Shaun Mandy – Horse & Hound blogger, dressage rider and coach talks to Horse scout about his practice.
A colourful character within the world of dressage, Shaun Mandy has been trained by some prolific names in the business. Here he gives us the lowdown of his life with horses and shares his tips on buying, backing and training youngsters.
How did you get into riding?
I grew up on a fruit farm in South Africa with a riding school on the neighbouring farm. Fascinated by horses, I dragged my mum to the school, began riding and never stopped. I was crazy on eventing despite the fact that from the age of 12, my instructor, Hillary (now a lifelong friend) said I’d always end up in dressage!
Have you worked for anyone famous?
I moved to the UK around 15 years ago when I was 17 for a placement at the Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy
in the New Forest. From there I became a groom for Pippa Funnell
and then Olympic gold medallist, Jane Holderness Roddam
, at West Kington Stud where I got a lot of experience riding young horses and eventing.
And in the world of dressage?
I was given a horse that had bottled it cross country by the Dutch rider Eddy Stibbe. I then began training with Jenny Loriston-Clarke
followed by Pammy Hutton, but the real turning point was when I decided to pack my bags (and my horse, Poppy, and dog, Pringle) and moved to Denmark to train with Hasse Hoffmann, a top trainer and author. I stayed for 18 months often riding around 10 horses a day from youngsters up to Grand Prix level before returning to the UK in 2015. I now train with Peter Storr and rent eight stables at Gainfield Farm, employ a groom and apprentice, and take in horses to produce, alongside competing my own horses.
Tell us a bit about your own horses.
My top horse is Euphoria E (Inky), a Dutch seven-year-old by Uthopia — I own half of him. We’ve just stepped up to advanced medium, came second at Wellington’s Premier League with 68.55% and we are aiming for PSG in the spring. At the regionals, Inky felt awesome in the Medium test getting many 8s, but unfortunately three costly mistakes meant we finished 9th on 67.47% — one judge summed it up well (see pic) just little disappointing when it’s so close to being super!
My other horse, D.I. Dompadour (Poppy), whom I own outright, was also doing advanced medium with the aim of PSG in 2017, until she had colic surgery recently which means she’s out for the rest of the year now. She’s talented but tricky with everything taking a long time — she’s eight years old now.
I also ride another Dutch gelding, a four-year old called Houston V (Huey) by Tango x Goodtimes, and have high hopes for him. We’ve competed in a couple of four-year-old classes and placed third at Hartpury scoring 78.8%. The next step is novice tests and five-year-old classes next year.
Do you buy and sell horses?
So what do you look for when buying a youngster?
Natural ability is good to see when you’re buying an unbacked three-year-old or younger — it’s about watching them move loose in a school. I like to see them as natural as possible in their paces so trying to get them not too excited when chasing them around. Attitude is very important to me and a trainable mind. The walk and canter are also important. Looking for a walk with a good overtrack and an uphill canter with active hind leg. For the purpose of selling on, it helps to have well-known breeding using proven dressage sires and grandsires.
And your tips for backing a horse?
Sounds obvious but a horse learns a good habit as quickly it learns a bad one — so make sure you do everything carefully, slowly and correctly.
And if you have an ‘oops’ moment and scare it by doing something a little too quickly, go straight back and repeat it even slower to ensure they are 100% happy, rewarding them for their patience.
We’re envious… you’ve been taught by some highly reputable trainers — give us one tip that stands out in your mind even today.
It has to be a quote from Hasse, from my time with him in Denmark: “Ride with colour”.
It means to have a plan in your mind when you school and to mix things up — it’s easy to just put a horse through it’s paces but think what you are working towards and make it fun.
So you now train horses and riders up to four-star advanced eventers… Any tips you frequently incorporate into your work?
Make sure you change gears frequently when riding, especially in your trot and canter work. Inky can get stuck in a canter and I really need to think of changing the gear three or four times when going down the long side of the arena. It helps Inky tune into my signals but also strengthens by making him take more weight behind.
So what are your future goals, Shaun Mandy?
To continue training horses and riders, get more sponsors and owners onboard, to ride international GP and, eventually, get to the Olympics!
And your thoughts on Horse Scout?
Networking is so important for any rider in order to get and retain sponsors and owners. There hasn’t really been one place that you can do this until now. It’s pretty cool being able to control your own profile and those of your own horses, whether they’re for sale or not.
– If you would like to keep a horse at livery or train with Shaun Mandy, who also takes competition liveries and producing/sales liveries then visit his Yard Profile on Horse Scout and find more information on the fantastic facilities at Gainfield Farm – Shaun Mandy Dressage