Contessa Riding & Training Centre

Contessa is a leading Dressage Centre in Hertfordshire, providing Advanced Dressage lessons Lusitano stallions and warmbloods as well as riding for all levels

Header image
Alternative image thumbnail i
Alternative image thumbnail i
Alternative image thumbnail i
Alternative image i
Alternative image i
Alternative image i

We offer a full schedule of clinics covering dressage, jumping, western and more. Please check our events calendar for upcoming clinics or contact us by email for further information.


Tina Layton-Elliott
BHSI, Reg. UKCC III Coach Educator, NVQ A1 Assessor

Owner, Instructor and Trainer.

Tina and her parents started Contessa Riding and Training Centre in 1977 and it has continued to blossom and grow ever since. Tina competed up to Grand Prix level with her mare Pik Dame, who she trained right through the levels from a three year old. The highlight of her competition career was with Pik Dame representing Great Britain in 2000. At present she is training Queijada for GP work, a Lusitano mare previously owned by the daughter of Sylvia Loch of the Classical Riding Club, who wanted her horse to be trained by a classical rider who would be able to take her to her full potential. Since Q arrived at Contessa it has been the start of her affair with the Lusitano’s, as they require sensitivity, loving and harmony to produce the best from them and she is happy to give them all that!

Other important horses in Tina’s Dressage career have been:

  • Borrowdale (Buster to his friends) – who introduced Tina to Grand Prix competition, having trained him to that level. 
  • Karleton Quartz – an inexpensive Anglo-Arab bought to save from the meat man at a sale with the intention to bring on and sell, who ended up competing to Prix St. Georges with Tina, then training a great many students in the advanced movements
  • Lanzo – also bought to sell, but ended up staying! With whom Tina competed to advanced /PSG level nationally, and who has introduced a few lucky members of staff to advanced competition.
  • Other very special competition horses that have been with Tina inc Deskant, Marcus, Some Friend and many school horses have been taken under her wing for some competition experience.

As a BHS Instructor and trainer, Tina has coached a very large number of riders, encouraging them all to work with their horse to achieve both harmony, understanding  and correct way of going in the classical method. She has trained a great many students through their riding and teaching exams to the highest levels, including to the dressage section of the BHS Fellowship. She was previously a BHS examiner, and currently examines for the ABRS to their ATD Exam – the top exam that they offer. Tina is also a UKCC level 3 Tutor in Sport, NVQ A1 assessor and was a BHS Riding and Road Safety trainer and examiner.

Tina has been training with Arthur Kottas (photo with Tina above), former First Chief Rider of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, for over 20 Years. Tina goes to the TTT in Guildford several times a year to train with Arthur and has regularly been asked to perform in their lecture/demonstrations.

She has also ridden in demos and received training from many great horseman, such as Reiner Klimke, Nuno Oliveira, John Lassetter, Danny Pevsner, Stephen Clarke, to mention just a few!

Tina has also been working with John Bowen since 1993. This benefits all the students who then want to join in his clinics at Contessa which are held every two months, as the  classical ethos of both their training is continued which she thinks is so very important.
In 2001 Tina made her own addition to the Layton clan with her son Zak. Tina would love for Zak to follow in her footsteps, and he is just doing that with his very talented Grand Prix horse Riacho. Hopefully he will start to take part in competitions and be involved with BYRDS in the coming season. 

Tina feels she owes tremendous amount to her Mother and late Father who have helped her build Contessa Riding Centre into the international dressage yard that it is today. Without their support, advise and encouragement it may not be as it is now!

Read more
Alternative image i
Read more
Dawn Elliott-Moulden
ABRS ATD, BHSIT, A1 Asessor Award, UKCC Level 2 Coach Assessor

Advanced Level Instructor and Trainer.

Dawn has trained and worked alongside Tina for over 20 years. She has been the Head Girl at Contessa for many years and is currently Contessa’s Manager and one of our Advanced Instructors, teaching our highest level riders . Dawn has competed at advanced level dressage competitively and is able to pass this knowledge on to her students.  Her monthly Sunday clinics,  open to all levels, are well-attended and popular amongst both clients and staff. 

Dawn  has worked at various private competition yards and currently  teaches and judges  dressage.at a local level . Dawn holds the ABRS Advanced Teaching Diploma and the BHS Intermediate Teaching exam and is a Group 3 Dressage Rider,  NVQ Assessor and UKCC Assessor for the ABRS. Dawn specialises in training days for teaching exams in both BHS and ABRS qualifications and is highly involved in the training of staff and students at Contessa. 
Dawn has competed at Advanced level dressage on both her own and Tina’s horses and  has ridden in lecture demos for Reiner Klimke and Arthur Kottas of the Spanish Riding School.  Dawn  teaches in a classical manner and has worked with a variety of horses from eventers to dressage horses from novice to advanced.
Dawn has 2 daughters who both ride their own and Contessa ponies. Millie is an active pony club member and Vaulter with the Contessa Vaulting group, we hope to see them in the future taking an interest in  dressage.
Read more
Alternative image i
Read more
Joao Cavaco
ABRS TC, Chief Rider & Instructor

Professional Dressage Rider and Instructor.

Joao was born and raised in Portugal and has always had a keen interest in horses. He joined the Portuguese Cavalry in 1998 and there he realised that he wanted to become a professional Dressage Rider. He started his journey as a working student at Contessa where he stayed for two years building a firm foundation in classical dressage. He is fondly remembered as a talented, enthusiastic and dedicated student. During this time he also achieved his ABRS Teaching Certificate and the ABRS scholarship. Since then he has worked as a rider for several International top trainers including: Tina Layton, Emile Faurrie, Leslie Morse USA and Vicky Thompson. During his time with these trainers he also had the opportunity to compete their horses at Novice and Advanced level in dressage. He has been in charge of training Katie Price’s dressage horses.

Contessa is pleased to have Joao back after over a decade and he is keen to be here helping our horses, students and riders to achieve their goals. As an instructor he helps his students get the most from their horses so they can experience the “correct way of going.” He brings a vast amount of experience to his lessons helping him to work through training problems and to take riders to the next level.

Joao is available for lessons on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. You can book private lessons with him as well as intermediate/advanced groups on the weekends. He also here on Wednesday evenings and runs our Young Elite Riders Club (Wednesdays at 6pm) and our Advanced Dressage adult group (Wednesdays at 7pm). He is also happy to teach clients on their own horses in dressage or flat-work for show jumping.

Besides teaching our students and clients, Joao is also here to school our horses. He keeps our schoolmasters fine-tuned and continues the development and education of our school horses. You will be able to catch him in Contessa’s various demonstrations or if you’re lucky during the weekdays in our training sessions! He regularly goes for open training sessions with Arthur Kottas in Guildford where you are more than welcome to come and watch.

Read more
Alternative image i
Read more
John Bowen, Dressage
BE and BD accredited international trainer

John has been training riders at Contessa on and off for 20 years in dressage and show jumping. He has gives lectures and demonstrations at the Centre. He trains riders in all disciplines from grass roots to international level. John has helped Tina with her horses on different occasions.

John has trained Jeanette Brakewell for the last 11 years, the rider of Over to You and one of Team GB – our Olympic team. He is also Irish National Eventing Team Coach for Young Riders and Juniors – training individual gold and silver medallists.

He has competed to Grand Prix in dressage and evented internationally. John takes clinics at Contessa every two months where riders can enjoy his charm and wit while working hard on correct methods of training. A word of warning to all riders: just don’t click to your horse.

Read more
Alternative image i
Read more
John Adams, Show Jumping

John started his training with Brian Young before going to Germany to work and ride. He later returned to the UK and produced a great many horses from Novice to Grade A. He now trains riders of all calibres.

John holds monthly show jumping clinics at Contessa and is a wonderfully encouraging instructor, who coaxes the best out of horse and rider and gives great confidence to his pupils.

Read more
Alternative image i
Read more
Derek Williams, Western
UKCC Level II Western Coach

Barrel Racing Champion, trainer and all round horse expert.

Derek is a UKCC Level II Western Coach and has many Western Riding titles to his name including being a Barrel Racing Champion & Working Cow horse champion! Derek is an affiliated Western Judge for Western Horseman’s Association Senior Judge including Cattle work.

He has been trained in both English and Western. Derek has more than 30 years of experience with horses. Derek currently trains, competes, and rides both in English and Western including backing and schooling horses with problems or youngsters. Derek also uses his methods to train all riders and in all disciplines.

Derek currently rides his own Paint Stallion Boysie who he has had from a weanling and Derek is hoping his 2yr old Quarter Horse Colt Harry will follow in Boysie’s Hoof-prints.

Derek holds regular sessions here at Contessa on a range of horses at our popular Equine Communication sessions on the first Saturday of every month.

Read more
Alternative image i
Read more
Sarah Gemmell, Vaulting

Sarah has been vaulting since she was 11. She competed at her first British Championships in 1992. This lead to a successful career within Britain, achieving many titles including Pairs in 1995, 1996, 2001 & 2002, and Advanced Team 1997 & 1998.

She first competed at an international CVI** event in 1997 in Holland. Since then she has competed at CVI**s in France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and Italy. She was also selected to compete for Great Britain as an individual at the European Championships in 2001, 2003 and 2005, the World Equestrian Games in 2002 and 2006, and the World Championships in 2004.

She has a Level 3 Coaching Award and achieved International Candidate Judge Status in November 2010. Her training and competing took place alongside studies at Coventry University, where she graduated with an honors degree in Fine Art in 2004. She then had a change of career and Qualified as a Registered Veterinary Nurse in October 2009.

Read more
Alternative image i
Read more
Bring your own horse

You are welcome to bring your own horse to any of our clinics.

We have ample parking available and can offer stabling if needed. Please call the office for details.

Read more
Alternative image i
Read more
Tina Layton
Buy 5 vouchers and get the 6th at half price, buy 10 and get the 11th free
Lesson type Single lesson 6 vouchers 11 vouchers
Private three quarter hour: £61.00 £335.50 £610.00
Private three quarter hour (O/H): £52.00 £286.00 £520.00
Semi-Private one hour: £50.00 £275.00 £500.00
Group one hour: £40.00 £220.00 £400.00
Side saddle/Western

Warning: stripslashes() expects parameter 1 to be string, array given in /homepages/2/d619210714/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/my-tickets/mt-fields-api.php on line 122
Buy 5 vouchers and get the 6th at half price, buy 10 and get the 11th free
Lesson type Single lesson 6 vouchers 11 vouchers
Private three quarter hour: £65.00 £357.50 £650.00

Send an email

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your Telephone Number

Subject

Your Message

*If you are inquiring about riding lessons please mention your riding level/experience.