Have you been inspired by dressage champion Valegro this week? We speak to Louise Robson about one of her stable stars Quadrille, who formerly raced in The Queen's Colours.
Quadrille 9yo Bay Gelding
Danehill Dancer (IRE) ex Fictitious
Highest Official Rating: 108
How long have you had Quadrille?
Ive had Quad since he was five, so 4 and a bit years now.
How did you end up with him?
He retired from racing as a four year old due to a tendon injury. He was castrated and turned out for nine months. I was visiting The Queen in November 2011 with Mister Glum, when I was asked by Terry Pendry about a ‘potential new horse’ and would I have space? Of course, I lept at the chance, but didn't hear anything for a few months. In March 2012, Terry phoned me and said ‘so when are you picking up this horse then?’ I went to go and see Quad at Windsor Castle and bought him home two days later.
How long had you had him before you know he was going to excel in a dressage career?
To be completely honest, when I first saw him going around the arena, I thought, ok,
maybe one day, he will be a mid 60% horse at Novice and maybe elementary if I work really hard. It wasn't until he was 6, maybe even 7 that I thought, this horse could actually do something quite interesting. Quad has always had a very good walk, but the trot and canter were nothing to get excited about. However, the more we trained, and the stronger he became, the more the paces improved and he began to show what he was truly capable of.
Tell us about the steps you take in your retraining process?
Each horse is different, so we assess each horse individually. Some of the time, it is easier when the horses come straight from the trainers as they know what the horse is like when fully fit, living in and having quite a few demands put upon them. If anything they are going to know their ‘worst traits’ but also, because they're true horsemen, they will give it to you straight. As a re trainer, you know the routine they're coming from and what steps you need to take to start the process.
We try and get the horses to ‘be horses’ as quickly as we can. If the horse comes to us straight from racing, then we normally will ride them very lightly for the next few weeks as they're still fit and we want the horse to settle as well as they can, which, for most, involves working and having their brains do something. It also depends upon the time of year that they arrive. For example, if they arrive in the spring/summer, it’s easier to get them used to going to the field as the grass is lush and the weather is warm and encouraging. In the winter, we do struggle, as the horses don't want to go out in the rain/mud and the grass quality isn't so encouraging for them to put their heads down.
We like all horses to have a little ‘break/ let down period’ to allow their bodies time to relax and adjust to not having the demands of racing upon them. The younger flat horses will grow a lot in the first year of them leaving racing. We take this into account when starting the re training process. Lots of lunging, pole work and hacking when they first start. We barely ride them in the arena as they're not used to working in circles, curved lines quite so much. We don't spend that long on their backs, because now as ‘riding horses’ they have the rider sit in a different position on their backs, which the horse is not strong enough to do. This is where the lunging, long reining and hacking work helps strengthen them. Some do come with more of a personality than others, so they may start ‘arena work’ quicker, to help keep their brain engaged. Whist the re training process is going on, the horses have constant physio, chiropratic and farrier work done, to help their brains/bodies help with the transition over.
Does the Queen still have an interest in his career now?
We go to see The Queen at Windsor Castle. She has a keen interest in in new career
and loves to see him doing so well. To her, even if he was a happy hack, but was loved, happy and sound, she wouldn't mind either. The fact that he is doing so well in his second career is a bonus.
Has he got an quirks or funny habits?
Quad is bouncy. He is nicknamed ‘ding’ at home. He is very very cheeky and enjoys to play/cause havoc on the yard. He picks
things up, humans, buckets, rugs etc throws them at you. Keeping all four feet on the floor is quite hard for Quadrille and he regularly tries to pick people up by the zips on their coats, or the farrier by his chaps.
Does he get excited when he goes to a competition?
He does and he doesn’t. It has taken many many years to get Quad to concentrate at shows. The first 1 1/2 years he didn't actually compete, but he came on the lorry every time we had a space when we took the others out. He would travel and then work at the venue and then come home. We would plait him at home and work him, plait him for lessons etc, so he would never get ‘excited’ or connect plaiting, travel boots etc to ‘going racing.’ He had a big scare at Winter Nationals on 2014 and has struggled with a few confidence issues after that, but he is getting better. Its not so much as excitement, rather than concentration for Quad. He will watch anything else rather than concentrate on his job because he finds it all too easy.
What is the most prolific achievement you have done together?
This year Quad won the Advanced class at Bury Farm High Profile show, he has won
at Netplan Festivals at Novice, Elementary and Medium and been to Winter Nationals twice. He has won the RoR Advanced medium music classes for two years in a row. He has been placed at high profile shows and won his first PsG, which is beyond exciting and amazing. Quad has done the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and HM’s 90th birthday in 2016, where he had to walk and behave, to me, these were probably his most prolific achievements and he behaved and didn't show himself up!
What are your goals for the pair of you for this year?
We have the Winter Regionals in February, where we have qualified for Advanced Medium and Advanced Medium music classes. For the rest of the year, PsG Summer Regionals and maybe if we are brave enough, move up to Inter I. I would like to do more high profile shows with him, but to be honest, we will see how Quad go and take it step by step and just enjoy ourselves along the way
Finally, what makes thoroughbreds so special?
Their brains, willingness to learn and take on new things. They're so affectionate and they try so hard to please and do well for their rider.
You can find more about Louise and her horses on her website.
Video by Douglas Downing