Life lessons from show horse producer Vicky Smith *H&H Plus*

  • The show horse producer talks about the benefits of planning ahead, the importance of a pre-competition feast and one very special Connemara pony...

    I always go into the arena at home with a plan or a specific exercise to work on. It can be very easy to go in the school and trot round in circles without achieving much. I like to use lots of polework for variation and straightening.

    My dressage trainer Gary Foggon helps me with all my horses on the ground, so I always have plenty of homework when I do take the horses to school in the arena.

     But if you’re perhaps having a bad day or you’re feeling a bit down or tired after work, sometimes a positive hack with your horse working into a forward contact can achieve more than just going in the school.

    My mother taught me about the importance of getting your horses fit. In the early years I spent hours hacking on the roads in the Derbyshire hills working on the horses’ fitness and hardening their legs up. In January when the horses come in from their holidays we spend six weeks on the roads, firstly walking then building up to trotting.

    The piece of horse management advice I live by is “no foot, no horse”. This is so true. I’m very lucky to have a great farrier, and all the horses have their feet picked out daily. We also use preventative hoof treatments on the frog, sole and outer hoof regularly.

    A magical sight

    When I was growing up I was eventing-mad, and Andrew Nicholson was my idol. Watching him ride across country was just magical. He is so cool under pressure and makes everything look so easy.

    There are many talented riders around at the moment and I like to spend a lot of time watching collecting rings at the bigger shows. Holly Smith and Charlotte Dujardin are also class riders and are inspirational to watch.

    When I was 14 I rode the Connemara Sydserff Golden Oak for his owner Liz Milner, who produced him from home. We didn’t have a manège so all the work was done out hacking or in the field. When I rode him, I was young and inexperienced in the ring and competed against adults, but we held our own. We went to Olympia and stood second at Horse of the Year Show twice. I would love to have a native like him on the yard now to show.

    These days, the one thing I always do on competition day is eat. I love food. I can often get “hangry” if I’ve not eaten first thing before a show. It’s a bit of a running joke between my show pals and they often check that I’ve eaten before I’m about to go in the ring.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 6 February 2020

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