Dannie is a grand prix dressage rider and eventer based in Hampshire. He is from a non-horsey family and started riding at a local riding school when he was 10. He has won 19 regional and eight national championship titles between the white boards and has been placed several times at small tour.
One thing I ensure is that I know each of my horses well. I understand every inch of every horse who comes on to the yard, so I can treat them as individuals. If you pay attention to the small things, you are able to pick up on the slight changes in physical appearance and health or temperament, so you can adjust programmes or care accordingly.
However, for a horse to perform at its best, there is no one thing that takes precedence. The whole management programme together is what makes it work; from the structured training plans, to having well-fitted tack that’s checked regularly, to individual feeding regimes and supplements, to regular teeth and physio checks.
I’m so lucky to have a fantastic support team but if you want to go the whole way, you have to make sure no stone is left unturned.
When in the saddle, the most important thing we must consider as dressage riders is keeping the horse in balance. Therefore, when I’m on board, I’m constantly thinking, “Half-halt, half-halt, half-halt.”
The one thing I always do on competition day is set a bunch of alarms on my phone, so I’m reminded to do all the necessary jobs before we leave. I’m very disorganised so need constant reminders to get things done, but thank God for my team of grooms and owners who keep me right.
When I arrive at the show, I tell myself that there is nothing else I can do; I’ve done all the hard work at home. This is the time for me to enjoy that ride in the arena.
I try to relax and focus on giving my horse the best possible experience on that day. Of course, I always want the best for my horses and owners, but trying too hard can often result in tension.
Over time I’ve also learnt that you shouldn’t try to win in the warm-up. Trust your training and use the working-in session to prepare your horse mentally and physically for the test you’re about to perform.
If I could tell my 16-year-old self anything, it would be not to be as affected by what other people are doing but to keep pushing towards your own goals. It can be easy to get sidetracked watching others. You can be affected by their moves while not focusing on your own, and it can put you in a negative head space.
From a young age, I looked up to Pippa Funnell. I followed her career when I was growing up, before I made my own foray into the eventing world. I remember reading her autobiography and feeling inspired.
A constant learning curve
In many ways, it would be lovely to be able to turn back the clock and be able to retrain all the horses I have ridden in my career, such as Knoxx’s Figaro, with the knowledge and experience I’ve gained. My trainers have helped me to become a better rider and my involvement with many different horses has helped me become a better trainer. I believe that we’re all learning all the time.
Ref Horse & Hound; 3 September 2020