NEW GLOUCESTER – Caliente, a 5-year-old Lusitano gelding, wasn’t trotting the way he should Sunday at the Pineland Farms Equestrian Center indoor riding arena.

“This horse is too polite. We want him to be a bit of a party boy, then he’ll open up his strides,” Stephen Clarke said.

With a few suggestions to Caliente’s rider, Hana Poulin of Pownal, to ease up on the reins and use her legs, Clarke soon had Caliente in boogie mode.

Poulin was one of only eight riders out of a field of 70 applicants chosen to ride in the New England Dressage Association Fall Symposium over the weekend. The symposium is a chance for participants to pick up tips and techniques to help them advance to the next competitive level.

Hosting the two-day event was a coup for Pineland Farms Equestrian Center, where hundreds of dressage enthusiasts from across the Northeast descended to pick up tips about training horses.

“You have to have a facility that can handle 200-plus spectators and the clout to attract them,” said Jennifer Dillo, an event coordinator and trainer at the center.

The clout in this case were two of the sport’s biggest names: Clarke, an Olympic dressage judge and former member of the British Olympic dressage team, and Ashley Holzer, three-time Canadian dressage team member. The two dispensed some of their wisdom to help with training.

“This is very exciting,” said Poulin, a 2006 Unity College graduate who rides, trains and works at Torrey Hill Stables in Poland.

Dressage involves years of training both the rider and horse in a series of movements. The rider’s directions to the horse should be barely visible while the horse goes through its paces. Any spoken commands to the horse during competition mean an automatic loss in points.

“It is meant to look like the riders aren’t doing anything,” said Diana Vanier of Scarborough, a volunteer at the symposium.

It’s a sport that grows on you, according to enthusiasts. Dressage shows are very quiet — sudden noises can startle the horse. And it’s a good sign if the horse is foaming at the mouth, because it means the animal is relaxed.

About 95 percent of the participants at Sunday’s event were women, although at the Olympic level, men are represented in equal numbers.

“It is the ballet of the horse world,” said Joanne Hutchinson of New Gloucester, who trains in dressage with her 15-year-old horse, Max.

Pineland has its own stable of 21 horses, most of them Dutch warmbloods, which in dressage-speak means a category of horses somewhere between the hotbloods, such as Arabians, and the coldbloods, such as draft horses.

“The European warmbloods are where we find the Olympians,” said Gwyneth McPherson, director and lead trainer at the equestrian center.

On Sunday, McPherson drew a small crowd as she demonstrated the skills of Pineland Farms’ dressage star, Flair, a mare that has been trained to an Olympic level.

At age 12 — considered a little long in the tooth for dressage — and the mother of three foals, she is unusual in a sport dominated by younger horses that have not reproduced.

“She is the modern career mom,” McPherson said.

 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]