Life lessons: Dressage rider Spencer Wilton *H&H Plus*

  • Spencer is an Olympic silver medallist, having partnered the De Niro son Super Nova II at Rio 2016, as well as at the 2017 European Championships and World Equestrian Games in 2018, taking team bronze. He is now targeting Tokyo Olympics.

    I’ve always been of the opinion that if a horse doesn’t do something the way you’d like him to, there can only be two reasons why: either they don’t understand, or they physically can’t. That could be because they are not strong enough, not coordinated enough, or are uncomfortable in some way.

    Thinking this way helps me to approach problems, whether in my teaching or my own riding, with a more positive mindset.

    We often assume horses think like we do, and we humanise them, but actually they can’t think and plan with the same levels of logic that we do.

    Another attitude I’ve picked up over the years is the thinking that most modern competition horses are kept in an environment that they’re not really designed for. Horses are built to move, not stand still, and that’s as much for their brains as for their bodies.

    Personally, I think we have a moral responsibility to make horses’ lives as comfortable and natural as possible.

    Kisses for thought

    The best advice my parents gave me was probably something my mum would say to me from a young age. She told me to make sure I take a moment to myself after every success to enjoy it, because there might not be another one. Nowadays, no matter whether I’m at the Olympics or a show down the road, I have her words in my ears. It’s so easy to let these big moments pass you by.

    Another thing I always do on every competition day is give my horse a kiss on the nose before I get on to warm up. Then the last thing I do before going into the ring is always to take a moment to take a deep breath and sit up straight – like a bit of a reset.

    I’m inspired by every successful grand prix rider. I’m fascinated by other people’s techniques and different riding and training styles – I think we can learn something from everyone.

    If I had to choose one horse I’d loved to have ridden, it would probably be Blue Hors Matine. She was a mare who seemed to give so much of herself, and sitting on a horse who really gives you everything they have must be an amazing feeling.

    Of all my former rides, I’d most like still to have Dolendo now. He was the first grand prix horse I produced, and I don’t think I did too bad a job back then – we were national champions in 2007 – but if I was training him now, I’d have a different level of confidence in my own ability.

    I adored him, and it would be interesting to see how he would compare to the top horses of today.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 April 2020