Anna Ross: ‘Now is the time to perfect the things others don’t’


  • Top British dressage rider and trainer Anna Ross offers advice on staying motivated to train throughout winter

    This time of year can be challenging for many, and inspiration is needed to keep going with training until spring. The new prix st georges and inter I championship for silver riders at the Winter Dressage Championships is a great idea, and has certainly flushed a few fair-weather riders out of hiding.

    Motivation can come from a desire for success or a fear of failure, or looking silly. For some, yelling “Think of your ex” can generate a new level of impulsion, while others imagine the lap of honour as they are mucking out in -7°C.

    Every rider can maximise on the “cheap mark”. I often hear the complaint that a famous rider “got the marks” because they were better known. Sometimes a reality check is needed. It’s more likely that they did a better test because they halted square and hit every transition on the marker, because their livelihood and future rides genuinely depend on it.

    Both horse and rider should also be fit enough to train – rather than stopping every second circuit to discuss recent life events and have a sneaky break – and have well-fitting equipment, be on time and warmed up ready for a session.

    On the flip side, some riders have a perfectionist streak, which can lead to overtraining. The trick is to train smarter not harder, so if you have a repeated training problem, seek advice. Re-presenting a horse that’s making mistakes in the exercises again and again, and using the arena like a velodrome, leads to fatigue. Success comes from perfecting the very small details that most people can’t be bothered with.

    Check trainer records

    Having regular help is key, and the constant thirst for improvement among riders creates a buoyant market for trainers. I implore all those looking for a trainer to check out records and qualifications, though, as my bull***t detector has been triggered a few times recently.

    In the past month, I have seen “international trainers” advertised who have not ridden above medium level and many “groundwork” trainers who appear to have watched a couple of YouTube tutorials, purchased a cut-price flag after the World Cup was over and leapt right onto that bandwagon.

    These people cannot be compared to those who have trained extensively and put themselves out there to be measured.

    A stonking competition record helps attract clients, but can be misleading. If horses were bought ready trained as schoolmasters, then the client could be better off learning from the rider who trained the horse, rather than the one with the results.

    Qualifications to prove competence – for those who haven’t had the finances to access top competition – are a good idea. I recently passed my performance dressage coach BHSI exams. Although I’ve been fortunate to have competitive success at a high level, I have an interest in helping talented riders who lack resources, since that is my own background. So I wanted to see if I felt the qualification was relevant to those I help, and I’m a great believer in putting your money where your mouth is.

    Horses are great levellers, with a habit of sorting the wheat from the chaff very effectively – in more ways than one.

    “He likes to live among the ladies”

    The new year in our stables was heralded with the arrival of a new breeding stallion from our friends at Blue Hors stud in Denmark. The exquisite Viconte has arrived along with an unusual set of care notes. He likes to live among the ladies, so is smugly ensconced next to his future wife Mary, whose scores have increased by 3% since he’s been around.

    International riders are definitely looking for horses inside the UK now and this collaboration was the brainchild of Lorna Wilson to help ensure British breeders could have direct access to world-class stallions. Beth Bainbridge, who competes these stallions, is used to them needing a quick “appointment” when an urgent call comes in.

    ● How are you getting motivated to train this winter? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, local town and county for the chance to have your thoughts published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 19 January

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