Sam Griffiths Q&A: nerves, dream rides, keeping fit and favourite events

  • This week’s H&H guest editor offers advice on coping with nerves and being fit to ride, as well as telling us what horse he’d love to ride

    Q. If you could ride any famous horse, who would it be?

    A. I’d love to have ridden Hickstead, Eric Lamaze’s showjumper (pictured). He looked incredible and it’d be great to have come down to a 1.60m fence on him and felt that horse’s spring. I saw him jumping live once, as well as lots of times on TV, and it was phenomenal to watch.

    Q. How do you cope with nerves at competitions?

    A. It’s always really tough, but I try to keep myself as relaxed as possible. I once heard a tennis player saying it’s not about handling pressure, it’s about taking pressure off yourself, so that’s what I try to do and it stops me being so nervous.

    I try not to raise my expectations and to say that it’s just another round or another competition — I want to go well, but it doesn’t matter if I don’t. A lot of pressure is about looking foolish or not performing to your potential, but if you can take some of that pressure off yourself, it will be easier.

    I also find it helps to be organised and plan what I’m doing, so that when I canter into the ring I know I’m ready to go.

    Q. Do all your horses go out in the field?

    A. Being an Antipodean, I grew up with all my horses going out, so I do get them out as much as I can, although the English weather can dictate otherwise — at the moment it’s too wet for them to go out.

    Some horses only like to go out for a short time, so I let the horses make the choice on how long they stay out, too.

    Q. How do you keep fit?

    A. I have a rowing machine which I absolutely hate! But I put some music on and get on it about three days a week. I particularly try to do it from Christmas onwards and in the lead-up to big events like Badminton. I also do a bit of core strength work and some stretches after using the rowing machine.

    I’ve been using the machine for about three years and really noticed a difference. In the 10th minute of a course you’re tired and so is your horse, but by improving your fitness you can be more effective in those last couple of minutes. That’s when you need to ride best because your horse is tired and if you’re not so fatigued yourself you can ride better and make better decisions.

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    Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

    A. Always keep your horse in front of your leg. What I mean by that is that if I’m coming down to a ditch and brush at Badminton and I say go, they need to go. The horse must be responsive to the aids and always move off the aids.

    Q. What is your favourite event to ride at?

    A. Any of the four-stars, especially Badminton and Burghley. Just to get around is a real achievement. Both are wonderful events.

    Don’t forget to buy this week’s H&H eventing special (issue dated 3 March), guest edited by Sam.

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