For all the latest news, clinics, training tips and more!
Sign up now
Can't get to me in person? Book an online consult over zoom.
Email me now
I was home from France for only a few days before Equidays was held at Mystery Creek in Hamilton. WOW, what a spectacular that proved to be! I had a great time there presenting clinics and catching up with sponsors, clients and long lost friends. Andrew and Manu McLean flew in along with their daughter Sophie, and the Equitation Science message was spread far and wide. My first lecture Demo was out in the Natural Horsemanship Arena, it was a trailer loading demo that I entitled "It's not about Leadership - its about Leading" - a bit of a dig at my Natural Horsemanship counterparts who talk about being the "Alpha Mare" and making the horse trust and respect you. Those of you who understand Equine Learning Theory will know that its simply about training the horse to respond correctly to the leading pressures. I was a bit nervous at the start - I love performing to an audience, but this audience included two very special guests - my parents John and Christine... I don't think they have ever seen me at work as a trainer / coach so I was thrilled they could make it along.
Straight after the Global forum I had a day to kill, so I went to Olympic Medallist Coby van Baalen's barn to help a young rider with a horse displaying problem behaviours. For years I have watched a video of Coby riding Donnerwind in her exquisite arena. Now I was drinking tea and watching some of the world's to young rider's in training - the Van Baalen's train many of the best pony, junior and young rider's in Europe - it really is the "place to go" for young aspiring talents.
I also was invited to Belgium for an overnight stay to show breeder and rider An D'hondt more of the scientific training principles she had learnt from Andrew McLean and myself at the GDF. I delighted in An's company and she marvelled at the new methods of riding and handling she was learning - including working with a beautiful 3 year old colt and a difficult loader. An's friend is Dirk Caremans - one of the world's leading equestrian photographers. I got to enjoy a lovely dinner with the both of them, and friendships have been fostered for the future.
Straight after the ISES conference, the Bartels Academy played host to the Global Dressage Forum. For me it was a once in a life time opportunity to attend the forum - and imagine my intrepidation when Dr Andrew McLean asked if I would help him present his sessions on over-shadowing techniques to overcome fearful stimuli for dressage horses.
What?! Me out in front of the likes of Jennie Loriston-Clarke; Matthias Rath (the new rider of Totilas) and Hayley Beresford?! Are you kidding?! I could hardly say "No" to that opportunity now could I?!
The Global Forum is held every year in Holland and its where top riders, judges and officals come to meet and greet, share ideas, hear about the latest developments of the sport and to debate hotly contested topics. I have always read about the goings on of the Forum on the Eurodressage website, and now I was finally amongst it!
At the end of October I flew from Portugal to the Netherlands for the Global Dressage Forum and the 7th International Equitation Science Conference. This was the 4th conference of ISES that I have attended - following on from Michigan, Dublin and Sydney. In my role as the International Rider's Representative for the Society I attend as many conferences as possible and I can tell you they are both enjoyable and extremly informative.
We were lucky enough to have the use of the incredible facilites of Academy Bartels at Hooge Mierde, the same venue that the Global forum is held at each year. It also meant that we could look around the amazing facilities (check out the cool statues in the pics below) and I got to meet Sunrise - that's her and me having a chat over the stable door. I caused a bit of a stir on Facebook by telling people she was my new horse - as if! Maybe if I'd robbed a Rabo Bank on my way past! We got to see Demo's from some of the top dutch riders and trainers, including a sneak preview of the new superstar for Imke Bartel's "Toots" - a giant of a horse, and Oh so talented! We had a self guided tour of the stables and facilities - man what a place! It has its own library filled with ancient equestrian texts!
After the disappointment of not finding a stallion I headed home from Europe with my new partner in crime Vicky Slater, a lovely Northern Irish girl who wanted a 5 month stay in New Zealand to experience a new part of the world and to learn as much as possible about equitation science and learning theory. Vicky is a great asset here, perfect for helping break in horses and she soaks up information like a sponge. Im sure she will be a great assett to the Northern Irish equestrian community when she arrives home...
After just a short month or so in NZL though, I had to leave Vicky behind to mind the horses at home as I headed back up to Europe to - you guessed it - look at more stallion prospects and to attend the ISES conference and the Global dressage forum.
After the excitement of Dublin Horse Show - not to mention the damage to my credit card, I thought it was about time I knuckled down!
I had been asked to do a lecture demo on Equitation Science for some of the leading Pony Club riders in Ireland. So the day after the show I headed to International Showjumping superstar Cian O'Connor's yard to run a day-long seminar for the five selected riders and their parents.
It's always an exciting day for me when I can do a power point presentation to people who have not ever contemplated Learning Theory before now, and then give them lessons on their own horses to see how quickly improvements can be made to how they train their horses. The riders lapped it up and the written feedback we received after the event made it all the more worthwhile.
At long last I found myself flying to Ireland - it's only been a year since my last visit, but man it was good to be landing at Dublin Airport! First stop was Duty Free for a bottle of Bushmills Whiskey, and then straight to the Ballsbridge for the Royal Dublin Show.
The RDS is an Irish institution for sure. The show has been going for over 130 years, and I've been coming to it on and off for the last 13 of them! People often ask why I have such a fascination with Ireland and why I keep going back there. Well it's a combination of many things - the people, the horses and the parties! The Dublin horse show is right in the heart of Dublin, and the place is just abuzz with horses being bought and sold, old friends catching up, the finest of Irish food and beverages for sale - and some of the best trade stalls I've seen anywhere in the world - I gave the credit card a big hiding I can assure you!
Leaving Spain and flying back to Holland was a little surreal. I was very much looking forward to getting to Ireland where I could catch up with old friends and do some teaching, but in Holland I was just taking a few days to catch up with the family of Donnerwind.
It was great to see everyone at Donnerwind's old barn again, but it was a sad time as "Opa" (Dutch for Grand Dad) had recently passed away and it was my first trip back to his stable with no Opa there to greet me. Its always good to see how all the Donnerwind progeny have developed when I go back each year though. The website of the stables is www.stalnijenhuis.nl