It is good to look back on your journey through life and, as we’re talking about horses here, it’s interesting to reflect on your relationship with horses and the part they have played. I had a moment of such reflection the other day when I realised how different my life has become to where I thought I would be, and that horses are the reason for the life I have now. It’s amazing how my four legged friends have influenced my life and the direction it has gone in.
My first experiences with horses was with my Dad around the farm at home in Australia. He bred horses for working the cattle and sheep on our 4,000 acre property at the foot of the Snowy Mountains, and Thoroughbreds for the local racetrack. My father had an all-round equestrian education and was well known on the local showjumping circuit as well as the local campdrafting and rodeo rings. My Dad is a true horseman’s, he can do everything from training them to putting their shoes on and stitching them up…it’s very different in Australia! He and my grandfather had a horse that went on to represent Australia in showjumping at the Olympics and both live for their horses.
As a child I went to the Tumut Pony Club and entered some local riding and jumping classes but that wasn’t really for me. At around that same time, I picked up a polocrosse racquet and being a typical boy obsessed with ball sports, polocrose quickly became all encompassing! I was ill as a teenager but luckily through the support of my family and those around us I recovered from a bout of Hodgkinson’s Lymphoma and was able to play for New South Wales U16’s and U21’s in Polocrosse. I soon realised that at this level, the difference between the top players and the rest was often down to horsepower and it was around this time I took a particular interest in not only how to train horses to perform at a higher level but in understanding how horses work and think.
Fast forward 20 years to now and although I still love the thrill of playing polocrosse and have been very lucky to have represented both Australia and England, my journey with horses has taken a different path. I have now found an interest in dressage that I would never have entertained when I was young! Alongside this, my desire to understand horses and our relationship with them is a constant source of interest and could now be termed an obsession!
My point is that if I was made to understand horses and was constantly corrected about my riding when I didn’t have that desire to learn I would have given up long ago!! I needed to have fun and enjoy riding in a sphere that suited me before the questions started to flow and my obsession began. I might have got where I am today a lot quicker but I don’t think my enjoyment or true understanding would be half what it is without the pathway I took. In a way, I am a little envious of my apprentice trainer Annie, who I have working with me at the moment; she has all the desire to learn and understand at such a young age and while I give her a lot of support – I also let her find her own way to do things that suit her and the horses she is working with as I believe there is not one set why of doing things, everyone has their own ideas or ways of working to get to the same end result.
This year I have launched my new website Your Horsemanship (www.yourhorsemanship.com) and this is how I would like my Your Horsemanship members to feel when they receive any teaching from me. Think about how you want your relationship with horses to be and work out how to achieve your aspirations, be they competing to the best of your ability or being able to hack safely around the local lanes. With the Your Horsemanship programme, you will find your own way; you will hit problems and may have to retrace your steps or ask for help to solve them, you may find an area of particular interest to you and stay there for a while, or you may realise the foundations you have with your horse are very strong and you can pester me for more advanced training videos to get stuck into! The point is that everyone has a different journey and everyone has different requirements. My challenge now is to meet as many of those as I can within this programme.