Life lessons: Dressage rider Richard Davison *H&H Plus*

  • Richard has represented Great Britain at four Olympic Games, including London 2012 riding Hiscox Artemis. He is also a European medallist, a former World Class performance manager and British Dressage team captain.

    In our family, there’s a saying: “They can who believe that they can.” I first saw it at my grandparents’ house, framed at the top of the stairs. One day it was missing. Apparently the cleaner slipped while dusting it and broke the frame. I came across the broken pieces in the attic and have decided to have it repaired. But this time, I might hang it on the ground floor.

    When it comes to training tips, the one I live by is to treat every horse as an individual and work within its own strengths and weaknesses. I also think it’s important to keep learning about horse anatomy and function; it will support your riding and training efforts. When I started to learn about neuromuscular and motor control, everything fell into place, especially the role of consistency when trying to embed pathways for equine behaviour and horse sport.


    My quest for learning was triggered when I joined the Pony Club. It has continued through studying for the BHS exams system. I am a visiting fellow of Nottingham Trent University, and I try to support many equine educational institutions and steer them into relevant and practical research. I like the studies carried out by the International Society for Equitation Science into horse learning theory, and believe we can all pull together to help in the quest for ethical and evidence-based management and training.

    Before take-off

    I am fortunate to have an experienced travelling groom in Heidi Troniseck. We know each other well and both respect what is needed to do our own tasks. The evening before an international class, Heidi and I discuss how the timing of the competition day will work. We agree what time I’ll get on, and that means I will arrive at the stables about 15 minutes beforehand. I don’t hang around the competition stables as I respect the need for grooms to do their job undisturbed.

    Before I get on, though, I check the fitting of the bridle with Heidi, a bit like doing pre-flight checks, and I undo the girth and refit the saddle. I do the latter for no logical reason — it’s just a ritual I’ve done for the past 50 years.

    I’ve found that almost every horse I’ve ridden changes from the warm-up area to the competition arena, especially at big shows. So just before going into the arena, I remind myself to “stay in the moment and read my horse” and be quick to adjust accordingly.

    I don’t ever like to dwell on what might have been, and I don’t compare the horses I have had. I’ve enjoyed and learnt something from all of them.

    I have too many equestrian idols to mention — and from various disciplines. I have respect for every good horseman or horsewoman; not always the most famous, but those who are the most natural, thoughtful and humble.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 February 2020