Opinion

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Everyone suffers with winter blues, including the horses. We all just want to hibernate until spring. But if you can’t afford to get away to the sunshine — and let’s face it, it’s unrealistic when we’re all busy with horses — try to motivate yourself through the winter months by putting more effort into your training.

Choose a trainer who is not only inspirational, but also somebody who is honest; someone who can lift you up when you need it and also bring you back down to earth.

I’ve trained with some of the best in the world, and the thing they all have in common is that they make me come away from their sessions feeling inspired and excited. Training can often provoke that feeling, even more than winning at a show.

Talk to other riders as well. It’s difficult when you usually ride at home alone, but we can all help each other along.

Children on horses

British dressage is still lagging behind other countries and disciplines when it comes to the children-on-horses division for 12- to 14-year-olds. There’s a lack of awareness about it and, as the pony progress squad trainer, this is something I’m keen to change, and started talking about three years ago.

The pony section is competitive as we have many children who are talented riders, which is great. But there are only four places on a team, meaning most won’t have that opportunity. However, there is another option — for those talented young riders to move on to horses sooner.

There’s always a big drop-off in numbers after ponies, and we’re thin on the ground when it comes to quality riders at junior and young rider levels. But if we had children riding horses earlier, not only does it give them a chance to gain valuable international experience, but it also gives them more time to train themselves, and their horses, to be ready for juniors by the time they’re 16.

If you want to know more, please get in touch with British Dressage (BD).

Teamwork

I’m delighted the pony progress squad now works much more closely with the prime squad.

The riders from both squads work together in training, with each coach at either end of the same arena. It means I have the chance to show my younger, less-experienced riders those combinations they are aspiring to be like. How often would they get the chance to share an arena with a gold medal-winning pony such as SL Lucci? For those children who learn visually, it’s invaluable when I can stop for a moment and show them what they should be working towards.

It also helps keep the costs down — it’s using one venue rather than two — and we’re working with the same nutritionists, physios and advisors for both squads. It makes so much sense — I don’t know why the other groups aren’t doing it.

Time to support BD

BD has had a lot of stick in recent months. Many people have been disgruntled, and seemingly out for blood. But it’s time we let BD have a chance to see if all the changes are going to work. BD has made a lot of effort to listen to reviews and complaints, and is trying hard to take them on board.

It saddens me to see the sport I love so passionately being ripped apart by, in some cases, bitter members. People need to quieten down and get behind BD in its efforts.

Ref Horse & Hound; 8 February 2018