Kirsten Wing is a South African dressage rider, studying a PhD in sports therapy. She comes from horsey stock – her grandmother and mother also successfully contested dressage, while her father Craig show jumped. “I love Bombers Bits – they’re made by horse people, and for horse people, and it shows,” she says.
Can you share a simple exercise to help with a specific horse or rider issue?
“As a rider who was taught to have very soft hands, at times I have struggled to support a true connection at the higher levels – particularly with horses that are forward into the hand. So, where I feel a connection ‘is not convincingly true’, I return to a combination of lateral work that, while in Germany, I fell in love with, because it has so many benefits. Use a combination of shoulder-in, travers, and renvers off the side of an arena (using them interchangeably without ‘bending the neck’), and riding it from the seat.
The shorter the duration between them, the more ‘off the seat’ the horse becomes, and the more stable they are into both reins.
This can be done in trot and canter. For the higher level horses, using this down the 5m line in collected canter, going from shoulder-fore to straight, to quarters in, to straight and forwards into the corner, sounds so simple; but the control and suppling of the ‘middle of the horse’ means the thoroughness you feel into the contact is more true and stable!”
Three burning questions
What’s your most memorable horse and why?
Kirsten with Og “Wow that is a tough one. I have been fortunate enough to have known some very talented horses, as well as some quirky characters along the way. For me, the most memorable horses that I have ridden are my young rider horse Angus Og (grey, right), as he was somewhat of a legend who was much greater than our partnership towards the end of his career.”
“Also my current GP horse Ravel 322 (dark bay, above and far below), who has not only been a fantastic introduction to the big tour in Europe, but a charming friend through some of the toughest periods of my life. Both horses Bomber Nel and the team know well, and are pictured in their Bomber Bits sets.”
“The most memorable horse I have worked with is defiantly Don Weltino K. Produced by a fellow South African Laurienne Dittmann, I travelled alongside Don and Laurienne in Europe while they campaigned for WEG and Tokyo. Don has made a profound mark on me: I have witnessed his journey to Grand Prix which has not been an easy one to say the least.
Laurienne has an incredible bond with him, which is a testament to her perseverance with a horse that many would not have thought would ‘make it’. Don is proof that dressage is accessible.”
What’s the best piece of advice you could give?
“A piece of advice that has stuck with me, and that I pass on, is that one must always be innately curious. Curiosity is a characteristic that transcends sport, but one that keeps you engaged, interested and always learning, wherever you apply it. You can learn something from every person and horse that crosses your path, so be curious and keep asking questions!
I believe this is the underpinning reason I am where I am, and why I am excited to see where it takes me. I never thought I would be riding in Europe on a wonderful horse while studying a PhD: but curiosity is an infectious thing!”
What’s your ultimate riding or training goal?
“The ultimate goal is to be able to consistently and sustainably produce horses to the top level.
Riding a grand prix once, even very well, is not the end goal: its part of the journey.
The destination is to better the horse, and be able to do it with the next horse that crosses your path.”
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