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Learn what you love : Rebecca Slade
Third year BSc (Hons) Equestrian Coaching and Sports Performance at Writtle College
I’ve been riding for as long as I can remember. Horses and riding is in my blood and, as many riders will understand, being in the saddle is definitely the best place in the world to be. Competing is what drives me, I like to have something to aim for and give my training purpose. My university studies give me a deeper understanding of the factors affecting the performance of the horse in a competitive situation, from the rider conformation to the training programme; nutrition to behaviour. As a result, I really am learning what I love – and I hope to do what I love on graduation too. There is no better motivation to study than a natural love of the subject.
My horse is called Marlow and I’ve had him for almost eight years. I've trained him completely myself with the help of my Mum and trainer. We’ve been through pony club together and represented our branch at both area and national competitions. Dressage has only recently become my focus; I’ve always enjoyed jumping and so naturally had dreams we would become eventers. Unluckily for me, training was more fun for him and, out on a real course, his fear became too much and my falls became more regular... That was when I decided that competition jumping should take a back seat and we should focus more on what we both enjoy and are good at - the dressage. We have been taking it really slowly with him because neither of us really know what we are doing. I've competed at a few ‘proper’ dressage venues but never been to a show to see anything higher than elementary dressage competitions.
This year I was lucky enough to be given tickets for the Grand Prix night at Olympia and see how dressage is really done. I'd been counting down since the day I got given the tickets and finally it was happening. Before the evening performance began I did what every person there was doing; I wandered aimlessly around the shopping village in search for bargains! Whilst walking, I noticed a poster saying that none other than Carl Hester would be doing a signing. For the past few years, watching Carl and Charlotte create history and win medals has been the inspiration for me to train and achieve my own dreams. Luckily for me, my Mum had got a space in the queue and were waiting for me. With my programme in hand, I got to the front of the queue and there he was, the man who has changed the face of British Dressage! He signed a picture of the Valegro model and then posed for a picture with me. Definitely a special moment to save in the memory bank!
It was a dream come true to meet Carl but to then witness him and Charlotte take first and second place in the World Cup was truely incredible. Watching them ride tests so effortlessly - especially Charlotte on Uthopia, who she has not competed for over a year - was amazing. They are an inspiration to many and have definitely fuelled my determination to achieve my goals. The riders do not work in isolation; they have a whole team and a vast body of knowledge, research and scientific study into horse performance behind them. My studies at Writtle bring this into sharper focus.