Having started riding at the age of 10 and come up through the Pony Club ranks and the hunting field, Leslie Law believes that this is still the best grounding for horse trials.
“You can have formal training in all the spheres, particularlydressage and show jumping, but so much of the cross-country also comes down to mileage and the ability to recognise when you have a problem,” he maintains. “These days, a lot of people at grass roots level are not that experienced, perhaps because many leisure riders are taking up the sport later in life and don’t have such a thorough grounding.”
A great believer in training, whatever your level, Leslie gets “as much help as I can from Chris Bartle on the dressage, which is never enough!”
They meet up at official squad sessions and events and Chris goes down to Leslie’s Worcestershire base whenever possible.
“Chris is by far the most helpful for me, so I stick with what I can get,” he adds.On the show jumping side, he has help from Rowland Fernyhough, from whom he bought Shear H2O, as well as from Ken Clawson, but he has a less formal approach to cross-country training these days.
“Once you know what you’re doing, it can largely depend on how you¨re goingand finding out how the jumps are riding,” he points out. “Riders often ask each other.”The training grant elite squad members receive from Lottery money is a huge boon. “I would always budget for training though,” he adds, “and the grant means I can afford more.
“On the whole, we are left to do what we think is best. Since Yogi Breisner became performance manager, we have been able to discuss our programmes with him and there is discussion between Yogi, the riders and the selectors. It¨s not a strict regime, but the advice is there if you want it.”
Leslie was one of the squad members who attended this year’s Saddlers’ course at which the psychologists’ approach provoked such a reaction.
“I’m quite open-minded about that side,” he says. “I’m not dismissing it, but I haven’t jumped in feet first either. It will work for some people, but I’ve yet to decide whether I’m one of them.
“The elite squad idea has to be a good one overall. More work is being done on the veterinary side since the funding became available, as well as areas such as rider fitness tests, but it’s early days’ time will tell whether these new angles will help produce medals.”
The fact that his brother Graham is also on the circuit doesn’t create any extra tension. “If I’m going to get beaten, I’d rather it was by Graham,” laughs Leslie. “But on the whole, I would rather win myself.”