It is a little over ten years that Clair Rushworth asked me to give a lesson to the newest addition to her workforce. He was only 16 at the time and did not cope with school very well, loved horses and decided to make it his career He had limited riding experience. "So what do you want to achieve", my first question was. "I want to become a dressage rider", was the answer. "So what are you doing in a show-jump yard?" A deep sigh: "Well, I'm still quite young and I don't want to be too far away from home so I figured the best local yard would be my best option and it won't hurt to be more all-round at first." Hm, I thought, this boy has his head together.
Well, yesterday, I had an email from Martyn Humphrey to say he qualified for Prix St George with his lovely mare Damarisk .I am so proud of him. This is with the one and only horse which I never dared to sit on during my entire training career. She had a terrible temper which she could turn on as quick as lightning. Claire bred her and as she wasn't super talented for the show-jumping Martin was given a good deal. At the beginning of their dressage career many knowledgeable horsemen advised him to sell her. She was built more or less upside down and together with her temper a challenge, to say the least.
Martin asked me for advice. The advice was: you like her, despite her shortcomings she's a good mover and if you can handle the challenge then let's give it a go and see how far we get. This kind of situation was right up my ally.
We did things slightly differently with her. We changed subjects a lot during sessions and let her choose her own subjects on the bad days and grabbed every opportunity on the good days. We introduced new things early but always treated them as tasters rather than repetitions until the glorious day would come when she would say: I can do this. Even if very occasionally we did put our foot down we made sure she did not know it. And once the confidence set in she would do her new tricks rather well. Although, when standing still and alert, you can still see that her neck is 'different', when in the full swing of things she looks glorious. She is the ultimate proof that conformation can change through correct training. Her extensions are uphill and powerful even if as a youngster she looked a downhill horse.
As the pair went through the ranks, she seemed surprisingly on schedule as far as upgrading to the next level. As a matter of fact, every time Martyn reminded me of her age I was surprised how young she was for how well she worked and how much she knew.
Martyn had relatively few lessons for what he achieved. Whenever I complimented him on his independence he would say that he always just did as I told him to. Whatever we did or however we did it, it seemed to work. However, it has to be said, Martyn does not only have great feel, he also knows how to take care of his horse in order to get the best out of her at competitions. This combination has been the formula of success for this pair and the challenge continues. Aiming high is an art and Martyn is very capable of doing that.
Meet Tristan Tucker
I felt a little self-conscious, to say the least, when, some weeks ago, I walked up to the table where Tristan Tucker was seated at the international horse show 'Jumping Amsterdam': local horse trainer meets young and famous super horseman.
The first time his name was mentioned was when I went to teach a new pupil of mine, just over a year ago. She told me she had had a one-off lesson from this really great trainer from Australia who now lived in Holland and happened to be great friends with her husband. I politely allowed all of it to go one ear in, one ear out, whereas in the meantime I thought: oh no, not an other one. There are so many 'horse whisperers' around these days that it is basically driving me potty.
Tristan, I wholeheartedly apologize. By now I have gathered enough information about you in order to realize how wrong I was.
Tristan Tucker grew up in Australia and came to Europe in 2000 in order to settle in Holland three years ago. He also has an aunt in Cornwall about three miles down the road from me.... small world.
Through years of studying the horse and its character and its behavior in many different situations, including taking the best bits and pieces from all kinds of different approaches and techniques, he has developed a most open-minded and horse-friendly training system which enables the horse to be totally trusting and confident during its training- and competition career.
As a Grand Prix rider he is able to tackle any problem to the highest level and, most importantly, finally breaks down barriers between cowboy hats and all other riding hats.
What I really like about him, he is no-nonsense and quiet, thinks 'outside the box' and, very important, is always respectful of the people he works with. His dry sense of humor makes his sessions fun and entertaining.
Tristan, between his demonstrations in many different countries and his own yard, is a very busy man.
So I was very pleased to be able to have a brief but positive chat with him about the possibility of a clinic and demonstration in Cornwall.
I am convinced that anyone who takes up on the opportunity to have a training session with Tristan will benefit hugely. In particular the ones with horses which are sharp, have an inconsistent competition attitude, or worse.
You can find Tristan on You Tube with his demo's and they are really great to watch. Dates available as soon as possible.