Tag Archives: young riders

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Mexican Young Guns take Nations Cup glory

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In any sport when the underdog wins, it makes for great entertainment. So when the Mexican team took a decisive victory in the very first leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida the press conference was a joyous affair.

 

The youthful foursome fought off some of the world’s most successful nations including the USA, Canada, and Ireland. In fact, it was the youngest two Mexican riders with the least team experience who sealed the deal with their double clear performances. These came from 23-year-old Eugenio Garza Perez riding Victer Fin DHZ and 24-year-old Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane on the athletic grey mare Hortensia van de Leeuwerk. The other two riders played their part with low-faulted rounds from Fernando Martinez Sommer (29) on Cor Bakkar and Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado (25) riding Tino la Chapelle.

 

Tryon’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 course designer, Ireland’s Alan Wade, set a track that tested rideability, and the final line of a one-stride triple combination to big oxer proved the undoing of many. However with three first-round clears the Mexicans were already in command at the halfway stage on a zero score, trailed by Ireland and USA on eight, Israel close behind with nine, last year’s Wellington winners from Canada on 12 and the three-member Colombian side already trailing the field with 16 on the board.

 

The Mexican quartet kept a cool head and clung on to their lead in the second round, which caught out a number of the world’s leading riders such as World No 2 Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden who both faulted. Fernando Martinnez Sommer commented on the technicality of the course. “The course was difficult enough, for me my horse has a very big stride so I had to go a bit steady all the time.”

 

All four riders were quick to praise their Chef d’Equipe Constant van Paesschen, not just for their Nations Cup victory but what he has delivered to Mexican showjumping during his short career so far. Stany van Paesschen had similar positive words “From when I came two years ago, I said I am going to try as much as I can to push some young riders forward. We have some great young riders but we also have some great support from professional and older riders. I think we have a great team.”

 

Garza Perez, who trains with legendary Irish rider Eddie Macken and is the only member of the Mexican side to be based in the USA, said: “Today’s result is a testament to the quality of the next generation of young Mexican riders.”

 

He was a member of the historic site that posted that spectacular win in Dublin last August. “That day was an inspiration to us all!” he pointed out. And now the main Mexican goal is a place at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final 2019.

 

“There’s an Olympic place on offer in Barcelona and we intend to take it!” He said.

 

Team Israel had a great show too. Daniel Bluman’s double-clear with Ladriano Z bolstering an impressive all-round performance that saw them add nothing to their first-round nine-fault tally for the second spot. The Americans looked strongest at the outset, with an extremely experienced team of Beezie Madden, McLain Ward and Laura Kraut joined by young star Lucy Deslauriers. But single errors proved costly, so they will be hoping to turn the tables when their regional League moves to Mexico next time around. Only Mexico, USA, and Canada were entitled to qualifying points in today’s competition, so they claimed 100, 80 and 60 points respectively.

 

Ben Maher & Triple X III

BEN MAHER

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The Horse Scout team catches up with Ben Maher at the Longines Global Champions Playoffs in Prague this weekend. 

 

Ben Maher has had a cracking season in the Longines Global Champions Series. After winning three Grand Prix, he was crowned as the overall winner of the LGCT after winning Rome in September. His horse, Explosion W is just nine years old. The seemingly unstoppable pair went on to Doha, the final leg of the Series to win both the Grand Prix and captain his team- the London Knights to another victory in the Longines Global Champions League.

 

The Global Champions League has really taken off. As team Manager of the London Knight’s, what has been the strategy behind your success for most of the season?

A lot of thought and planning goes into it. We will have a meeting in January to find out what horses everyone has available and work out where to aim those horses and what everyone’s commitments are. So it’s a 90% plan for the first half of the season. There’s a text group and most of the time it stays serious but the guys sometimes fool around a bit. We have a very strong team spirit.

This year I’ve been lucky, there has been a very strong team bond and they have all taken it very seriously and that’s why we’ve managed to be so successful.

 

What is the significance of the Global Champions Series to the sport and how has it changed it? 

It has been great for the sport. We ride every weekend for 100,000 euros to the winner. It was only five years ago that we were riding for 20,000 and thought that was a big weekend. It’s pushed the level of prize money monumentally. I never thought I would see prize money come to our sport this fast.

 

With that, the horse values have increased. It’s brought more sponsors in and hopefully, there will be TV right from big broadcasters. Maybe, in the end, we can get it back on mainstream TV because it is a great sport. There are lots of kids who have ponies or dream of having ponies. They have a connection with what we do. Like people who play tennis at the weekend, love watching Andy Murray. I Hope that within my career it can come back to what it was because I really believe it’s a great sport to watch.

 

The GCT and the GCL are continually trying to improve and grow the sport. It’s brought some colour to the sport. We’ve been very lucky to ride in these unique venues and now fans can actually follow a team and we have team colours to make it stand out. Slowly it’s building momentum and I really think that in ten years time, it will be huge.

 

Does the attractive prize fund detract you from competing at other significant competitions and making team appearance?

Obviously, the prize money is increasingly growing in the GCT but it’s not growing comparatively at other competitions. I’m still committed to my country and supportive of the Nations Cup Series and the Championships. My decision not to be available for Championships was based on the fact I have a younger team of horses and Championships are a lot harder on a horse than one Grand Prix on a Global Champions Tour so it was in the best interests for my horses’ welfare.

 

We still have not qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, so you think there is a chance we may not get there? 

We have two chances next year at Rotterdam in the European Championships and then Barcelona for the Nations Cup Final and I will do my best to make that happen.

 

I will never forget riding for my life in Aachen to qualify for the Rio Olympics. It was harder getting to Rio than it was in Rio and I never want to get to that point again. It’s a sport where we are always moving, some people who may not have helped to qualify still make it on to an Olympic team because they have the right horse at the right time and you have to have that in consideration. I also have owners that own my horses and it’s not always my decision.

 

How do you think it will grow the sport?

The GCT and GCL, runs at a slightly higher pace so that keeps the interest. Rather than 40 horses with riders all dressed the same, I agree it can be like watching paint dry- like Formula 1. Where the sport is interesting is looking at the tactics, the training and what goes on behind the scenes before those 60 seconds we spend in the ring. I think this is how we can really draw the audience into what we do and then they can bond with the horses as we do ourselves.

 

It looks like an incredible life from the outside but what is the reality?

I’m incredibly lucky to do the sport that I love and enjoy. But I’ve been on the road 50 weeks this year. I barely know what home is. I’ve also had the best season of my career and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We lose more often than we win and I just try to enjoy it as much as I can.

 

Whilst you are now winning big, the overheads must be enormous? 

The expenses are huge. It’s travel for both horse and rider and we are living in hotels most of the time. There are 40 horses within our team with 20 members of staff, planes, trucks. The reality is that the prize money a horse can win now and the value of the horses, it’s now in keeping with what it costs to run a horse.

 

With these horses, there is no expense spared. They are treated like high-level athletes. They are better looked after than I am. They live in the Four Seasons hotel lifestyle every single day. They have physios, specialist care and in many cases have one groom per horse. They are the athlete and that is how we take care of them. Thankfully the sport has now developed enough to help make it financially viable for investors and owners to be part of the sport

 

Highlight of your career

Competing at the Olympic Games in London where we won team gold. It’s a moment that won’t be repeated in my lifetime at a home game. I would like to go to another Olympics and the dream is to win both a team and an individual gold medal. A double gold would be the ultimate!

 

Do you think we could win a medal at the next Olympics? 

I think anything is possible. This year I didn’t think it would be possible to win the Global Champions Tour Final on two young horses.

 

What do you think of the state of British showjumping at the moment? 

We have a lot of good young riders in the UK but I don’t think it’s a sport where riding is just enough anymore. I think you have to be a very rounded person and you have to be able to communicate with sponsors, owners. I think it’s looking bright, I believe We are just a few years off being very strong. Myself and Scott have had a very good year and I hope we can be a part of that and lead the way for young riders like Emily Moffit, Jack Whitaker, and Harry Charles but we don’t have a lot of time before the next Olympics so we need to accelerate and get things moving quickly.

 

https://www.gcglobalchampions.com

 

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.

#IEF18

Mind Games

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MIND GAMES

Success in Equestrian sport is rarely achieved without careful preparation. Although by the word “preparation” we mean something beyond gymnastic jumping exercises and perfecting your square halt. Mental preparation and controlling nerves, is so often the difference between winning and losing. You would not be alone in thinking “how do I replicate what I do at home at a competition?”

Charlie Unwin is a leading sports psychologist who has been helping a number of elite riders and Olympic athletes from a number of sports. As part of the World Class Programme, he also helps the British Eventing Team from Young Riders up to Seniors.

 

After Military training at Sandhurst, Charlie started his professional life in the Army. During this time he served in Iraq as a platoon Commander. Upon leaving the Army, he focused on his passion for sport and begun training to become an elite Modern Pentathlete. Within two years, he was selected to go to the World Championships for the British team and in 2007 he was crowned National Champion. With this background, it is fair to say that no one understands pressure and nerves better than Charlie. We are lucky enough to have him as one of our advocates and here he sheds some light on mind management for riders.

“I help people recreate their best under pressure” he states. “Most people come because of nerves or a loss of devotion. Nerves can manifest in so many different ways but ultimately the common problem is that they are not able to recreate what they do at home.”

 

You have many forms of psychology and help out there but Charlie’s approach is a scientific one.

“There are two important areas of the brain at play when it comes to performing at your best, the emotional brain and the rational brain. The emotional brain represents the “Driving Force” of our performance, whilst the rational represents our “Guiding Force”. The driving force is both good and bad. It is the reason we get out of bed. It gives us energy and motivation. Yet it also makes us aware of perceived risks and can create fear and frustration, sometimes getting out of control. The guiding force concerns our focus and capacity to think clearly about what really matters. It makes us prioritize and do what is really important. The driving force is significantly stronger than the guiding force, meaning that emotion trumps logic if we don’t learn to manage our mind. This typically requires planning and visualization skills designed to help riders think correctly despite feeling nervous.

An example is where highly motivated and aspirational people struggle to channel their motivation effectively. The danger here is being high energy but fragile control or confidence. Then I need to work on their focus to prepare and plan. I also see people who are consumed by fear, for whatever reason. They become scared to make decisions. Some people like tips and techniques to help them but the most important thing is that they understand why they are doing it.

 

In addition, I am also trying to help riders tune into their intuition, tapping into their vast reservoir of experience that cannot always be expressed consciously. When a rider is learning their trade, they go through a process of making corrections. If these are well thought out, e.g “why did that happen when I did this”. The enhanced connections in the brain allow them to develop better intuition. So if a young rider only cares about results and less about mastering their sport, they end up compromising the thinking required to train the brain. So often, after a lesson a rider will untack, load up and not do much reflection on why something went well or badly. In avoiding this, they have not allowed their brain to process everything they have just done. In order to make something become intuitive, a rider should write down their plans and objectives before and after sessions as well as how it went and what made the difference. They should have coaching conversations with instructors about how things went, not just in the saddle.

 

I encourage riders to do the thinking and planning up front, before even getting on. This is so that when you are in the saddle, you just focus on feel. Often experienced riders stop trusting their intuition because they start to over-analyse things whilst on board. When you are coming down to The Lake at Badminton, you can’t afford to be thinking about too much other than how you are going to approach the fence. If the horse deviates from the line, it should be your intuitive riding that corrects this as your subconscious will react faster than your conscious mind.

 

It is important for riders to empty their minds in order to deliver the best performance. When you are in the start box or about to enter the arena, if you are uncertain about your plan and focus, you are not going to be able to ride to your best. At a base level, daily meditation is the best way to clear your mind as it allows us to access the more unconscious parts of the mind responsible for intuition. The app Headspace is great for this.

 

Equestrians are perhaps the most guilty of “doing, doing, doing”. The price paid can be a lack of reflection and therefore undermines their ability to judge the intrinsic quality of their work and make changes for the better. When I was a pentathlete, I was striving to do five sports well and you often don’t stop and reflect. Then I realised I was substituting quality practice for quantity and changed my training plan. I halved the amount of technical training but was more diligent at planning it. The training I did was more intensive and focused and I meditated before each training session. My results shot up and I started achieving things I didn’t think were possible.

 

Top riders like Michael Jung seem to follow this strategy. He doesn’t do many competitions but each one has a focus and a goal. He is very diligent about planning and when he trains, it is with real intensity.

 

We are creatures of habit and some people find it scary to stop what they are doing and reflect on what it actually takes to improve.

 

If you found this interesting, Charlie Unwin offers an online programme of podcasts and webcasts on mind management and controlling nerves.

 

Subscribe at https://www.performancelegacy.com/equestrian or join Charlie Unwin Psychology Coach on Facebook.

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

Image taken from https://www.performancelegacy.com/about