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A recent Interview with James
will give you an idea of what makes him tick.
If you were asked to describe your discipline in a few sentences, what would you say?
Training! It’s all about the training to enhance the horse and rider. Dressage is a cross between a ballet dancer and a gymnast. It has a mental and physical demand on both horse & rider. With the right training the rider communicates with the horse and is then able to teach him.

Why Dressage?
I was eventing till I was 30 years old. At Wellington I bought and sold young horses as well as training. I took a youngster on board who won the prelim Nationals and that was it I got the bug. I loved that it took me five months to get to do a lap of honour with a sash and no falling off in ditches!
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What are the most important effects of dressage on a rider?
A more cohesive understanding of the physical and mental development of a horse. Once you understand that it is easier to understand what you are trying to achieve.

What qualities do you look for in a horse?
Trainability, reaction & natural energy. Over the years I have learnt that the best trainers are not the most natural riders, so always take a good trainer with you or get their opinion via video etc when buying! Buy into the concept of a good horse from an average rider not an average rider from a good horse!

What would you say is your responsibility as a trainer?
My job is to identify the technical ability of horse and rider and then work with what I have to produce optimum performance and success.

How many years does it take to get a horse to top level?
Probably when a horse is 10 / 11 years old he will be at the top of his game. Of course that is with the right training!

Who do you train with?
I am training with Monica Theodorescu. Training is everything, it is what dressage is all about, the competition is just a test of your training you need ring craft and experience, you need time at home establishing it, you need to work a level higher at home to be ready for competition.

When you are looking for a trainer they must believe in you and the horse and have a system.
The German way is all about scales of training and Monica has helped me as a trainer as well as a rider

Test riding and training are different and you need to have a plan with your trainer.
Monica is my boot camp and I need that focus every few months she gets me away from the day-to-day distractions!

What would you say is your style of training?
As a coach I spend a lot of time assessing, I need to see you and your horse and need to identify your goals and make a plan everyone is different.

An ability to communicate with everyone is important and I have plenty of experience with that! I am a good people person and am happy to teach anyone that wants to learn from a 10 year old child to a 70 year old lady!

My ethos is that I want you to get out of the sport what I do, when I go and get that connection right and the feeling we all look for I want to be able to pass that on to the rider and take you along on the road to success.

What would you look for when buying a horse?
I have learnt to wait and not jump at what I immediately love! I thought Smash was a bit of a lump at first and now look at him, its a journey buying a horse, I look harder for longer now and get advice! No love at first sight anymore!

Which horse is the one that you most love to watch?
TOTILAS of course – enough said!

How much time do you spend training your horses?
They are all different and I have different routines and training schedules depending on where they are in their training. I always start early and ride up to lunch time and then I teach the rest of the day. Every day is different, I love that.

Do you think the media are interested enough in your discipline?
Dressage doesn't sell itself very well. It can appear to be insular. Totilas and Laura B have done wonders for the sport we are all very grateful to them for putting Dressage on the map but what an act to follow!

What are goals now?
To train the horses as far as they will go – and teaching & judging, I love to do both.

Do you have to work on your own fitness and do you keep fit any other way?
Errmmm that’s under review! No comment!

What are the indispensable qualities for a dressage rider?
Patience, ambition, backing & a degree of natural ability!

What is the most enjoyable part of dressage for you?
When the horse understands and enjoys it – that feel of effortlessness is brilliant!

What would you say to those who say dressage is for wimps and dressage riders are too scared to jump?
I would say come to the warm up at the Nationals and see how brave you are then!
James Burtwell Dressage USA LLC - +1 352-342-0021