Jonelle Price: why you should push yourself out of your comfort zone

  • Eventer Jonelle Price will be representing New Zealand in Rio with Faerie Dianimo. Here she tells Sue Polley about her top tips for success — from keeping things simple to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone

    It all comes back to getting the basics right and keeping things simple.

    To do this you have to understand what the basics are, what they look and feel like, and understand why they matter.

    For me, it means the horse being soft in their way of going, rounded through their back and pushing through from the hindleg evenly into a good contact. If you touch a rein, the horse must follow it and if you put a leg on, they must move forward or away from it.

    I like to do a lot of transitions, between and in the pace. As an example, I’d expect an advanced horse to have several gears within the paces, while the four-year-olds are starting to develop those gears by opening up in the canter and then turning into a 10m circle, which requires them to close the stride again.

    As they get older they can progress to more lateral work to develop the softness and throughness. Travers is useful as an exercise, on a circle or even in counter-canter. I want energy to flow from the hindleg through a soft back to the contact and feel I can go in any direction, at any time, in any shape.

    Pounding the roads

    All our horses spend the first four weeks following their winter holiday walking and trotting up and down the two-mile lane outside our yard. It’s old-fashioned but I’m a firm believer that it builds strength in tendons and muscles, and contributes hugely to soundness in the long term.

    Seize the day

    I’ve always been quite tough mentally, so I find it fairly easy to keep calm on tough days at big events. I try to reverse tough situations and look at them as a golden opportunity. I think
    this is the natural fighter in me and it certainly paid dividends at the World Games in 2014, where I was able to seize my chance when others struggled in the conditions.

    Dare yourself

    Although I often make the time across country, this is not something that comes naturally to me. I have learnt that achieving speed across country is a result of establishing a good rhythm, riding direct lines and touching the reins the least amount of times possible.

    This takes practice. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and dare yourself to ride at fences like this.

    Obviously you need to be sensible — don’t start by practising over stone walls! Instead, try a couple of brush roll-tops. Practise riding them out of a forward canter on say 15 strides, then 14 and then 13 until you are comfortable travelling on the more open distance.

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    Ditch the emotion

    By learning to remove emotion from my riding I’ve been able to see things and act much more objectively.

    In turn, this has helped me to develop patience, which wasn’t something I initially had in abundance.

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