Lesley Peyton Gilbert has competed horses up to Grand Prix dressage and has been training me for about 10 years now… sorry Lesley! She understands each individual horse better than anyone else I’ve met and is a fantastic trainer, there is no way I’d be the rider I am today without her help along the way. I can’t say I used to be the easiest to train either, which I think she may mention further down…
Lesley is a wealth of knowledge and has helped me beyond compare so here’s a little Q&A to give you a little help and inspiration!
What’s your first horsey memory?
First memory was riding my god-father’s mare, she wasn’t particularly tall but I was only 3yrs, she walked under a tree and I remember being thrilled at being so high up I grabbed the branch the horse kept walking and I was left hanging!!
What is your favourite moment in your equestrian career?
Favourite memory has to be riding in the Grand Hall in Saumur. The home of the French classical school. I was riding Woodcroft Garuda K in the Grand-Prix. We did a good first test and got into the Kur (music), you have to be in the top 15 to do the music. I had fabulous music that I’d never ridden to, it was the soundtrack from the film Rush. I remember getting to the music for the 1x tempi changes and hitting the music perfectly, doing 20 1xs and a pirouette at the end. It was just wonderful. That day, on that horse, in that place. The best part was we got 70% and 7th overall from 13th going into the kur. It was our first international year of competition.
If you could choose any horse to ride who would it be?
Horse I’d like to ride…. MSJ Freestyle, remember the first time I saw her in a young horse class. I’m not usually a mare fan (my failing not theirs! Just love my stallions!) she has such a beautiful way of going that is so fluid and supple and she gives everything she’s got. She also has those mare ears that flop slightly when she’s in maximum concentration mode. I love her power without tension.
What is your favourite non horsey thing to do?
Favourite non horsey thing would have to be going to a lovely restaurant and eating spectacular food. Even better if that’s combined with being on holiday somewhere hot so that I can go snorkelling (I love the sea and swimming).
As a dressage rider and judge, what top tip could you give event riders to improve their dressage?
My first tip to eventers in a dressage test is ride the arena like you would a combination of jumps!! I see so many of you come in and get all timid, trying to hold the horse in, not riding the corners (they are your friend not your enemy). In every movement think ‘same rhythm in same rhythm out’ — corners especially.
What would you say is the most important thing to remember when training a young horse?
Tip for working with young horses is remember he/she hasn’t read the book so never forget patience! Keep training fun. So, look for incremental improvement not perfection. First lessons are about reaction…stop and Go that way you have a horse the works between the hand and leg not against it.
What is your go to training exercise?
My favourite exercises have to be leg yielding and square circles! Square circle comes first (I did a H&H article on them) for me on a young horse as it helps get the horse to understand stepping under and keeping the inside shoulder up. Leg yielding, as it helps teach both horse and rider the art of stepping into the outside rein and the coordination of one aid one reaction.
What piece of advice would you give anyone just starting their competitive journey?
Advice when starting a competition career would be to work with/for someone, have a mentor that can give you the benefit of their experience. It also gives you extra saddle time, possibly riding all kinds of horses in all kinds of places. It’s a very tough world on your own.
Having taught me for nearly 10 years, what have you enjoyed the most and the least?
Worst thing about Amelia, was letting her frustration cloud her riding judgement. It’s destructive to want perfection when you train, you want improvement, a step in a positive direction! Best bit that she always comes back having thought about tough lessons (training is a tough mental process). Proud to see the rider she is becoming. I’d like to think I helped a bit.
Finally, best words of advice someone has given you?
Love what you do, when you stop loving it stop doing it… and in the line of a song… everybody hurts sometimes.