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Building Towers & Dreams: Equestrian Workshop
10 March 2012
by Andrea Gilmore

Heading into the State Equestrian Centre as a first-time Developing Champions Co-Presenter I must admit I was a little nervous and unsure of what to expect. However, little did I have to worry about! The eager young athletes were welcoming, friendly and willing to learn, but also an informative bunch, offering insights into a sport I knew little about. The day turned out to be an educational one, for both athlete and presenter.

The workshop began with a brief introduction from Kate before we got stuck into the communication component of the program. The girls learnt about delivering and receiving messages effectively and also the value in understanding who you are communicating with. A quick personality survey revealed who were the task-oriented, people-oriented, extroverted and introverted communicators, which everyone found helpful, especially as individual competitors who receive most of their feedback on a one on one level. Aside from that though, both the show jumping and dressage athletes have to communicate with a horse! At this point the athlete’s passion for their horses became clear to me. These girls knew everything about their horses, how they moved, what they responded to and what they didn’t. It was an incredible insight into the commitment and love these athletes have for their horse and their sport.

Moving through the modules at a steady pace, we came to Me; You; Everyone- and my favourite part of the day! The groups were set the enviable task of building a marshmallow and spaghetti tower, with the winning group the architects of the highest monstrosity. This task involved leadership, teamwork and discipline (holding out on the marshmallows) but also presented the girls with an opportunity to put into practice the communication skills learnt earlier in the day. The groups did a fantastic job to come up with some interesting designs whilst working together effectively as a team.

One of the masterpieces!
 Another (uuummmm) "attempt" at a masterpiece. A for effort!

We kicked on into the last half of the program with the group feeling refreshed and energized after a quick lunch break. The Performance Planning module provided another glimpse of the sport related challenges faced by Equestrian athletes. The girls explained that one of the difficulties in locking in a long term goal was the reliance on your horse being fit and healthy and your ability to find the right horse for competition. One of the good things about equestrian competition though is that age is less of a limiting factor, so these guys have plenty of time finding and training the right horse and but more importantly putting in the hard yards themselves!

It was at that point where we ended the workshop, with the Equestrian athletes leaving with a new set of skills that will hopefully allow them to take the next steps towards greater success in their sport. As for me, it was through the athletes’ stories that I learnt about the commitment, skills, dedication and passion required in order to achieve in the elegant, risky and highly competitive disciplines of Equestrian sport.

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