Chris Bartle: Let’s be besties

I had a couple facebook friends at the ICP symposium a few days ago in Ocala, and as they posted more videos I became more and more wrapped up in catching every word Chris Bartle said. Unfortunately I can’t post those videos here because facebook is annoying, but here’s a link to a podcast talking about the ICP symposium.

Hey there, new BFF

Sometimes you come across trainers that just “speak to you”, and for me he’s one. So much of what he said was really applicable to me, and he worded it in ways that made a lot of sense to me too. I grabbed all the quotes that USEA posted on their facebook, found a few more on my own, watched every video I could dig up, and tossed all the knowledge nuggets together in a document. Because it’s totally normal to keep several documents of notes and tidbits from clinics and lessons. So in case you’re interested, wisdom from Chris Bartle:

Dressage –

“You can’t have impulsion without connection.”

“If your horse is strong turn his head to the outside and use a strong, active inside leg. Use your gears not just the brakes.”

“If you have a tense, excitable horse then move your seat to the back of the saddle and the horse will lengthen his neck and lower his head to compensate for the change in balance.”

“Your ‘position statement’ is your seat and legs. If your horse does not respond your position statement is not strong enough.”

“My goal is to ride a dressage test with the reins in one hand. That means I am steering my horse with my ‘position statement’ not my hands and reins.”

“Avoid pressure on both sides of the mouth at the same time. Soften inside rein as pressure is applied to outside rein.”

“Your elbows belong to your body, your hands belong to your horse.” 

“The rise phase of the trot is the motivating phase.”

“I like to see the rider staying relaxed in the hip, moving with the horse, not getting too tight in thigh contact with saddle, allowing the horse to breathe. Everything in the canter should be done in a breathing rhythm, pushing every second stride.”

“If the horse is short in the neck – keep your elbows in front of you, keep more horse in front of you.”

“Relax the arm without throwing the contact away.”

Jumping –

“The leg creates the energy and the seat determines the length of stride. Keep the tempo throughout the turn or you will have time penalties. Tuck your seat under you. Keep the rhythm and don’t pick at your horse.”

“If you have impulsion you have options!”

“You don’t need to see a stride. Preparation before the turn and riding the line between fences properly will get you to the fence on the right stride. Keep the horse’s head up and to the outside with a supporting inside leg to “close the horse up” and keep the energy and your horse will choose the right place to take off.”

“If your stirrups are too long you can’t use your core muscles to control the speed.”

“Cross-country saddles should have room for five fingers breadth behind your seat. This allows room for you to slide your seat backwards. This will give you a ‘safe seat’. The ability to do that depends on the length of your stirrup–they must be SHORT.”

“It’s the horse’s job to jump the fence and not the rider’s. The horse must always maintain that forward enthusiasm and his own balance without always relying on the rider.”

“The rider’s responsibility is to keep the horse in line and on line and to approach the fence at the right speed that is relevant to that fence and in a good rhythm.”

“Good training will lead to the horse offering what you want as opposed to the rider having to hold the whole thing together.”

“Very often you’ll have riders who begin to interfere with the horse’s responsibility and start telling the horse how to do his job, when to take off, how to jump the fence and so on and that is where you get confusion where the horse and rider partnership breaks up.”

“Approach the fence in a good balance and keep a good rhythm (in the same stride) then your horse will have the best chance of measuring the fence and jumping it cleanly.”

His book has officially made it’s way onto my wish list.

Training the Sport Horse by Christopher Bartle

10 thoughts on “Chris Bartle: Let’s be besties

  1. Thanks for the post!

    Love the dressage quotes. All of them – but “Your ‘position statement’ is your seat and legs. If your horse does not respond your position statement is not strong enough.” really resonates.

    Adding this book to my list immediately. 😀


  2. Denny Emerson some interesting responses to the quote about not having to see a distance. His first of which was this: “So many people say and think this. I once had Lucinda Green write me to say I shouldn’t advocate developing a good eye, that it was the responsibility of the horse, not of the rider.
    Well, my problem is that I can tell from a few strides out whether I’m right, too far, or too short, so if I can see I’m wrong, am I just going to sit there and take the wreck if my horse doesn’t save me?
    I ain’t that brave!” they were all posted Jan 19th on the Tamarack Hill Farm fb page if you want to see the others. Food for thought! and I don’t really think there’s a right or wrong answer…and I have no clue anyway! I really like a lot of these quotes though and was enjoying them as the USEA was posting them!


  3. nice collection of training tips – lots of good stuff there. i’m definitely one of those riders guilty of interfering with the horse’s ability to do its job… sigh


  4. I have his book, his teaching is very British and his style very similar to Blyth Taits. Knows his shit that’s for sure! Plus his chestnut had a silver tail!!


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