Laura Tomlinson: ‘Nothing beats the buzz of competing in front of a crowd’


  • Top British dressage rider and multi medallist Laura Tomlinson on the thrill of an atmosphere, and the cost of living crisis

    I HAVE just returned from Hagen CDI4* with my hot ginger gelding Fallatijn (Finn), and it struck me that it was the first time I have had the opportunity to compete him in front of a proper crowd in a big atmosphere since he’s been at grand prix level.

    As much as I love competing at our local national shows as preparation, there is no substitute for that feeling when there is a buzz of a crowd, and the movement and noise that goes with that.

    I have struggled with Finn in the past when it comes to maintaining relaxation in a way that allows me to show his true potential, and although I was still far from my end goal in Hagen, from a “rideability” point of view he was the best he has ever felt.

    We changed quite a few things at this show, from switching the calmer that we use to a magnesium-based one, to my poor groom plaiting Finn every day we were there rather than just for the test days. We also took off his boots halfway through training every time I rode him, rather than just before each test.

    I also had Claire Gallimore come to see me at home the week before we left for Hagen, and she took me through some exercises that I can do with Finn both on the ground and under saddle that will, in time, help to rewire his reaction to “stress triggers”.

    I found the work that she did with him fascinating and yet so logical, and I am really looking forward to working with her in future on my horses.

    Finn’s nerves and overexcitement became far more manageable when I played with his posture and shape of his neck muscles and positioning of his body.

    The challenge was taking this into the grand prix work and into the test situation, but I used my corners to trigger the feeling that normally I would take on a small circle.

    The learning journey is never-ending and every horse gives us new opportunities to discover more.

    Who will absorb a rise in prices

    LAST year, travelling horses post-Brexit was a hot topic. This year it seems the horses have been enjoying smoother journeys, however the cost and the admin that goes with travelling abroad with horses remains high.

    Those costs, coupled with the general increase in the costs of living at the moment, start to raise big concerns about how riders and yards across the board will cope with these expenses. Who will absorb the rise in prices and at what cost?

    There has been such enthusiasm to get going again and enjoy our sport since all the lockdowns and times of social distancing, so what a shame that people’s enjoyment could be sacrificed yet again due to a lack of affordability, just as we are trying to boost inclusivity and encourage more people from all backgrounds to get involved with our sport.

    A force for good

    I HAVE been struck by how generous so many people have been in trying to rally money, clothes and general kit for Ukrainian refugees. I take my personal hat off to nanny and maternity nurse Louenna Hood – daughter of showing producer Allister Hood – who has raised over £170,000 and sent truckloads of kit to the borders via her @nannylouenna platform on Instagram.

    It is so nice to see social media being used as a force for good.

    ● How are you addressing the increased cost of living? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 5 May

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