Louise Anne Bell – International dressage rider and working hunter champion
Not content with winning the Supreme Working Hunter Champion title 15 times at the Royal International Horse Show, Louise Bell turned her focus to dressage four years ago and now competes for Great Britain.
How did you get involved with working hunter classes?
I was around 17 and into eventing when I started to work for Daphne Wyatt who was into showing. Eventing was expensive and I discovered that I found showing easier and could be successful — I actually produced a horse of hers which she sold on and it went on to become Junior European champion!
What advice would you give to someone trying to make a similar transition?
Come to someone like me for help rather than muddle your way through! And make sure you have a quality horse — one that’s nearly a good flat show horse but has a good enough jump for a working hunter show class.
Any tips to impress the judges?
In showing, as the round isn’t timed you don’t need to jump a course quickly. You want to ride a rhythmical, flowing clear round that’s also stylish — and your horse must ride for a stranger. Be confident, stay focussed and walk your course as you would ride it.
Do you favour any specific bits or tack?
In showing you can use any number of bits, it doesn’t matter, just use what’s best for the horse.
How did you get into dressage?
I’ve always loved flatwork that’s why my show horses go so well. So when Horse & Hound asked me to take part in a swapping discipline challenge with Michael Eilberg I was really keen. But I soon discovered that dressage is a huge undertaking and I had to accept that I didn’t know anything and start from scratch.
What was the most difficult part of dressage for you personally?
Establishing the contact. In showing we want the lightest contact — as a lot of judges who get on won’t pick up a contact your horses have to go well without it. But I soon learnt that in order to get a horse engaged and going correctly you need a good contact. I went through phases of my contact being too strong and now it’s much lighter again. You have to learn how to use your body and your hands independently. It’s so difficult but awesome once you get it.
You must enjoy it — and are clearly good at it — as you made your small tour debut just two years after the challenge?
I get as much buzz out of dressage as jumping, if not more, and love doing things such as one-time changes. I guess I’m addicted to the training and the special bond it creates, probably because of the hours you have to put in! There’s so much attention to detail in everything that you do with dressage — the horse has to understand you in every way. It’s so intense.
Louise Anne Bell how did your two star working hunters — W Get Smart and Into the Blue — take to the transition to dressage?
I’ve had Into the Blue (Dynamo) since he was three and he’s now 10. He is adorable but demanding — a bit of a pre-madonna and very opinionated. Dynamo found dressage very hard at the start as he’s very spooky… As he finds everything a little too easy, I have to challenge his mind in ways not to indulge his spook! But once he has understood something he will try and please you… and maybe pop in a spook after! He loves one time changes, piaffe, and passage.
So he’s clearly doing well…
Yes… he’s now getting 70% at Inter 2 (and has qualified for nationals at Inter 2), is competing at PSG and will compete at Grand Prix in the autumn.
He won his first advanced at Hartpury few years ago, was second in Valencia and third in Saumur this year (medium tour) and fourth in Barcelona and Mallorca last year (small tour).
And W Get Smart?
He’s the 13-year-old Dutch-bred son of Pythagoras and out of a KWPN mare called Hester whose grandfather is Blakeney, a TB racehorse… He’s a real pleaser, but he sometimes takes control and being nearly 18 hands you can understand why he should really belong to a guy!
He found taking on dressage very easy winning both regional champs and winter champs in medium and advanced medium, but keeping him in self carriage is hard for me although he’s getting very good at it now — the advanced work in piaffe passage has helped him massively.
He’s currently not far behind Into the Blue and competing at Inter 2, coming ninth in Deauville recently.
Do you have any other horses?
I also have another young horse, Zack-ki Rosenlund, who is seven years old. He’s dressage bred but has jumping lines on mother side (Landgraf). I’m hoping he’ll do PSG next year small tour.
So you’re clearly more of a dressage rider than working hunter girl now?
I devote most of my time to dressage but I’m still a part time working hunter rider. My working hunter Catch the Beaver has now qualified for HOYs in the working hunters and recently won me my tenth National Supreme Working Hunter Championship, following in the great footsteps of my legends of the past — Rocky IV, Out of Sight, Cruise C and Cracker — who also won this title on more than one occasion.
You clearly have an eye for a good horse. What do you look for? (when buying a horse)
Temperament, but it’s also got to have presence…. a ‘look at me’ element.
The rest I can work on. It’s also got to have a great walk and great canter.
Any favourite dressage bloodlines?
No. Into the blue is jumping bred (by John Whitaker).
Who do you train dressage with now?
Michael Eilberg once a week. He jumped before he got into dressage so he’s understood me as a rider from day one.
What tips did he give you?
Listen… and do what i say!
And your ultimate goal?
Tokyo 2020. I can’t win medal in working hunter so maybe it’s meant to be dressage.
And why an ambassador for Horse Scout?
It’s a classy website with detailed information on horses and riders. It’s also a fantastic tool for us riders to get our work seen by the public and also great for transparency for buying and selling top quality horses.
Interview by Sam Lewis for Horse Scout
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