Turning a spooky horse into a winner

  • “He became so spooky that I gave in and was reduced to trotting round in circles aimlessly,” says Heather Finlay of her nine-year-old dressage horse Anthem RT’s spooking problems.

    Fresh from a win at elementary at NEC, North Yorks, Heather told H&H that is was thanks to her trainer, Melissa Chapman, that she is beginning to plan for regionals and “maybe even the nationals”.

    “We had a string of scores in the 50s before I asked Melissa for help with his spookiness,” says an ecstatic Heather. “I now have a routine that includes lots of leg yielding, serpentines and half pass to engage him and his brain.”

    Following Melissa’s success with Anthem, we asked her to tell us a bit more about herself.

    What’s your USP?
    My aim is to teach a rider how to help a horse understand what they want of them. It’s easy trying to get a rider to understand themselves but for them to get that through to a horse is a different thing. Also with a new rider, I want to find out what they want to achieve rather than what I think they are capable of.

    What’s your pet hate?
    Poor riding skills and disappointment in performance being taken out on horses.

    What’s your signature exercise?
    Ride on a square, through walk trot and canter, encouraging engagement at the same time as thinking about straightness. Use corners of the squares to encourage the inside hind to come under but at the same time think about using the outside rein to turn your horse.

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
    You’re doing something that you love so no day is a bad day. Thanks, mum.

    What would your pupils say is the one thing you’re always shouting?
    Rounder and leg!

    If you’re interested in talking to Melissa Chapman visit her website www.teamchapmanequestrian.com

    • For H&H’s report on the NEC and other regional reports, see 20 June magazine, on sale now

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