With their sights firmly set on the ensuing SEA Games in Myanmar, six Cambodian Equestrian team probables went through a unique experience during a two-week clinic at the Cambodian Country Club horse park and stables sponsored by international charity organisation World Horse Welfare in conjunction with the International Equestrian Federation.
Sharpening their focus on riding skills and enriching knowledge of horse up-keep formed the main plank of this novel equine education that also touched on such vital segments as saddlery and farriery.
One of United Kingdom’s well known jumping and dressage trainers, Diana Fischer, who has been running her own competition and training yard for the past 10 years, directed the clinic, which was also attended by Cambodian Equestrian Federation’s chief instructor Kathleen Lovatt and a new intern who is assisting her, Hailey Oakley.
Interestingly, the riders doubled up as grooms during the clinic, which taught them the finer aspects of equine care and their differing behavioural patterns to help understand the horses they mount.
“It brought home to the riders a sense of clarity about the basic standard of safety and helped boost their confidence when they get in the saddle,” Lovatt told the Post in a wide-ranging conversation about the hectic equestrian activity in the lead-up to December’s SEA Games.
“The timing of this clinic is perfect. With more than three months to go for that trip to Myanmar, the riders can practise what they have learnt,” the instructor added.
One of Fisher’s stated objectives is to help people achieve their equestrian goals. For someone who has worked with two of the best trainers in UK – Carl Hester and Richard Davison, who both competed in the 2012 London Olympics – Fisher put the participants at ease as she gradually took them through the process of understanding the delicate relationship between a rider and a horse.
“Its all about working with the riders to perfect their position and balance, and help them to understand how a horse’s mind works and how they move and react in a certain way,” the trainer observed in statement made available to the Post.
A typical day during the clinic stretched up to six hours over two sessions for the riders, alternating between workouts in the park and tending horses back at the stables.
“Our riders are now their own and teammates’ grooms when we enter competitions, and this bonding with their mounts will help them perform better and that unique horse-sense that they develop will enhance their riding skills,” said Lovatt, who will accompany the Cambodian equestrian team to Myanmar.
CEF secretary-general Tep Mona noted that the International Federation had been very helpful in providing the federation with equipment and human resources. “There is another similar clinic in the offing,” she added.
Meanwhile, the CEF stable strength has gone up to 30 following the recent addition of four more. Three Argentinian-bred horses – a former polo horse from Thailand named Zoff, Uva Negra and Juanca – joined the CEF yard along with a fairly large-size Vietnam-bred pony named Relay, who was an absolute fresher to jumping but is now picking up the trade quite well.
But interestingly enough, all countries except hosts Myanmar will have to perform on “borrowed horses”, making it a somewhat level playing field.
“No one knows the picks since mounts will be assigned on the draw of lots. You can either get a good one or a kinky type. That will keep the riders honest to their skills,” Tep Mona told the Post.
“But after this intensive two-week training-learning process, Cambodian riders may well say, ‘Give me a leg up. I can handle anyone.’ If that happens, it is real good news for us and a big boost for our medal hopes.”