Last week saw the first intake of new students at Hartpury and so far we’ve done three induction tours, alongside all the exercising and treating of our inpatient horses as normal.
The next couple of weeks will see us doing a few more of these events, the point of which is to include as many students as possible in our activities throughout the year. This may involve becoming one of our many volunteer students, or putting forward their horses to be trained up on equipment such as the high-speed treadmill to use for our various teaching, research and marketing activities.
Working with students is a huge part of what we do here, but there is no compensation made in terms of the level we operate at. The students fit in alongside my team, working at the standard we set, maintaining the highest professional bar across the board.
We’ve had to work hard to prove that this recipe works; we are after all wholly client-facing, and the care of their horses is our primary concern. The client must have confidence in what we do and how we do it while their horses are with us, as must the vets and therapists we work with.
To ensure we continue to do our job properly in terms of the care that the horses receive, our students are never left unsupervised in any situation. They all volunteer to give us their time and all really want to be here. They help us pamper the horses and provide those vital extra pairs of hands to go above and beyond what is expected. In return for their help we are able to prepare them for the realities of working with horses, be that specifically in a veterinary/therapy environment, or out in the industry generally.
If we are doing our job properly then we should underpin and complement our students’ academic studies, giving them insight and understanding that you just can’t get from a paper or textbook.
There is a long-standing claim that college or university students are no good practically; well, not on my watch.
They work hard and we offer them as much knowledge and exposure to as many different things as we can. We develop their skills and ultimately make them feel part of something that they can be proud of, knowing that they have contributed to the success of each case during their time with us.
As you can probably tell, I’m pretty passionate about what we do here in terms of our role in teaching and learning, but it’s something that we take great pride in and an amazing amount of satisfaction from.
I hate the clichés but ‘giving back’ is one that I will allude to; I’m really grateful for the opportunities given to me throughout my career so far and if we can do this for even just some of our students, then I think we absolutely should.
It’s good to be back to normal having been ‘woman-down’ over the first week and a bit of the World Equestrian Games: our Assistant Manager Kerry-Anne has been working for the Canadian Para-dressage team since 2011 and was out in Normandy with them for the first 10 days of the Games. Having groomed for the team at the London 2012 Paralympics, it was another chance for her to experience something amazing, so it was all hands on deck here to make sure she was able to go.
I tried to catch as much of the dressage and eventing reports from WEG as possible and what a rollercoaster week of sport it was. All work was put on hold at 3.15pm for around 8 minutes on the Friday to watch Charlotte and Valegro attempt to follow up their gold in the grand prix special with another in the freestyle.
A fly on the wall would have witnessed the sight of four of us squashed in round my laptop, bobbing along to their music from the film How to Train Your Dragon, followed by absolute jubilance in confirmation that they’d won gold.
In my humble opinion, I have never seen Valegro look better. The ease and grace with which they floated through their test was just spellbinding. He looked so fit, and bar the necessary movement in the one-time changes, you’d swear that Charlotte didn’t actually move at all. It was truly an honour to watch such a performance, particularly under the pressure of a prerequisite of 89% or better to beat Damon Hill’s efforts.
When the camera panned to their support crew at the end, it brought a tear to my eye seeing Bluberry’s loyal groom Alan Davies, who is a good friend of mine, completely overcome with the emotion of achievement and the weight of what it had taken to get them there. It’s truly humbling to know someone who cares that much about what they do and is so brilliant at it, but yet so modest in success. What a truly remarkable achievement by the whole of the team.