My journey together with YRA and Franke Sloothaak. By Jonathan Gordon

In May 2015, my life changed incredibly since I received the official communication confirming I had been selected for the Yra team; being chosen among an important number of excellent athletes has turned the spotlight on me. Additionally, the fact that the program was supported by Rolex played an important role in the opportunities that followed.

During these whiles I was very lucky to have trained with some of the best riders and coaches in our sport.

For over a year now, thanks to YRA, I have been training with Franke Sloothaak. I can’t speak highly enough of him; he is just simply a Master and great horseman.

He comes to my stable once a week and we ride normally 4 horses together. Franke is so focused on the dressage work and basics,  in his experience they are key for both, the development of younger horses and for the top sport.

The beginning with Franke was tough and it took me quite some time to adjust, nevertheless he is very positive in his approach and gives a student a lot of confidence which transforms into the riding.

Many trainers I see are only looking for the quickest and easiest solution, for example different bits, bridles and boots that can work for some rounds, but will not be consistent.

Franke doesn’t mind if it takes a little longer to get the basics working correctly. He always encourages a rider to be patient in his approach and suggests giving the horse the time he needs to understand what the request is.

Now, after a year of intense work with my horses, I truly realize what Franke intended about dressage work and basics: with the correct precision results become more consistent.

In the past, I had the opportunity to take part in the best shows worldwide - as CHIO Aachen - where it was normally impossible for a young rider to enter because of the ranking. That experience has been extraordinary, and I think it really improved my game and motivates me to become a better athlete and rider every day.

 

I started my own business almost 3 years ago and, in terms of top sport and ranking position, it was a few steps in the opposite direction; I went from feeling close to entering the top sport, to starting again with new young horses and no international competitions.

During this new pathway of professional growing I had to face some periods of uncertainty and difficulties, ups and downs, and it is precisely in these moments that I realized how the YRA educational program had been extremely beneficial. I have learned topics that really helped me when my own business started; that knowledge made me more aware of crucial pieces of running a business/stable. I am now convinced that there are so many different sides in managing this sport that many younger riders may not be fully aware of. Until they face them; and it can be difficult to deal with it when they lack education and preparation.

Today I’m happy, I did it and step by step, I’m climbing back the ranking. Indeed, it’s a slow process which involves a lot of patience and trust in a young horse, to see it develop.

My horses are today aged between 7-9yrs old and after the slow process of producing and developing, some of them, are at the stage where they can step into the higher level and be competitive at Grand Prix.

I am on the road to sunshine tour with 6 horses to develop and prepare for the outdoor season. This spring and summer plan is to jump up to the 3*/4* shows and when we will be consistent at that level we’ll see what opportunities will arise; but that’s the main focus for now.

 

A recommendation to other young riders…

Always think about your horse, in terms of health and aptitude. Your horse should always be your main priority.

When you have a bad round, analyze what went wrong. Learn from it and forget about it. Focus on your next round and don’t get to upbeat and negative in your approach.

Mistakes are going to happen, so as rider look how you can improve and don’t just fault your horse!!

Be honest with your Owners/Sponsors about the horses progress and show plan; if a horse is not developing as expected or not improving, don’t hide or try to cover it up, in the end if they are the right people they will respect your honesty and fairness.

 

Jonathan 

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