New method in event­ing train­ing

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By MATTHEW DAL­LAS

It is hoped a fresh ap­proach to eques­trian train­ing, based at Pau­ata­hanui, will help pro­duce the next gen­er­a­tion of Kiwi Olympic rid­ers.

‘‘That’s the plan,’’ says de­vel­op­ment coach Toni Gray, who has just pro­vided a 10-week Event­ing Tal­ent ID Squad pro­gramme for the Welling­ton Pony Club.

The club had no grant fund­ing to pro­vide tra­di­tional squad train­ing across all four dis­ci­plines in 2011 (dres­sage, show jump­ing, en­durance and event­ing), so Gray spon­sored a squad of 11 rid­ers for 10 ses­sions on event­ing only, five of which were the­ory, at her Grays Rd prop­erty (she is a de­scen­dant of the James Gray farm­ing family).

Event­ing com­bines the obe­di­ence of dres­sage, the ath­letic abil­ity of show jump­ing, and the fit­ness de­mands of cross-coun­try rid­ing.

Rather than ex­pect the young rid­ers, aged nine to 21, to adapt to her coach­ing prin­ci­ples, Gray tried to be more in­no­va­tive, ‘‘help­ing rid­ers to learn by ‘feel’ rather than ‘copy’ my in­struc­tions’’.

‘‘As is the case with coaches of any sport, they of­ten telling kids what to do rather than ex­per­i­ment­ing to find ways that work for each in­di­vid­ual . . . It’s been a bit of an ex­per­i­ment on my part. [After com­plet­ing Eques­trian Sports NZ work­shops] I had all this in­for­ma­tion I wanted to share and didn’t know how it would work.’’

But Gray says feed­back from rid­ers and their par­ents has been fan­tas­tic and some of the rid­ers have shown im­pres­sive progress with the new method.

In­volv­ing fam­i­lies has been an important com­po­nent of the train­ing, en­sur­ing rid­ers get con­struc­tive sup­port in their spare time, as has sim­u­lat­ing the pres­sures of com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘I of­ten find rid­ers do beau­ti­ful rid­ing here, then at com­pe­ti­tion don’t do so well. If we can sim­u­late com­pe­ti­tion pres­sure it makes a huge dif­fer­ence. We’ve had a cou­ple of rid­ers who have crum­bled, they got quite ner­vous.

‘‘There’s a lot of drill work – I tell them they haven’t mas­tered a skill un­til they can do it re­peat­edly and un­der pres­sure.’’

Though Welling­ton has a great eques­trian com­mu­nity, Gray says it is be­com­ing harder for peo­ple to own horses and do rid­ing as a sport – it re­quires a lot of prepa­ra­tion and fi­nan­cial out­lay. The cost of petrol makes get­ting to ral­lies ex­pen­sive, and regis­tra­tion fees have also in­creased.

‘‘And a lot of rid­ers are on life­style blocks with lim­ited graz­ing, they have to feed out. Gran [Granny Gray] had the first farm in the area, which had 20 graz­ers.

‘‘There was a lot of ca­ma­raderie among rid­ers, al­ways chal­leng­ing each other. Now each rider has their own spot, and they’re not rid­ing over hills, so there isn’t the con­fi­dence in cross-coun­try.’’

Though they are very ta­lented, it does re­veal some­thing of the state of the sport that ‘‘the old guys’’ like Mark Todd have had to come back, says Gray, without new blood mov­ing them on. She hopes the Tal­ent ID Squad train­ing will go some way to­wards fos­ter­ing the next era of high per­for­mance rid­ers.

‘‘And I want to be one of the best coaches. It’s so ex­cit­ing see­ing them suc­ceed, or ex­ceed their ex­pec­ta­tions.’’

With the fi­nal ses­sion held last Sunday, Gray says the rid­ers will fill out eval­u­a­tion forms for the Welling­ton Pony Club, who will de­cide if and how to utilise the pro­gramme again in 2012.

Horses for cour­ses: Eques­trian New Zealand de­vel­op­ment coach Toni Gray is ex­cited about the suc­cess of her ‘‘ath­lete­cen­tred’’ high per­for­mance train­ing pro­gramme.

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