Tag Archives: horsemanship

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How to win the Puissance on a horse you’ve never ridden before

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Horse Scout reporting at the TheraPlateUK Liverpool International Horse Show 

 

The Puissance is the ultimate test of horsemanship. It measures bravery, scope and the ability to hold your nerve. It is an event that never fails to fill seats and excite a crowd and cause a stir. This year’s Puissance at Liverpool International unfolded like a fairy tale and the end to a great year for British rider Matt Sampson, who finished in joint first after clearing 7ft 3” (2m20). Not only was he a relative rookie against the big red wall, but he achieved the feat with a horse he was riding for the very first time- Laura Renwick’s Top Dollar VI.

 

Eleven combinations competed which ran for the maximum five rounds. It was whittled down to just two in the final round with Matt sharing the honours with Irish youngster, Michael Pender. Michael was riding the scopey mare Hearton du Bois,  with whom he won the Dublin Horse Show Puissance this year.

 

Matt’s catch ride, Top Dollar VI may have more experience than his rider, having jumped a number of Puissance classes with Laura. In fact, the pair won the class at Olympia in 2017 but Laura decided to hand the reins over to Matt less than an hour before the class. That being said, to take on any new horse before a class and win it, is one helluva feat. Let alone to put faith in one another to jump the unjumpable.

 

Matt reveals how he prepared himself mentally for the challenge:

 

“I didn’t know him at all but maybe that’s not always such a bad thing. I just tried to ride forward to it and give him a little bit of room because he’s such a big horse. You’ve just got to keep them confident but then he’s a very good horse. It got easier each time as I just figured him out and trusted him a bit more and it just went on from there.”

 

So what does it feel like jumping that wall? “It feels amazing” he smiles. “I’ve actually only done one Puissance before at a show in Holland. So I didn’t have a lot of experience in the class.”

 

Preparation outside is minimal he explains. “It’s very hard to prepare in the warm up to jump a wall. Because we don’t have a wall in there, we just have a vertical and an oxer. I did a couple of verticals and an oxer but only about 1m40 to 1m 50 high. In comparison to what we are jumping in the arena, it’s not a lot but I think it’s better to keep the horses confident so if they go in the ring thinking that they can jump it, then it’s got to give you a better chance.

 

About an hour before the class, Laura (Renwick) rang me and asked me what I was doing and I said “nothing”. So she said did I want to ride her horse in the Puissance.

 

When asked if he had many catch rides in his career. He responded humbly with “not really”. Until legendary jumper Geoff Billington interjected with “he’s the King of Catch rides this one” referring to Matt’s win in the Hickstead Speed Derby on a catch ride Top Flight True Carlo in Hickstead’s Derby meeting.  In May, Matt had the biggest win of his career when claiming the prestigious Hamburg Derby, aboard Gloria van Zuuthoeve.

 

Whilst it is apparent, Matt would love to ride the gallant chestnut, Top Dollar again, he is philosophical about it. “I don’t know if it will happen again- probably not. But if I don’t ride him again, it was a good way to end on a high. He jumped amazing and it filled me with confidence.”

Written by Ellie Kelly

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Changing times. World Horse Welfare Annual Conference

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Last week, Horse Scout’s Ellie Kelly was in attendance at the World Horse Welfare Annual Conference in London. It is an exclusive event attended by leading figures in the world of veterinary medicine, equestrian sport, horse racing, politics, and animal welfare as well as HRH Princess Anne. The theme of the conference this year was Changing Times. Essentially how change- both good and bad, is continuing at a meteoric rate and what the future for equine welfare might hold.

 

The day was opened by Michael Baines, Chairman of the World Horse Welfare who had recently visited some of their projects in Cape Town and Lesotho which are jointly run with several other charities based in these parts of the world as well as other international animal charities like The Brooke and The Donkey Sanctuary. “I saw firsthand how important it is to take a holistic approach to equine welfare and, to be prepared to work with multiple stakeholders to achieve the best results,”  said Michael.

 

Perhaps this is a lesson we can all take away generally when striving to improve not only our horses lives but also our own livelihoods and interests in the equestrian sphere. As equestrian sport, recreational riding and general horsemanship evolves and improves in some areas but declines and is devalued in others. The advent and reliance on social media for information and as a marketplace is both a vice and a virtue.

 

Utam Kaphle, a young professional from Nepal, spoke on the innovative work being done by Animal Nepal. As Executive Director of the charity, he has spearheaded projects to improve animal welfare in the country by working with the local communities. With the help of government institutions, Animal Nepal has helped the lives, health and education of poverty-stricken communities as well as their working animals and the large number of strays which can spread disease.

 

Four-time Olympic Dressage rider Richard Davison then gave some compelling arguments on what was wrong and right in the sport horse industry. “When we riders, in our quest for success and our competitive side gets the better of our horsemanship.” Rollkur, hyperflexion and nose pressure was a recurrent theme and he expressed the importance of more clarity in the rulebook and more scientific evidence to prove the effects of a tight noseband- more on this in our next blog.

 

The future of Gypsy Cobs was addressed by Andrea Betteridge, founder of the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association. Andrea has spent decades obtaining and recording historic information and collecting DNA from different herds to prove the heritage of the breed and its historic bloodlines. This formed the foundation for recognition of the breed by British and European governments with member registrations from over 35 countries and the authentic breed database recognised all over the world. Overbreeding has led to the “dumping” of cobs, which the so often become welfare cases. As well as establishing the breed and educating would be breeders on the implications, Andrea has prompted other initiatives such as specialised showing classes and  “Give a Cob a Job”.

 

Tim Collins, a former Tory MP talked about the perceived implications which Brexit will have on the equine world as well as the enthusiastic following and power that animal charities had at the present time. At this stage in political proceedings, no one really knows what will occur after Brexit. Although he highlighted the reality that nothing will happen quickly as it will take years for the UK to fully leave the EU. “The average time it takes to even join the EU takes a decade and for Estonia, it was 20 years,” he said, with a further warning. “Therefore the issues you care about in the horse world are going to carry on but you must not take our eye off the ball and assume that this is all going to be carried out in the next few months. There is nothing as long as the temporary arrangement. We may have to live with this for a very long time so don’t assume any arrangements can be fixed later. Bear in mind how immensely powerful those of you who care and campaign about animal welfare actually are. For example, the inflection point in the 2017 General election was when the Conservatives got on the wrong side of animal welfare on the ivory trade and fox-hunting and that lesson has been learned deeply in both the party main headquarters. One of the biggest issues amongst the young population is animal welfare, so you guys can be pushing on an open door.”

 

The next topic covered was how charities and win trust and broaden their horizons. This came from Joe Saxton who featured in the top ten of the most influential people in UK fundraising. He is also the founder of a research consultancy for charities called nfpSynergy. The main pointy to take away was that support for animal charities is well up the national order, featuring higher than charities concerning homelessness, social welfare, overseas aid, religious and environment and conservation. So we Brits remain, “a nation of animal lovers”.

 

The day was rounded off with a discussion panel between influential veterinary delegates who covered topics such as changes in culture, technology and the internet and social media- friend or foe to both horse owners and vets. Overweight riders and horses were also commented on as this is a welfare issue we all see too often at shows around the country.

 

The use of artificial aids was also addressed, where Gemma Pearson highlighted horses “limited learning capacity”. She explains: “the spur and whip refine our instructions further so we can be more precise about what we are asking. But what we need to move away from was using the whip and spur for punishment as that is what creates problems”.

 

The Chief Executive Roly Owers summed up the conference: “When we talk about making change we have to base it around common sense, around experience and around the evidence. The second point is the issue of value. The value of our reputation, the value of time, the value of trust and the value of horses.”

 

If you would like to watch the Conference in full as well as discussions from previous years, click on the link:

http://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/conference

 

International Eventing Forum 2018

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International Eventing Forum 2018

Ellie Kelly


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A healthy turnout of eventing supporters turned out for the 2018 edition of the International Eventing Forum. An event which has been held in the UK since 2004

 

The theme for this year was “What’s the limit?”. The sport of eventing has evolved considerably in the last 20 years. Dressage technicality has taken on a new meaning and the quality of work and horsemanship required in this phase has increased radically. When Cross-country switched from long to short format, it reduced the influence of stamina but brought more emphasis on technicality and mental as well as physical agility in horse and rider. In turn, show jumping has become more demanding, requiring a greater level of training and precision than was previously the case.

 

Through a variety of topics and between four highly regarded professionals, the  big question posed at this insightful day was “how far can we actually push the boundaries in our sport to keep up with obvious performance improvements of both horse and rider”. But in a sport where amateurs compete alongside professionals, how can  we raise our game without becoming elitist and alienating the enthusiastic amateur?

 

Former International Dressage rider Sandy Phillips, is a familiar face in the judges box at many of the world’s FEI events. In eventing she judges at Three and Four star and she endeavoured to unveil what the judge is looking to see, in order to gain the higher marks.

 

With two competent demo riders in Tom Mc Ewen and Jonty Evans, Sandy put them through their paces and gave a critical commentary. Overall, her focus was on “riding the jump” with your seat and creating as big a step as your horse’s balance can cope with. “To impress the judge, Event riders need to be more confident in riding forwards in the dressage arena and use those corners as much as possible” she said.

 

Eric Winter followed with some useful tips both for riders and coaches. He worked with three young riders, all riding young and green horses. He set up a number of simple jumping exercises to emphasise what the basics of good jump training were. “Circles are the foundation for all riding. Not just in dressage but in jumping in the way that course designers put jumps on turns or curving lines. So you need to be able to ride a circle perfectly. As a rider you should have three questions when approaching the fence

1) Is your horse genuinely taking you or are you pushing it?

2) How straight are you on the line to the fence

3) Is the rhythm regular?

The rider should be focusing on this but it is up to the horse to find it’s feet at the pole if it has been correctly presented” he explained. “Repetition of an exercise produces an understanding on the horse of what is happening. Be patient with exercises to allow the horse to buy into the process and in doing so, gain confidence. Teach a horse to look for fences around corner. It is when they are surprised that they make bad decisions.”

 

After lunch, Performance Psychologist Charlie Unwin delivered his philosophy on mind management and how the mind can limit the body when under pressure. The Horse Scout advocate talked about the importance of only allowing yourself to focus on positive psychology. And how he helps rider to achieve what is known as “flow state” a level of 100% focus and concentration whilst delivering a performance. “Your thoughts have a way of sinking into your hands, your legs, your seat and the whole of your body so a lack of self- belief can be the biggest barrier to improvement and success.”

 

Charlie also discussed “Identity” to the audience. “This is the story you tell yourself about yourself. We ask ourselves “Who am I?” But you should be saying “Who do I want to be?”. The warm up arena is the biggest example of this, a place where riders often become shells of themselves. Instead riders should embody the mind beliefs and body of a World Class Rider. It is common for riders not to even consider themselves as an athlete but instead as simply an instrument to get the best out of the horse. In order to become an athlete you need to think like one as well as training and preparing like one” he said.

 

The final session was led by Frederik Bergendorff, a former international event rider and Gold medallist at the 1993 Europeans, Frederik now holds the role of Team Sweden’s Eventing Manager.

 

He worked with four star riders Imogen Murray and Ludwig Svennerstal and highlight what the basics of good jump riding really were for all levels of rider. He reinforced the importance of the warm up and quality preparation. “Your horse must be totally through from behind before you start jumping.”

 

His focus was on doing the basics better in training and he laid his principles out clearly for spectators. “Don’t go up a level or do something new in a schooling exercise unless you have mastered that one. To approach a fence you should have pace, energy and a good frame in the horse before the turn so that as you approach you can just concentrate on keeping the balance and rhythm. Being in balance means the rider should be sitting in the middle of the horse and you train balance with your seat. If you approach is correct then there should be no need to look for strides, the fence will find you. On landing from a jump, you should press the horse forward to the hand from the leg. Not only will this save seconds in the ring but it will stop him falling on the forehand.”

 

The International Eventing Forum will return to Hartpury  on the 4th of February 2019 and the speaker will be announced on http://www.internationaleventingforum.com/ soon.

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