Caroline Eaton is working towards her grand prix goal with the immediate aim of qualifying for the European Iberian Dressage Masters (MCI) championships in Paris in the late autumn. Her partner Neve Vip is well-used to the international stage — a couple of years or so ago he was in the same class at Hartpury as Nip Tuck and Valegro!

CAROLINE searched high and low in Portugal for her first Iberian horse, preferring what she believes is the proper, truer canter of the Lusitanos over the more “rolling” canter of PREs. She added: “But I bought my first Luso, Teddy (Acor dos Cedros) in 2012 from a lady in Germany, Eva Klautke, who also owned Neve.” Neve had been campaigned with a view to competing at the Rio Olympics as an individual by Portuguese rider Joao Moreira who was being trained by (top trainer and former FEI judge) Mariette Withages.

“Joao is an amazing horseman and gets the best out of every horse he rides. Neve was getting high 60%s at grand prix, but Mariette did not think the plus-70%s would be possible at Olympic level”

“Eva knew that the schoolmaster I bought from Judy Harvey, Don Rubinland, was out of action, and contacted me about Neve. I told her I was interested but as I was buying a farm near Goodwood*, I didn’t have a budget. A few months went by and I kept thinking about Neve and she convinced me to go over to Germany to try him. She said, ‘oh, he loves you, you have to have him! I have seen the way Teddy lives and how you look after them, I want the same for Neve’.”

“When I was 20 and at University I was advised by a friend that if I was serious about dressage to go and train with Danny Pevsner for a few months*. 
“He lived in the next village to me and I was privileged to ride his and his daughters’ horses which was my first real insight into classical dressage and Iberian horses.
I’m now in my late 30s and it was only in 2012 when I got Teddy, seen above, that I could start to put my dreams and ambitions into action”
*FBHS and former rider at Spanish Riding School in Vienna

Teddy was bred by Miguel Ralao and I believe the same rider who had ridden Teddy as a young horse had also ridden Neve: they were set up the same way, and we were on the same wavelength, so it has made it easier for me to go on to the established grand prix horse Neve had become.

“I got Neve in March 2016 and started competing a couple of months later at advanced medium. He was pretty much ready to go but he’s a stallion, and very much his own person, so it took until the end of the year before he would put his trust in our partnership and for me to feel that I could put him where I wanted in the arena: then our tests became much more controlled.

“Lusos can be quite fiery — not that they necessarily do anything — but they can get so hot that sometimes you think, ‘I would like to get off now, but I am not sure how to with all this bouncing around!’”

“Lusos have a big ‘fire’ button and if you’re a little bit afraid, and the horse realises that, it can unravel quite quickly which is why I have to have the measure of Neve at all times. You have to keep him focused, not looking at ladies or anything. He’s not without quirks. You couldn’t put just anyone on him. As a young horse he was sold to Spain as a bull-fighting horse until someone saw his talent and trained him for dressage. Eva bought him from Spain.

“I have been really lucky with the horses I’ve had. They have all been ridden well before I’ve taken them on and I don’t think I’ve taught them anything: they have been teaching me”

Caroline is also now having help from Sussex-based Portuguese international GP rider and trainer Paulo Santos who was trained in the Portuguese Classic tradition and also spent four years with Finnish Olympic rider Kyra Kyrklund in Sussex.
Caroline: “I was introduced to Paulo Santos about two months ago. I didn’t even know he was 10 minutes down the road. His knowledge is enormous. He doesn’t just train you, he tells you ‘why’ and he’s been extremely helpful both on training in general but also because he knows how to get the best out of Lusitanos”

“Neve’s not head-shy or afraid of anything but when you get on him you have to be really careful because people have in the past, I think, got on and immediately stuck spurs on and expected him to go the moment their butt touched the saddle. I have to be very careful not to push that button. That’s also why Eva wanted me to have him because if you don’t you obey the rules — never lean forward, never tighten your girth yourself — he will disappear.

“I had monthly help with Neve from David Hunt throughout last year and he commented once, ‘if you gave me a million years I could not find a more suitable horse for you. Where did you find this one? You are so lucky’.

“Each of the horses I’ve had has helped me or shown me something, so that when I’ve gone on to the next one I’m that much further forward in terms of my understanding and physical ability. I haven’t strayed from the straight and narrow. When I ride movements all my schoolmasters can do them fairly well because of their training and ability.

“Neve is 15 now. I hope to have two or three years doing grand prix with him if I look after him really carefully. Eva came over from Germany a month ago and was absolutely delighted with him and she knows that now I’ve got my farm when his career is over he can have a good retirement.”

© Celia Cadwallader, 5 July 2017

*Caroline has two livery places at her farm, Warehead Stud, near Goodwood, West Sussex. Facilities include a new Waxtrack arena, Monarch horse walker and individual turnout.

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