Carl Hester: I’m more motivated without shows *H&H Plus*


  • Has anyone else noticed that their horses are going much better with no competition plans in sight?

    Many people, myself included, have felt this rather strange phenomenon, which surely goes to show how much stress we all tend to put ourselves and our horses under during our “normal” competitive lives. Is it that we don’t want to make a mistake, so we drill too hard when schooling, or could it be that we’re just more patient at the moment, so schooling is more enjoyable and less hard work?

    Some may feel that a lack of competition equals lack of aim, but I feel the opposite – I’m more motivated, as riding has become a pleasure, a gift in these times. My heart goes out to all those who have not been able to enjoy horses and riding during lockdown.

    I haven’t been aimless in schooling, however. I’ve been getting some boxes ticked – flying changes for the six-year-olds, pirouettes for the seven-year-olds and tempi changes for the eight-year-olds has been my goal setting exercise. And with all this wonderful weather, the horses have been enjoying more turnout and less work time. Less is more, and the horses have learnt more in the past few months than in a long time.

    “Work is definitely a saviour”

    With the gradual return of lessons, there’s a new order in place – air kissing is a thing of the past and with the use of “facilities” banned, clients will be reduced to more primitive practices should they overdo their coffee intake (bring your own, obviously). I remember using the back of the horsebox in the days before we had them fitted out with living!

    Talking of relief, it is great to have an income returning through teaching. Savings money, however, is generally generated through clinics and lecture demos abroad, which are all reliant on ticket sales.

    Looking into the future, even without a crystal ball, I’m not sure that I can see a thousand people sitting in an indoor arena any time soon and this is my worry going forward, especially with a yard of horses to feed  and wages to pay. Of course, one option would be live clinics via the web. Or do I write another book? (I hope not – the last one took a year – eek!) These are some of the options to look at for future income.

    Before teaching resumed, apart from riding in the morning as normal, I tried my best to keep busy, much to the horror of those working for me. I tended to stay on the yard in the afternoons, doing jobs like poo-picking, treading in divots or watering plants. It was all about skipping that point where you might be tempted to get a gin and tonic at noon instead of the statutory six o’clock. Work is definitely a saviour – and great for keeping a healthy mind.

    A flood of support

    It has been incredible to watch the equestrian community across the globe come together with a flood of support for Juan Matute Guimón – “Baby Matute” as I call him, having competed alongside his father Juan Matute Azpitarte – who recently needed two operations for a brain bleed. The relief, when news came that he had woken from the induced coma, was palpable.

    The 22-year-old is not just a talented rider but a trusted FEI commentator and presenter who, with his multilingual charm, has already done a lot to benefit the dressage world. His is a personality we could not afford to lose. I have literally never seen so much support for one rider, in the way the dressage world has been collectively willing him to come through this. Fantastic.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 4 June 2020