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GAP: Horse & Rider, Equal Partnerships in the Sport of Equestrian
7 April 2010

Equestrian Introductory GAP: Article by Jesse Phillips

Wednesday April 7, Morning

Equestrian Centre WA, Brigadoon


A beautiful drive into the heartland for paddling enthusiasts…..I mean equestrian enthusiasts.

Well…I thought I was heading to Bells Rapids, which is a fantastic venue for local paddlers to play amongst the rocks and rapids – also a great vantage point for the whitewater Avon Descent spectators. But, I was heading along Cathedral Ave in Brigadoon heading to the State Equestrian Centre for a day with the up and coming horse riders of WA. They galloped in from as far as Geraldton to be together for the Introductory GAP Kate Bobridge and I presented, designed for athletes between ages 12-16 years.

Well I certainly put my "hoof” (foot) in my "bit” (mouth) many times throughout the day with my quirky comedy, but we all managed to come away from the day having thought more about the skills required to be an elite athlete. I learnt that unlike other sports, Equestrian athletes have a higher level of responsibility for another living soul…the Equus genus that is (otherwise known as a horse). We discussed many topics that concerned the majority of athletes such a as time management and goal setting. But the most interesting topics came from athlete nutrition and physiology (human biology).


The equestrian athletes are selfless people of the sports world, naturally catering for their horses’ needs before their own. But this came as a concern for Kate and I when we looked deeper into the repercussions of such habits.


The group discussed the importance of preparing and stretching the horse before training and competition. We discussed that they would habitually make sure their horse was nutritionally satisfied before they thought of indulging in food themselves. These became the topics of discussion amongst the group and passionate exchanges were made between individuals resulting in more awareness about the importance of ensuring the (human) athlete is bringing 100% of their effort and abilities to the stable and not assuming that their partner (horse) will be responsible for all the physical requirements on behalf of the pairing.


This behavioral tendency mirrored my double-kayak (K2) partnership with regard to the constant mindfulness of what another person is doing – as it impacts on the overall performance of the pair. Unlike my situation the equestrian athletes don’t get a comprehensive response from their four-legged friends, like me (I can get hours of chatter from my kayak partner). So my experience of caring and understanding another athlete drew me closer to bridging the "gap” in understanding the equestrian/horse relationship.

But the 2 main lessons Kate and I tried to instill within the group were:

Equestrian athletes are still athletes – Although a majority of the physical work is shouldered by the horse, the rider plays an equally important part as the reign bearer. Equestrian athletes are relied upon to be mentally astute and in control through competition and training as a wrong move can result in serious injury for both human and horse. Using nutrition and proper warm-up and injury prevention advice from the GAP Diary, this athlete skill can be improved.


Athlete & horse together – Regarding the athlete’s body with at least equal priority when training, competing and travelling. The health and wellbeing of the athlete is pivotal as the "controller” of the overall performance. It is still as important as ever to take care of the horse, and this change (of looking after rider and horse equally) can be implemented by using practiced and proven Time Management and Goal Setting skills available on this website.


Overall a very enjoyable morning of activity and discussion, I learnt a lot about horse riding and it was great to see so many young aspiring riders.


PS. I was super happy to finds a solution to an annual problem: finding a horse rider for the Blackwood Marathon in October each year.

Thanks to the girls for their support, it will be great to have you involved!

  A great example of ways that sports can work together in the
  Blackwood Marathon!

  (*left: Jesse Phillips in action at a previous Blackwood event)
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