I’ve posted before about my voracious consumption of equestrian media, with Noelle Floyd being my favorite outlet. NF Style is my go-to, and I often spend the hours between my second and third classes on Mondays and Wednesdays catching up on their recent articles. I’ve always been fascinated by the behind-the-scenes of the best riders. From what they use to clean their tack to how they set their courses in their home arenas, I can never get enough of the insider information. When scrolling through instagram explore to find new accounts to follow, I prefer the ones that post videos and photos from their home barn more often than show photos. The program behind the scenes is what creates the success in the ring, so as much as you can learn from watching the best riders ride the grand prix jump off of their lives, you can learn ten times more from the bits and pieces that got them there. Noelle Floyd gives their readers a look into the programs of the world’s best riders, from what’s in their tack box to the cornerstones of their program. One of NF Style’s best series is their master class series, which interviews a student of a top rider in regards to the 10 most important lessons they’ve learned while training with the best of the best.
It’s no surprise that each rider has their own perspective and focus, but it’s also no surprise that there are many commonalities among these programs. I decided to go through and find out which lessons are most commonly learned from 10 of my favorite riders from the series: Mclain Ward, Cian O’Connor, Beezie Madden, Daniel Deusser, Ben Maher, Denis Lynch, Eric Lamaze, Kent Farrington, Scott Brash, and Katie Monahan Prudent. I’ve taken notes and ranked the 10 most important lessons learned in order of how often they were mentioned, and I have to say they’re exactly what you’d expect. So here they are, in reverse order…
10. Independence (3 mentions)
It’s crucial for riders to learn to think for themselves and apply what they learned at home to their riding in the show ring. Keeping in mind that riders are essentially on their own once they step into the show arena, it’s of utmost importance that they learn to handle situations on their own. Not just that, but they must also be able to care for their horse, tack up, and make general adjustments utilizing their own knowledge.
9. Strategy (3 mentions)
You don’t just walk into the ring and wing it. At least, I hope not. There should be a strategy behind everything you do with your horse, from what he eats to what bit is in his mouth to what approach you’re taking to jump 7. There are endless questions asked by our industry, and your answer should be one you’ve arrived at with a lot of thought.
8. Organization (3 mentions)
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to prepare for a class and not being able to find a piece of equipment, or scheduling an appointment with no clue when your horse was last shod/vaccinated/etc. In this sport, there’s very little you can control. Organization is key to maintaining the little control that we do have.
7. Details (4 mentions)
Just like strategy, this component is the difference between having a plan and just flying by the seat of your pants. The devil is in the details. How do you prepare your horse at home? Are you paying attention to any cuts, scrapes, head bobs, cracks in your tack, etc etc etc. The list could go on for miles. If you handle the details, the big picture will improve tenfold.
6. Planning (5 mentions)
I’m noticing a trend. No success in this sport happens by chance. Planning in this case is different from strategy; you need to be thinking long term and choosing your path dependent upon your end goals. Not just that, but your plan in the show ring for each course is key. Along with the idea of planning, many of the top riders mentioned flexibility. You should be able to make adjustments to your plan as needed, such as making a longer approach if your horse needs a few more strides to adjust or balance.
5. Focus & Mental Strength (5 mentions)
This one needs little explanation. Riding is a hugely mental game, and requires the rider to be able to roll with the punches. Some days are the worst riding days of your life…then three days later you may be champion at the next show. The ability to confront failure or set backs, assess the situation, and move on is key to success in this sport. For more information and help in this area, I strongly recommend reading Inside Your Ride.
4. Teamwork (6 mentions)
You may feel like a one man band, but I assure you that you’re not. Your trainer, farrier, veterinarian, and other equine professionals along with your barn mates and horse friends all make up your team. They should be there for you when needed, and you should be careful to select team members who are beneficial and positive. When you assemble that team, be sure that you’re gracious and loyal to them.
3. Perseverance (6 mentions)
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Like I said before, riding is an extremely mentally demanding sport. Take a note from Mclain Ward and Rothchild at the Devon Horse Show in 2016. Mclain was on a transcontinental winning streak like nothing we’d ever seen, he was in the driver’s seat to win the Grand Prix of Devon, and suddenly his trusty steed Bongo decided to make an incredibly uncharacteristic detour at the last fence of the jump off. Things do not always go according to plan. That’s when determination and grit come into play.
2. Partnership (7 mentions)
A no-brainer, and I’m thrilled to see it so high at the top of the list. This entire sport revolves around the partnership between horse and rider. When you’re in the ring, it’s just you and your horse, and your bond is being put to the test in every stride. Learn your horse, value your horse, and put him first. Always.
1. Attitude (9 mentions)
I can’t tell you how deeply impressed I am that this is the most mentioned contributor to success. From having fun to enjoying your success to having a winning attitude, almost every top rider mentioned a positive mentality in some way. There is no substitute for a winning attitude, and the mentality with which you approach your sport will determine your results and takeaways. We’re all in this sport for the same reason: we love it. Don’t ever forget that.
And so there you have it, the 10 most-mentioned lessons learned from 10 of the world’s top showjumpers. From jumpers to hunters all the way to barrel racing and trail riding, all equestrians (and I venture to say athletes in general) can learn something from this list. These programs are the best in the world for a reason.