Simon Reynolds: Finding the ‘eye of the tiger’ *H&H VIP*

  • I am sure I speak for the masses when I say how proud I am of our British Olympic teams, both equestrian and across all the sports in Rio.

    Nick Skelton and Charlotte Dujardin have rewritten Britain’s equestrian history books. For the layperson to be discussing equestrianism is such a positive step for promoting the sport and encouraging people to try it.
    It made me wonder, how do you create the confidence and belief they both displayed? Muhammad Ali said: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” When I used to train working hunter ponies, we had a lovely client who bought a very successful pony that had worked her out.

    I remember her dad saying to us: “It’s OK if you don’t want to take us on.” At that point I was in. I could see the talent in the pony and the jockey just needed confidence. I gave her the Rocky DVD to watch — much to the surprise of her parents. She would listen to the soundtrack, especially Eye of the Tiger, on the way to a show and it stuck as a catchphrase I would say to her just before she went in to jump. The transformation was incredible. It was as if she had grown two feet taller. She went from falling off and many eliminations to winning at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

    The power of belief and having confident people around you is essential. The Team GB grooms and back-up team were a major part of their success and are a big talent in themselves. It was fantastic to see the riders so gratefully acknowledging them.

    Electric preparation

    We are three-quarters of the way through the season, but that’s not to say things get quieter. We are now in the championship phase, with lots of shows exhibiting evening performances. It’s great that everyone is catered for. Equifest is a great example of featuring all levels and is fast becoming the highlight of the season for some. Apparently numbers were encouragingly high.

    These championship shows are a great spectacle and fun socially. Training-wise, we have gone from opening the horses up in big grass arenas for the Royal International and the county circuit, to the pressure-cooker atmosphere of electric indoor arenas.

    We need to ensure our horses and jockeys are prepared. If you have HOYS in mind, it’s important not to blow their minds in the lead-up. Indoor practices with music playing, banners and working in closer proximity to other horses can be a big help and you’ll find plenty of professionals offering indoor practices at this time of year.

    Some horses benefit from earplugs, to drown out the sound and help them to focus. Jockeys have to be much more aware of what is going on around them. Space can be tight and it’s easy to get stuck in a bunch. Look up and try to create as much space as you can. Also remember to pass left to left in the warm-up.

    Scarlet and diamanté?

    It’s great to get dressed up for evening performances, but do take advice if you are unsure of what is correct dress. There seems to be an increase in gentlemen wearing scarlet. It would be interesting to see how many were invited to. I’m not a fan of the bling that is creeping in, with diamanté boots, glitter and scrunchies. Less is more; let’s maintain tradition and class in the show ring.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 1 September 2016