Meet H&H’s new dressage blogger, who is based in Denmark with top trainer Hasse Hoffmann, but returns to the UK every month to run clinics in Oxfordshire

I grew up on a fruit farm in the Western Cape of South Africa. I found ponies at a young age as the neighbouring farm was a riding school and I soon learnt how to sit after being bucked off all the naughty ones!

From a young age eventing was my passion — dressage was not a big sport in South Africa!

After finishing school, I moved to the UK with my family (my mum is British so this was no big deal) and started working at The Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy in the New Forest. I was very lucky as not long after starting there, I got a job as a groom for Pippa Funnell.

I later worked for Olympic gold medallist, Jane Holderness Roddam, where I gained lots of experience with young horses and evented up to intermediate.

Over the next 10 years I was a life coach, worked in sales, flew for QANTAS as cabin crew (business and first class only darling!), qualified in holistic massage and trained as a hairdresser, all to fund my horses and keep eventing. During this time I also ran a training and livery yard with my ex partner in Oxfordshire.

The fabulous world of dressage

In the final two years before moving to Denmark, I built up my own business teaching and schooling horses and ponies. At this point I had made a complete transition into the world of dressage — with help from the brilliant Pammy Hutton — and what a fabulous world it is!

Shaun Mandy blog: Me at GBK Internional in Odense

Me at GBK International in Odense

It was absolutely great and I loved it, but I knew that if I was going to push myself and go all the way, I had to base myself with a top trainer and go back to school!

It must be said that there have been a few amazing people in my life who have helped me to be where I am now.

It is just a little over a year ago that I packed up home and business in Oxfordshire and arrived in the enchanted forest of Søholt, in Denmark.

Søholt is home to one of Europe’s, if not the world’s top dressage trainers and author of the inspirational and educational book Dressage with Heart and Mind — Hasse Hoffmann. What a journey and education it has been and continues to be.

This week has been a fabulous one at Hoffmann Towers, apart from the minor flood! (See picture top) Thank god for our indoor schools.

A trip to Germany

Shaun Mandy blog: One of my horses being lunged with the genn strap

One of my horses being lunged with the genn strap

Tuesday saw me driving down to Germany to pick up one of our horses from Dr Genn, the best vet in the world and designer of the genn strap (see right).

I left a wet and cold Denmark behind with Pringle, my six-year-old Jack Russell still in bed — too early for her! And drove into a very sunny Germany and into Steinfeld country where Dr Genn’s practice is.

His neighbour happens to be Alwin Schockemohle — a little drive through the yard was in order and it was massive!

Shaun Mandy blog: Pringle the dog

Pingle did not want to get out of bed!

On Wednesday evening I drove down to Odense to watch the fabulous Carl Hester do his clinic with Valegro, the most amazing horse ever, and Charlotte…who is also quite good! It was brilliant and I definitely took some tips away with me that night.

One point that was very much being made clear was the importance of transitions within the paces. It really got me thinking about how very important that half halt is and like Hasse will say, “ride with colour” — bring it back and take it forward.

Breakthrough at Skanderborg

It has taken quite some time to establish the half halt with my six-year-old, KWPN mare, Dressage International Dompadour, also known as Poppy.

Shaun Mandy blog: Poppy medium

Poppy’s first medium test

She is incredibly sensitive to the leg and then copes with it by running into the hand. That said, we have made some great breakthroughs recently and I was thrilled with her coming second with 70% in her first medium test at Skanderborg.

We have also just started teaching her the flying change so she is turning into a grown up! Onwards and upwards.

I’ve just been back to Oxfordshire for my monthly weekend of teaching, which I love. Then I will be heading off to Sunny South Africa in early November to run a four-day dressage clinic in Durban. I did my first one there in August and they want me back…yay!

And we had a little visit from Dr Bechtolsheimer today, old time friend of Hasse’s …week complete!

Until next time gorgeous readers.

Shaun