Level 2 and 3 students from Reaseheath’s equine department kick-started the academic year with a jam-packed week of industry visits and educational activities.
Organising a Christmas Horse Show was neigh problem for our Level 3 Extended Diploma in Equine Science students, who are studying event management as part of their course.
They held classes in showjumping, dressage and turn-out, with the entry fees going to one of their favourite charities, the British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre. Sharing that festive feeling are Georgina Richards, Eleanor Dickenson with ‘Charlie’, Hollie Tyler, Sophie Scott on ‘Keith’ and Jessica Bell.
Trip Week 2016 concluded with visits to horse feed manufacturers Forageplus and to Michael Owen’s racing yard, Manor House Stables.
he penultimate day of Trip Week saw visits to The Horse of the Year Show and to the World Horse Welfare Centre at Penny Farm in Lancashire .
Wednesday’s schedule included a visit to the Worcestershire-base of one of the best-known families in the world of dressage.
Tuesday’s varied timetable of activities included a chance to visit Black Country Saddles in Cannock.
Each year, our Level 2 and 3 Equine students enjoy a week of educational activities and work-based visits.
Equine consultant Richard Maxwell is a horse behaviourist and a qualified Masterson Method Practitioner who combines a unique blend of natural and traditional methods of horsemanship to help horses and their owners.
The work of Richard is renowned across many equestrian disciplines and at all levels, with his clients including the likes of International Event rider Sharon Hunt, Dressage star Matt Frost and Tom Dascombe, Racehorse Trainer at Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables.
Reviewing the situation:
Richard’s approach always begins by gathering information to help him assess the particular needs of every horse that he is asked to work with. He first spends time with the owner to gain their feedback and to discover goals and objectives.
Richard explained: “My client base is varied and stretches from Olympic Event riders to the everyday person in the street, but for me, what is crucial is that people are able to enjoy their horses. Some of my clients say that they only want to be a ‘happy hacker’, but the main thing is that they are happy and, ultimately, that they are safe.”
Richard started his career in the army, joining a tank regiment. When the draw of horses became too great, he transferred to the Household Cavalry where he became a riding instructor training Life Guard Subalterns and producing young horses for the military.
In 1988, Richard’s own introduction to ‘natural horsemanship’ came through a chance meeting with the legendary Monty Roberts.
“Monty came over to the UK to give a demonstration for the Queen whilst I was in the Household Cavalry. A rider was needed for the demo and I was volunteered,” said Richard, who is based at Barnley Equestrian Centre in Suffolk along with his wife Sam.
“Working with Monty, I witnessed techniques that I had never experienced before from a horsemanship point of view. I gleaned so much from his knowledge and I found it incredibly interesting how you could take something from a completely different style of equitation, such as western or rodeo, and introduce this back into ‘mainstream’ training.”
|“The best advice I could offer would be to remain open-minded and to look beyond the training methods used in any one discipline. However, we need to be careful that we don’t drown in a sea of too much information, I did that myself in the early days and this can lead to ‘analysis – paralysis’. Learn to be like a magpie – select the bits that work for you and then build on those foundations.”
Richard on … Pursuing a career within Natural Horsemanship
A unique blend:
Richard’s approach to training horses has evolved throughout his career. He believes that, in most instances, equine behavioural problems have their genesis in pain. Because of this, he begins by treating any residual physical discomfort using techniques inspired by Andy Andrews and the ‘Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork’ system founded by Jim Masterson.
<Image: Echo (2) by Roy Gadsden
The Masterson Method aims to relieve stress and tension at key junctions in the horse’s body and this system of ‘bodywork’ encourages a horse to seek active participation in the treatment rather than simply tolerating the procedure.
Richard explained: “I first met Andy Andrews 25 years ago, and he helped me to appreciate how the physiological can affect the psychological and how this contributes heavily to behavioural problems. On meeting Jim Masterson, I was able to put a few more pieces into the jigsaw puzzle and I now feel that I have a fuller picture through being to help horses physiologically as well as through the behavioural training and rehabilitation work.”
At each demonstration, Richard encourages his audience to realise that issues cannot be resolved within a single session. His ethos is to evaluate each horse and to try to empower owners by arming them with the tools for further development.
“I often encounter a sense of hopeless with clients who are dealing with a ‘problem’ horse, so I try to offer them a starting point from which to deal with their issues,” explained Richard, who worked with three very different horses during his visit to Reaseheath.
“Any demo is only a snapshot and the answer to behavioural problems is never a quick fix, but if I can get just one thing right that might help a horse, I like to think of it starting a domino effect – then the peripheral problems surrounding that issue may start to lessen.”
Meet the horses:
Echo: The Ex-racehorse
Echo is a 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding who was bought off the race track by owner Julie Price.
Julie’s aim is to do some riding club level activities with Echo but the duo have been experiencing some tension-related problems.
Said Julie, “Echo found the atmosphere at Reaseheath a little overwhelming and was totally unmanageable at first. Richard was able to turn a hysterical horse into one which was calmer and easier to handle. There is a long road ahead, but Richard has given me some tips on how to help Echo in the future”.
Easter Bunny: The anxious dressage star
Easter Bunny is a KWPN gelding who is working at Advanced Medium level dressage. He was purchased as a 4-year-old by owner Penny Lindop, specifically for dressage rider and List 4 BD judge Toby Blake to compete.
‘Bunny’ has an impressive CV and, in 2014, the son of Valdez was a finalist at the Shearwater Young Dressage Horse Championships. The striking chestnut gelding has since competed at the Summer National Dressage Championships at BD Novice level and at the Winter Dressage Championships at Elementary level.
Earlier this year, whilst competing at Hartpury College, Bunny was overcome by ‘stage fright’ in the indoor International Arena, becoming very tense and strong. Due to this, Penny was keen to gain Richard’s advice.
| “Richard is an excellent communicator who is able to fully engage the attention of his audience. In a relatively short space of time, the exercises undertaken alleviated any underlying tension allowing my horse to relax and become confident in his surroundings. It was fascinating to observe how Richard’s methods achieved the desired result and I felt that the session was extremely beneficial.”
Penny Lindop, owner of dressage horse ‘Easter Bunny’.
Harvey: The reluctant loader
Harvey is a 14-year-old Welsh Section D who is owned by Clare Broad. This combination regularly competes with British Dressage and enjoy jumping, showing and hacking.
Clare applied to attend the demo as Harvey has been experiencing issues with loading especially when traveling alone.
“I learnt a lot from Richard Maxwell; his methods and techniques really worked for Harvey and after the session, he was even loading himself without a rope or being led. I am thrilled with the outcome and have lots of new ideas for future training. I love Richard’s approach and his understanding of our four-legged pals,” said Clare.
More about Richard and his work can be found via www.richard-maxwell.com
Several of our departments worked in partnership with Bolesworth International, enabling our students to gain experience of event management at a worldclass level and to network with influential individuals and organisations within their industries.
We have been supporting this spectacular showjumping event for several years and our students again proved indispensable to the smooth running of the action packed programme.
A team of 40 Level 3 Diploma in Horse Management students provided the arena party over five days, working alongside international course designers Bob Ellis and Kelvin Bywater, and were also on duty for the popular dressage to music competition.
The show attracted leading competitors from 13 nations, giving our students ring side seats for the sport at its highest level. Classes including a puissance (high jump) competition, which saw two riders clearing a 7ft 3 in wall to the delight of spectators.
Nina Barbour, Managing Director of Bolesworth International, said: “Reaseheath’s arena party are extremely competent and professional. We really appreciated their teamwork, which helps us to deliver the best rider, exhibitor and visitor experience at our show.”
Elsewhere our equine undergraduates took on responsible roles in the Equine Learning Zone and Fan Zone. This gave BSc Equine Science undergraduates Louise Doyle and Jamie-Lee Bowness an amazing opportunity to rub shoulders with dressage Olympians Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Laura Tomlinson, Richard Davidson among others as they took part in a Q & A session with fans.
The undergraduates also helped to promote educational presentations by vets, nutritionists and key equine organisations and supported the British Horse Society and The Brooke equine charity with promotions.
Said Louise: “This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which will be a great addition for my CV.”
Fellow students Hannah Hardy and Natalie Gillison also received useful career experiences. Hannah, who wants to be a journalist, shadowed Bolesworth International Press Officer Andrew Baldock while Natalie, a talented photographer, recorded some of the rider interviews in the Media Centre.
Our Level 3 Diploma in Events Management students were again responsible for guiding and organising activities for hundreds of local school children during Bolesworth Schools Day. They also supported the trade stands, helped to staff the busy Visitor Information Point and carried out market research to help show organisers enhance the visitor experience. The students benefit hugely from this high level event management experience and from the dedicated training sessions they receive.
Bolesworth International Event Co-ordinator Howard Blythe said: “We have been delighted with the input of Reaseheath’s business students, who quickly become part of the Bolesworth team and take on responsible and useful roles. In particular, the results of their market research on customer satisfaction has been extremely important to us.”
Undergraduates on our BSc (Hons) Equine Science and Sports Performance programme were privileged to have a behind-the-scenes visit to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials along with their Module Leader Jon Lowe.
This degree course was only launched at the beginning of the academic year and it has been carefully developed to include extensive industry input to help our graduates receive the necessary balance of knowledge, skills and experience so they are ‘industry ready’.
With this in mind, a series of meetings were arranged for the students during our trip to Badminton – although a bit of time was set aside so that the many opportunities for retail therapy could be enjoyed!
These prestigious horse trials are widely considered to be the most famous three-day event in the world. Held against the stunning backdrop of Badminton House in Gloucestershire, 2016 was an especially poignant year for the event as it marked its 25th anniversary.
- Meeting 1: The Media Director
Julian Seaman is the Media Director of Badminton Horse Trials and was also the Media Manager at Greenwich during the 2012 London Olympic Games. He manages to combine being a lecturer in fashion design at St Martins College with his other work.
As an author, Julian has penned several texts on equestrianism with his anecdotal history of Badminton Horse Trials – ‘Badminton Revisited’ – being published in 2009.
The students were privileged to be given an ‘access-all-areas’ tour of the Media Centre at Badminton – an area which is exclusively reserved for accredited members of the press.
Julian explained that the ‘in-house’ coverage of this famous sporting fixture is delivered to the public by his close-knit team of staff who work in conjunction with media personnel from title sponsors Mitsubishi Motors.
“The team at Badminton are like one big family and many of us have a long-standing connection with this wonderful event,” explained Julian, who realised a personal ambition by competing at Badminton on several occasions during the 1970s and early 1980s.
“It is due to the generosity of our sponsors that we have such a good Media Centre and, somewhat uniquely, their media team and mine work behind the same desk.”
Julian, who was recently invited to lecture at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, was happy to share his expert knowledge with the Reaseheath students and to answer their questions.
“I never thought that we would be lucky enough to be allowed into the media centre to experience what goes on behind the scenes. I also enjoyed meeting Francis Whittington and it was interesting to learn what he looks for when employing somebody.”
Hannah Baker, Reaseheath Undergraduate
- Meeting 2: The Event Rider
International event rider Francis Whittington agreed to meet the Reaseheath students to offer his advice about working in the industry.
Francis, who is based in Rotherfield, East Sussex, began by speaking about his own journey to becoming one of the country’s most respected event riders.
As a keen member of the Eridge Pony Club, Francis enjoyed competitive success from a young age. In 1993, he was chosen for the squad at the Pony European Championships in Hasselt, Belgium, where he went on to win Individual Gold and Team Silver.
“For me, I think that the Pony Club provides young people who wish to work in this industry with a real head start. I believe that it’s an important avenue to go down and if I am looking to employ somebody then this a big plus,” explained Francis.
Upon leaving school, Francis felt that it was important to have another career option to run alongside his love of eventing. He decided to train in horse dentistry and went on to practice this for about 10 years. Then came the point in his career where both areas were building momentum and he had to make a decision about which avenue to pursue.
“Rather than choosing the safer option that makes money, I went for the dangerous one that costs money but it was a decision that had to be made,” Francis joked.
“I believe that to be successful in life we must learn to be adaptable and avoid being rigid in our thinking; there are often many routes which will lead us to the same result and the recognition of this gets easier with experience.”
Francis explained that he applies this philosophy in his approach to training the horses he works with.
“You can have a yard full of horses but, in reality, not all of them will become top-class eventers. The key is to accept this and to tailor your approach to each individual. We must learn to make sound decisions based on the best interests of the horse concerned. Try to create a system that works for you and then have belief in it.”
“ The trip was definitely an eye opening experience. We met some really good industry contacts and I have definitely found a path in which I want to follow. Going to Badminton has given me the urge to keep working hard to achieve success in the eventing world”.
Tyler Simpson, Reaseheath Undergraduate
Francis, who was a reserve for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, went on to ask the students about their studies and their future career plans.
“College courses are great for outlining the possibilities that are out there in the industry today but students must be willing to build industry links outside of the classroom. You never know when you may meet someone who will define the rest of your life – never turn down an opportunity if it is offered!” said Francis.
“I believe that it is really important to absorb information from as many different sources as possible. Be under no illusion, working in the horse industry is hard graft, and the drop out rate is great. Therefore, it is crucial that students experience ‘real life’ out in the workplace so that they are prepared and can be realistic about the demands of the industry that they wish to enter. You all seem to be straight in your thinking and I wish you all the best in your future careers”.
As we left Francis, he wandered off (with son Max in tow) to study the most famous cross country course on the planet with the same calm and friendly demeanor he had shown towards us.
It was an honour to meet him and we wished him the very best of luck!
*** UPDATE ***
Congratulations to Francis and Hasty Imp for finishing in a very respectable 22nd place, this is their best 4* result to date.
- Meeting 3: The Course
Our visit concluded with a course walk to check out some of the fences featured on Guiseppe Della Chiesa’s magnificent cross country track which stretches over some 4 miles in length.
The students were asked to identify three fences that they felt would be particularly influential during the cross country phase – with the value of hindsight, they were pretty accurate !
The Mirage Pond (Fences 14 & 15)
This water complex had been given a makeover for 2016, the usual curved hedges had been replaced by an upright house at Fence 14 and a choice of two similar houses on the way out of the water at Fence 15.
This proved to be a question that some may have underestimated and it caught out its fair share of riders.
The KBIS Vicarage Vee (Fence 21)
This iconic fence has always commanded the respect of those who face it! It took a sabbatical in 2015 but it was back with a vengeance this year and certainly lived up to its notorious reputation.
The fence demanded absolute courage and conviction on behalf of horse and rider – but precision could not be compromised – there was little room for error and accuracy was paramount to success.
The Lake (Fence 26)
The beautiful setting of the Lake at Badminton is always a magnet for hoards of spectators. It appeared later in the course this year and this was reflected in the technicality of the questions asked.
There was still plenty of excitement for the thousands of visitors gathered, but 2016 was a ‘dunk-free’ zone!
“This was a really enjoyable trip that offered a good insight into what goes on behind the scenes to make sure that Badminton is available to be watched and that results are constantly updated – this takes a lot of effort from many people. It was great to meet Francis Whittington and to learn what it really takes to be a top event rider. I admire his drive for the sport and I found this very inspiring.”
Lydia Binks, Reaseheath Undergraduate
The Reaseheath HE students are looking forward to being part of the team at Bolesworth International Horse Show in June.