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Mentors, Mantras & More

This article is from the November 2020 Horse Deals magazine.

Margot Haynes - Show Rider

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your equestrian life and why? Naturally my parents, they taught me to ride, bought me my first and numerous other horses so I could compete. They cared for and produced my horses while I was at boarding school and uni. Not only did they teach me essential horsemanship skills early on, but they instilled in me that I needed an education and an occupation that would support my passion. This grounding helped make it possible for me to compete today.

While studying I was given the opportunity to work for Vicky and Chris Lawrie and compete on their team of horses for several years. This involvement provided me with a wealth of experience in schooling and competing on an extensive number and diverse range of competition horses including show horses, showjumpers and race horses. This involvement was a highly influential part of my equestrian life.

My partner David has been my biggest support for the past 10 plus years, through all the ups and downs horses gift us with, David is always there to help continue our passion for the sport together. Naturally he has been extremely influential in the saddlery I use given his talent in this field.

What’s a memorable piece of advice they gave you? “Rooster one day, feather duster the next.” “You just need to try harder and get better.” “Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you cant get it wrong.” “Be Humble in victory and gracious in defeat.” But most importantly “you never stop learning.”

Which horse has had the biggest impact on you and why? I had a terrific Galloway called Briary Dickens. He was purchased as a 3yo when I was 13. Dickens was a lovely goer and loved competing. He gave me my first taste of real success. Until Dickens I had won very few significant accolades. Perhaps this is why success with Dickens was so exciting. Together we won 5 royal show reserve champion Galloway awards, 2 EA SA HOTY titles (back when there was only 3 or 4 titles on offer each year), many royal show rider classes and equestrienne turnout events. Like many good horses, he went on to give other children experience and success in the showring including current European based Aussie dressage star Simone Pearce.

Fast forward a few years and through good fortune Grazier was purchased through Mount Gambier based racehorse trainer Michael O’Leary. Grazier had a beautiful nature and a wonderful way of going. He certainly wasn’t the prettiest horse but he had presence, a tractable nature and loved to compete. He was sound and trusting, and could outwork many in his day. While I don’t believe he had the ultimate quality I love in a showhorse he taught me that a horse with a good way of going, a presence, and an honest nature could be successful. Grazier taught me that a horse that is beautiful standing but lacks an ability when ridden to sit up, travel and perform, is detrimental to their showring success. Grazier also taught me that through education and production a good show horse can become a successful show horse.

What mantra do you live life by? Winning is about producing the best you can. Show horse is a subjective sport and we all have different opinions on what makes a winning show horse, and hence why different competitors win each week. However, if you give it your best shot, you put in the hard yards at home, you are presented impeccably, your horse looks amazing in coat and condition, you work to the best of your ability, only then have you truly won — no matter what placing you are given. This isn’t easy to swallow sometimes, however it is what makes our sport interesting. The result is just the opinion of one individual or small group of individuals inside the ring on the day. There are many more judges on the outside of the ring that may have awarded the ribbons differently. Winning is not about diluting the competition, to me it’s about continuous improvement, practice, practice and more practice, rain, hail or shine, striving to be the best we can and do the best with what we have. The more competitors, the harder the competition, the sweeter the victory.

Margot Haynes - Photo: Lisa Gordon

Margot Haynes - Photo: Lisa Gordon

Adam Wallen - ASH Show & Campdrafter

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your equestrian life? My dad Geoff has been the biggest influence in my equestrian life. Dad has a wealth of knowledge on starting young horses and has always been very motivated to learn from others. Consequently as a family we would regularly attend clinics. Nowadays I find I am influenced by a number of equestrians from a range of disciplines. I particularly enjoy watching trainers at the top of their game, achieving consistency and longevity in their horses.

What’s a memorable piece of advice they’ve given you? Understand the psychology of the horse and put yourself in their position.

Which horse has had the biggest impact on you and why? I’ve been very fortunate to have ridden some wonderful horses, however both Doongara Austin Powers and Doongara Galeforce made a huge impact on my riding career. Austin was the first horse I won a National Futurity on, making me the youngest person to have ever won a National ASH Futurity. The following year I won the National Maturity with him. Austin helped me to design a program which allowed me to continue achieving success in the National Futurity with wins on Doongara Powerade in 2012 and Doongara Power Wishes in 2019.

After achieving success in ASH futurities I was keen to focus more of my energy into campdrafting. Clem (Doongara Galeforce) helped me achieve this goal on campdrafting’s biggest stage, the Warwick Gold Cup. In 2011 Clem and I came equal second in the Gold Cup. This was a very special memory, as soon after I lost Clem with colic.

What mantra do you live life by? Don’t wish for it, work for it.

Adam Wallen - Photo: Flash Pony

Adam Wallen - Photo: Flash Pony

Victoria Davies-Koch - Para-dressage Rider

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your equestrian life and why? Jim Collin has helped shape my equestrian career. Not only is he my coach, I also see him as a good friend that I respect and admire.
Jim has been my coach for the past 12 years and has broken in a number of my young Spanish horses. He keeps me grounded. It’s not all about making it to the Paralympics. It’s about enjoying the journey, making memories, keeping the ability to ride, riding horses that I like and that suit my needs, and not caving into the pressures of trends. There’s always been a strong essence of trust that I have for Jim. Each horse he has broken in or helped train for me have all been extremely rideable, that instantly understand my weaker aids. Jim understands my abilities and disability, but he will certainly kick my butt if I need it!

What’s a memorable piece of advice he has given you? There’s been so many! Each day is filled with wise words. Jim always says before you get on a horse, ‘clear your mind completely of any stress from the day and any negative thoughts’.

Which horse has had the biggest impact on you and why? Wow, this is a tricky one! Each horse I have trained or owned has taught and shown me valuable lessons. Andaluka Elegido ‘Eddy’ my grey Spanish PRE stallion is where it all started. He brought me back to the competition arena, gave me freedom after all the operations, and I owe all my success as a rider to him. Eddy was the first horse I trained from a breaker that had been under saddle two weeks, and I trained him myself through the levels up to PSG. He truly is a one in a million! What we have achieved together, the memories made and the love that he has filled my heart with will never be forgotten.

Then there is Celere, my imported buckskin stallion. We have travelled the world together. He taught me to believe in myself, and without going into detail he taught me to fight for what I want and to listen to my gut feeling, always. Celere has certainly fulfilled many dreams of mine, from breeding beautiful foals, to so closely being on the plane to Tokyo and the biggest impact — he’s so reliable, I know he will always, without any doubt, look after me. There’s such an immense special bond between us.

What mantra do you live life by? Change challenges us, we grow from change and the more we allow ourselves to move forward... there will always be hope.

At the age of 36, my body has certainly deteriorated and physically changed. I’ve had to overcome many challenges since my diagnosis with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age nine, and more so when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening neck and spinal condition in 2016. With this diagnosis, I had to overcome the fear of living with a ‘time bomb’ in my head that could end my life at any moment. I had to develop a mental strength like no other. Unfortunately, I have no choice of whether I want this or not, but I do have control of my mind and the ability of how I accepted the change. As I see it, I have the choice of living in fear and giving up everything that gives my life purpose, or I can accept the change. Each day that I wake up and each night that I go to sleep, that’s moving forward. It’s a day lived, and right there is hope that I will live a full-filled life doing what I love for another four and a half years!

Victoria Davies-Koch

Victoria Davies-Koch

Mitchell Taff - Arabian Show Handler

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your equestrian life and why? There have been many people that have had a big impact on my horse journey. My parents Donna and Gary Taff, who started me in the Arabian world while teaching the basic knowledge of horses. Then Rinaldo Longuini, a Brazilian trainer that I worked with in the Middle East. Rinaldo has made me the trainer I am today, pushed me to my limits plus more, teaching me all his training techniques and methods.  

What’s a memorable piece of advice they gave you? Always believe in yourself and never stop aiming for that top place. 

Which horse has had the biggest impact on you and why? There have been many famous horses that I have had the pleasure of dealing with during my time in Qatar at Al Shaqab. But thinking about it, my first ever horse was Burren Dah Aladdin. He taught me so much about how to be a patient person with horses. He wasn’t an easy horse to deal with sometimes but he taught me so much. 

What mantra do you live life by? Don’t let anyone put you down, always believe in yourself and you can achieve. 

Mitchell Taff - Photo: Samantha Taylor

Mitchell Taff - Photo: Samantha Taylor

Robbie McKinnon - Dressage Rider

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your equestrian life and why? I have had so many people over the years who have mentored me and taught me what I know to date. Many top dressage riders who have been more than happy to offer their time up for advice and help. However, I have to say Miguel Tavora was my absolute biggest influence. My mum trained with him, with me in a play pen on the side of the arena as a kid. I trained with him from when I was 12 until when he sadly died in 2017. I have missed him terribly ever since. 
He taught me about a systematic way of training, which is what I would say is the base of my day to day training system now. He taught me about the mechanics of a horse and the reasons we do certain things to achieve the best results in a horse. I have so, so, so many things that pop into my head on a regular basis that have come from his training. 

What’s a memorable piece of advice they gave you? I don’t think I can pin point one bit of advice. There were so many memorable things. I guess the summary of them would be “that a horse’s training should be done to improve its physical and mental development towards dressage and is progressive and should be done systematically and in a routine.”

Which horse has had the biggest impact on you and why? I would have to say Robali Razzamatazz. He was never an easy horse, but he taught me so much over the years I had him. I had many tears on that horse, but the highlights were just so incredibly memorable and good because of the work that went into him, and when he was on fire, he was honestly amazing! 

What mantra do you live life by? I think I have a few. “What you give out, you get back 10 fold.” “Don’t wish for it, work for it.” “Everyone lives their life at their own pace and has success at different stages of their lives. Don’t judge your success now by someone else’s. Yours is still coming.”

Robbie McKinnon. Photo: Stephen Mowbray

Robbie McKinnon. Photo: Stephen Mowbray

Ian Francis - Master Horseman

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your equestrian life and why? Lee Reborse — Lee came into my life at the right time when I was looking for answers; with a different approach. The techniques I learnt from him helped me a lot in my career.

Ray Hunt — Whilst I could in no way be considered a Ray Hunt devotee or disciple —  the message he imparted did, and still does, cause me to examine what I do and what motivates me to do it.

What’s a memorable piece of advice they gave you? If something is not working, it is your fault. It’s either something you are doing or something you are not doing. If you keep doing what you are doing you keep getting what you are getting.

You are not stronger or faster than the horse — so you’d better try to get a little smarter.

Which horse has had the biggest impact on you and why? A horse called Kings Gold. A gelding I had way back in the 1970s. Sharing of knowledge was not as available back then and he allowed me to try a lot of stuff and make a lot of mistakes and go back and fix them. Goldie allowed me to figure out what worked and what did not work for a lot of different events and he still turned out to be a really great horse.

What mantra do you live life by? I collect a lot of motivational ideas that I find interesting, but there are three that I think have been really significant in my life.

Only those who risk going too far can find how far they can go
To change your life you first have to change your attitude
Don’t worry about what is ahead. Just go as far as you can, and from there you can see further.

Ian Francis - Photo: Denise Ellis

Ian Francis - Photo: Denise Ellis

Taj Carson - Western Show Rider

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your equestrian life and why? Kane Skopp. When I was 16-years-old I was given the opportunity to intern with Kane for the show season. During this time I was able to ride horses of all ages from their first ride through to a finished show horse. Being able to not only see, but feel horses during the stages of learning to balance, follow their nose and take correct leads, to establishing correct body position and manoeuvrability, all the way through to a finished horse one handed in a bridle. It was priceless and I knew this was what I wanted to do. Kane had a huge impact on my life and encouraged me to pursue my career, making me believe in myself and my talent as a horseman. 

What’s a memorable piece of advice they gave you? Training horses is first about teaching a young horse to engage their mind and learn. Putting in the time to ride every day, rain hail or shine, and learning everything about your horses. Through this comes confidence from your horse — that they know and understand what is being asked of them and also yourself knowing what to expect, how far you can push, when to back off and how to enhance their strengths and support their weaknesses. Never expect anything to happen in one ride. Every horse is good at something and it’s important to find their strengths rather than trying to make a horse do something it’s not physically or mentally capable of.

Which horse has had the biggest impact on you and why? No Doubt I’m Dreamin is by a No Doubt I’m Lazy mare out of Xtreme Dream owned by Maco Park. I showed her as a three-year-old at the GV Summer Sizzler in the $15k Slot Futurity. I was third place behind Kane Skopp and Holly Johnson. This was a memorable moment for me to be in the top three behind two stud colts and with my mentors in the biggest three-year-old event for us on the Australian show circuit. 

Undoubtaball also by No Doubt I’m Lazy is a chestnut gelding that I showed in the youth all round events. He helped me achieve my goals of making the Australian Quarter Horse Association Youth World Cup team in the USA. During his training process we discovered he wasn’t going to be a futurity contender in the Western Pleasure so decided to train him in the all around events. Ally proved to be an amazing Horsemanship, Trail, Hunt Seat Eq and Hunter Under Saddle mount taking me to many championships and gaining almost 150 points and 5 ROMs in one season as a three-year-old. 

What mantra do you live life by?
Don’t take anything for granted and be happy with what you have now, but always work hard to better yourself and achieve more.

Taj Carson - Photo: Ace Photography

Taj Carson - Photo: Ace Photography


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