How horses led me to where I am today.
Every now and again it’s 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.
My own journey with horses started off by following my dad around the farm. 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. He and my grandfather even had a horse that went on to represent Australia in showjumping at the Olympics
I went to the Tumut Pony Club and entered some local riding and jumping classes, which I did not really enjoy! At the same time, I picked up a polocrosse racquet and, being a typical boy obsessed with ball sports, polocrose quickly became all encompassing when I recovered from a bout of Hodgkinson’s Lymphoma in my teens that prevented me from playing my favoured contact sport of rugby. Playing for New South Wales U16’s and U21’s 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, my journey with horses has taken a different path and I have 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 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.
And this is how I would like Your Horsemanship and any teaching you have from me to be like. 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.
One last note… horses were also the reason I ended up in England. I fell for a “Pommie” girl at first sight at the bar at the 1998 National Polocrosse Championships. Although she had no interest in me at the time, I quickly accepted an offer to go to England the following year to coach polocrosse and ride a few horses… 17 years later we have just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with our two kids!