Life lessons: Aimee Devane — ‘I’m lucky to have clients who never expect me to rush’ *H&H Plus*

  • The mountain and moorland specialist on pursuing her dreams, her laid-back personality and what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning.

    Aimee is a native pony producer based in Berkshire. She is a regular face at all the major championships, and ponies under her instruction have won Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), Olympia, the Royal International (RIHS) and the Royal Welsh.

    Without proper lateral work, natives can become rigid and strong in their neck; if you can’t create proper flexion you can’t do a lot with them. I am a big fan of shoulder-fore work, especially with those breeds who struggle with the higher-level movements, such as Highlands, who can fall on to the forehand, and the Welshes, who can get set in the front end.

    These days, I put a lot more groundwork into the youngsters at the beginning and don’t rush the mouthing process. Getting a good mouth on a pony is the best start you can possibly give them.
    Anyone can sit on an unbacked animal but that’s not breaking them in. Ensuring they accept the bit happily is key; I will spend three weeks mouthing before I get on. I’m lucky to have clients who never expect me to rush.

    I’ve never worked for anyone or had any proper training, so my management has been developed as I’ve gone along. All of my ponies have to be well socialised. I work with a lot of stallions and I find that keeping them separate can generate more problems further down the line.

    Socialising is done safely and at a speed each individual horse can cope with; some can hack out nose to tail from the beginning, while others need weaning into such an situation.

    In general, I am quite lax with my routines; if the ponies are used to strict schedules at home they can easily get stressed when put into different environments or go out competing.

    As I’m not rigid in my ways there isn’t a specific thing I do on competition day either, apart from try to win. Each animal is so different so there is never one pattern I swear by. I approach every class with a winning mindset; you have to believe that you’re the best.

    I love competing but I don’t get out of bed just to take part. I want to do my best and achieve as much as I possibly can. However, I will always endeavour not to miss the class. I’m never early to a show; I don’t like waiting around as it makes me anxious, so this means I have to keep a close eye on ring times. That way I can keep calm and concentrate on the job ahead.

    “She is so elegant”

    I have always looked up to fellow producer Vicky Hesford, and if I didn’t produce I would send a horse to her. I admire her attention to detail and style of riding. She is so elegant and looks beautiful on a horse, too. Her animals are always trained properly and you can just tell they’re not forced into an outline.

    When I was younger I wish I’d known that horses are hard work and that it can be a lonely job. You’re working alone for the majority of the day and sometimes it can be isolating. I have also learnt to keep my circle small; some people will pretend to be your friends to get a leg up.

    My parents always told me never to give up on your dreams. I don’t come from a wealthy background and I could have never believed I would be where I am today. I got into production because we could never afford to buy the calibre of ponies needed to go to the top level, so my Mum, Mary, found me some rides and it went from there.

    Always put your all in and don’t think it’s all about money; talent and dedication can take you far.

    If I could have any pony back it would be my Welsh section D gelding Pentrepiod The Judge. I’d love to have him knowing what I know now. I think he could have possibly won those pinnacle titles that he just missed out on and I don’t think we ever reached his full potential. He was only seven when we sold him – money can sometimes force the hand.

    Ref: 7 January 2021

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