Having navigated the logistical nightmare of travelling from Lisbon to Arlanda following Sunday’s Grand Prix the five of us (Jack Whitaker, Georgia Tame, Jack Ryan and Richi Vogel) were happy to finally arrive in Sweden to join the rest of the team Linda, My, Simon and Lars. Jason joined in with the lectures via Facetime from Ireland to complete our group… times like this make you realize how lucky we are to live in the modern age of technology! I anticipated there would be a lot to learn over the course of the next three days, however the academy exceeded my expectations.
Emma O’Dwyer, former 2016 academy member who now balances riding with being a qualified physiotherapist, had been our first talk. It’s important to look after your body, particularly when you ride countless horses a day. Taking time out to stretch and use different muscles is crucial to keep yourself in the best shape possible. The same can be said for the way you handle your mindset. Poppy Blandford gave us some really interesting mental coaching. She highlighted the importance of having a growth mindset of endless potential over a fixed mindset consisting of limited talent. Confidence and self-esteem is a belief system that needs working on just like every other aspect in the sport. Her little tips and tricks for handling nerves, walking the course, creating focus and analyzing performance were invaluable. As an athlete it’s easy to get caught up in the results, but this is even more prevalent as a showjumper who experiences the highs and lows on another scale. When you’ve had a bad round it’s easy to get despondent, which is why it’s so important to have a strong mindset and think about the process as a whole. With the right direction, determination, drive and discipline anything is possible.
We also had a talk with lawyer Jenny Johansson as well as being taught the fundamentals of economics by Sven; not the most exciting topics but undeniably important. It can be tempting to overlook the somewhat boring aspects of managing a competition stable. However now more than ever I am aware that it can be detrimental in the long run should you choose to do this. We held a mini auction of young horses where we analyzed their confirmation, movement and jump with the help of Jean-Maurice. We then budgeted the cost of keeping the horses we bought from the age of 3 to the age of 8 and how much we would have to sell them for to breakeven. I definitely underestimated how expensive it can be to produce a horse! Managing the horse is another story altogether. Dr. Peter Kallings informed us on medication and anti-doping whilst Prof. Lars Roepstorff gave us insight into horse anatomy and the importance of footing. Dr. Marie Rhodin then concluded our session with a discussion on detecting lameness. It’s essential to keep monitoring your horses’ wellbeing so being properly informed on what to look out for could make all the difference.
What I also enjoyed very much was listening to Eleonora Ottaviani discuss the International Jumping Rider’s Club (IJRC) and the work done these last few years. It’s concerning how few of us know our rights as riders. Eleonora also enlightened us all on the complications of the ranking system, particularly during Covid times. The more I’ve become exposed to the higher levels of showjumping these last few years the fewer female role models there seems to be. Listening to Eleonora talk so passionately about her involvement in the sport was extremely encouraging. Moreover, I feel truly fortunate to be experiencing firsthand hers, Sven’s and Valentina’s vision for the youth of the sport as part of the Academy.
Although times are looking bleak and uncertain I’m looking forward to the year ahead with a newfound optimism. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Stromshölm, even our early morning physical exercise wasn’t too brutal! Spending time with other riders from different backgrounds and sharing this experience together made it all so fun. I’m excited for our next session, whenever that may be!