of the judges…
“He will do it for you. I knew the first day in the Grand Prix he was too excited because he was in a stable with horses passing by, he doesn’t have much experience going to international shows, it was all a little bit too much for him. That was only the second time he had been abroad. When we were there it was really like ‘oh what is happening here?’ Then I practiced a lot of walk, on the morning of the kür I just walked him around, and in the test it was good.”
What are you going to do when you have to retire Totilas – are you going to have to retire from dressage because you won’t find another like him?
“I don’t know. Sometimes it is difficult, people start comparing all the other horses to Totilas but I know Totilas is one of a kind. But we still have a lot of good young horses – I don’t think I’ll retire, but it is difficult to get this kind of experience again, but at least I had it…”