Christopher Bartle Eventing Dressage Masterclass Part 1


One of the highlights of the 2016 Australian International 3 Day Event was the Christopher Bartle Dressage Masterclass. Christopher is heading into 2017 as the new Performance Manager for the British Eventing team after 16 years piloting the German eventing team to their great success but his background is not just in eventing. Initially trained by his mother, Mrs Nicole Bartle and then Olympic dressage gold medallist Hans von Blixen-Finecke, Chris was  a Member of the British Dressage Team from 1981 to 1987 and sixth individually at the Los Angeles Olympic Games riding Wily Trout before moving into his eventing career.

In Adelaide Chris blended his knowledge of higher level dressage with the practicalities of eventing dressage to highlight areas where eventing riders can use certain movements to help improve their horses, with demonstrations by Cooper Oborn (one of the nicest eventing riders you’ll see on a dressage horse but then he does ride at Prix St Georges level on his horse Astek Gymnast) and dressage rider Ruth Schneeberger riding Ponderosa Stud Lucious


      South Australian eventing and dressage rider Cooper Oborn works with Christopher


One of Christopher’s main themes throughout was the need for the horses to be able to relax during the work session and take breaks. He encouraged the riders to incorporate ‘breathing times’ for the horse such as cantering on a long rein between more intensive work – a movement which is now incorporated into the new CCI4* test

The session started with the warm-up phase for the two riders and horses in walk, trot and then canter



Christopher emphasised how the tempo and rhythm of the trot should be natural even when move expression is asked of the horse “We want the feeling that if we were to let go of the reins the horse should not lose his balance or fall over"

"We should continue to see a relaxation, a swinging in the back, not too stiff legged a gait and we want to see an expressive trot but without tension. We want to see a natural gait, not something artificial” before moving on to what the judges are looking for in the shoulder-in and half pass



 “As we glide across in the half-pass we can set our goals, we set our goal and see where we are aiming at and we ride along that line saying to our horse to ‘keep the bend, keep the flexion’.

Going across the diagonal in the medium trot there is a little skip in Astek Gymnast’s work which goes back to Christopher’s point about the relaxation in the trot

“A slight loss in the rhythm and regularity will be penalised by the judges during a test so when riding the medium trot you need to emphasise the consistency of the rhythm which comes, to some extent, from the relaxation of the horse as well as the horse working forward into the contact. Sometimes the horse comes a bit behind the vertical and we need to get his nose a little more forward then he will swing better in the medium trot”

“Medium trot   to extended trot is simply a matter of degree with the extended trot being the maximum level of going forward. But first we establish the rhythm across the diagonal (to the left) and use a very slight right shoulder fore after the centre line to help maintain the engagement of the right hind in the medium trot. What we want to be doing all the time is to use one movement to help the next”

“Then in the extended trot again you need to keep the rhythm all the way across until the very end where you steer into the transition and after the transition make sure that the horse’s nose is forward and that he is carrying himself”


       Cooper plays with some more advanced movements


“After work like this we give the horse a little walk and allow him to relax and stretch. It is a very important part of the work within a training session to allow the horses to breathe at times, and not to keep the pressure on all the time. They need to be able to relax mentally as well as physically during work session”

“The relaxation phase is mainly done within the extended walk when the rider needs to stay very relaxed within the hips and march with the walk, follow the contact down the rein and there should be a very obvious movement of the rider’s arms towards the horse’s mouth”

From the work in the extended walk in the relaxation phase Christopher moves into the collected walk work, some pirouette work and then into canter work with flying changes and half pass



Christopher works with Ruth Schneeberger in Part 2

In Part 2 Christopher talks about the challenge of the shoulder-in on the centre line in the 4* test, looks at the rider position and how relaxation helps a horse not only move better in the dressage arena but also perform better on the cross country course and in show jumping