Watch the post match interview of any big sporting occasion and you’ll hear the same story:
It was a team effort, everyone gave 100%, we helped each-other every step of the way.
This isn’t just limited to players on the pitch either, everyone from the manager to the kit-man needs to be totally focused on winning for the team to be successful.
In modern sport the margin between winning and losing is always shrinking, and everybody involved must be single minded in their desire to improve. But what about equestrian sport?
We tell ourselves that our equine partners love their work, but if we are really honest, wouldn’t they rather be in the field eating grass?
How do we take a horse and rider, two hearts, two minds, and make them work towards one goal...?
For me this is the key to what makes great horses, and it lies in the old phrase: ‘make them a partner, not a slave’. The tag line on our website, ‘Performance Through Partnership’, was one of those deceptively simple things that seemed obvious, only after hours of deliberation. As we are a husband and wife team it reflected the partnership between us, but also us and our staff, our clients, our vet, farrier, sponsors, the whole extended team. But the true heart of it was the partnership with our horses.
In each discipline it isn’t always going to go according to plan, you will land off your line, hit a stride wrong, and in those moments we need out team mates to step up and help us out. To align our hearts and minds on the same goal, we channel the horse’s instinct in the same direction.
We can’t create the desire in win in a horse, but luckily they naturally have the desire to perform, to gallop and jump.
What we seek to achieve in all of our training is to help the horse maximise their natural ability. In the wild horses use speed, power and intelligence to evade predators and survive. They instinctively understand that improving these attributes is helpful to them, and this allows us to align their desire to survive, with our desire to win.
In each discipline we use these attributes to perform breathtaking movements, jump enormous fences, and twist over the narrowest of skinny fences. Horse and rider working as a team.
Of course it isn’t always that easy, and there are plenty of horses that insist they really are happier back in that field full of grass! Most riders would count themselves lucky to achieve this connection a handful of times in their life, and yet others seem to achieve it with incredible regularity.
In order to achieve it the horse must trust and respect the rider, and trust and respect are hard won and easily lost.
When the going gets tough we have to remember that we are on the same team, two hearts, two minds, one goal.