Boost to equestrian

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 27 August 2019   |   By Story & Photos: Sarah Ward
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A Dressage Equestrian Sports Educative Event (ESEE) was held at Penndragon Equestrian Centre, Ruretse last weekend.

The ESEE is sponsored by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) Solidarity Programme which has enabled the opportunity to develop equestrian sport in Botswana. It was organised in Botswana by the Horse Society of Botswana. 


The ESEE was open to any person interested in becoming a National Official and/or existing officials.

The cost of the ESEE was P250.00 for attendance, P250.00 for a T shirt and cap, P50.00 for the Observers and Demonstration Riders.    


The visiting experts were Natalie Hobday (Coach) and Lesley Mawhinney (Judge) from South Africa.

Natalie Hobday was raised in South Africa and developed an interest in horse riding at a very early age. She rode pony club and jumped and evented as a child and junior. At the age of fourteen she started riding at the Kyalami Lipizzaners and developed a keen interest in dressage. She was awarded her first Provincial Colours at the age of fifteen and went on to be capped a further nine times. At the age of nineteen she was invited as a student to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and trained there for a number of months. This was an honour as they only took one student per year at that time. Natalie was awarded South African National Colours (Springbok) at the age of twenty-three for winning all major competitions including the South African Individual Championship nine times as a Junior and Adult on several different horses. In 1996 she emigrated to Germany to further her sporting career internationally and was accepted to train with current German National Coach, Jonny Hilberath.  Between 1996 and 2014 she competed intensively and was placed in most major CDI’s in Central Europe as well as competing in two World Equestrian Games. She won and was placed extensively up to and including Grand Prix on a national level in Germany. During this period she coached, backed and produced horses to Grand Prix level. In 2000 Natalie attained a BA in Psychology, Sociology and Communications in 2004 she gained a BA (Hons) in Clinical Psychology, in 2011 an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology. Her dissertation, which was awarded a distinction, investigated Psychological Skills Use and Challenge and Threat States in Elite Dressage Riders. The sample comprised of all the team dressage riders from UK, Holland and Germany. In 2013/2014 she completed two CPD post MSc courses in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Stress Management and Coaching.  Natalie currently conducts monthly clinics for amateurs and professionals on a regional, national and international level in South Africa, England and Germany. She has been South Africa’s  National Coach from 2015 to 2018. She was appointed by FEI Solidarity as Coach Expert for Group IX as of 2015. Natalie speaks English, Afrikaans, German and Italian and enjoys golf, painting, sculpture, wild-life, bird watching and reading.


Lesley Mawhinney was born in Kitwe in Northern Rhodesia of Irish parents. She moved to Johannesburg when she was very young and grew up in Johannesburg. She studied a BSc in Zoology and Genetics with an  Honours in Genetics at the University of Witwatersrand. Lesley is an FEI level 3 Eventing Judge and a National Dressage Judge. She was previously a FEI 2* Dressage Judge but chose to pursue her eventing interest as it was too time consuming for her to keep up both International FEI qualifications. Lesley started riding when she was very young and rode dressage at the top level in South Africa being awarded her Provincial Colours for dressage. Her competitive riding career was put on hold over the past fifteen years to pursue her judging interests.  When South Africa decided to try and send an Eventing team to the World Equestrian Games in Lexington in 2010, they had to train officials in South Africa to be able to run FEI events to qualify the horses and riders. Lesley was very privileged to be invited on to the FEI Global Education Programme where she was sent all over the world, by the FEI, to gain experience in Judging Eventing from 1* level to 4* level. She eventually attained the level 3*/4* Eventing Judge (now termed level three). She has continued her judging both locally and internationally and is passionate about both Dressage and Eventing.  Lesley lives in Johannesburg with five horses, six dogs, and three parrots. She pursues art as a hobby when she has time and is an Executive Search consultant in her “real life”.  Lesley is now bringing on two young dressage horses with the hope of getting back into the competition arena again. Natalie and Lesley were very impressed with the standard of the organisation of the ESEE Solidarity education programme in Botswana, the turnout, input, passion and dedication of the riders, learner judges and coaches and are both looking forward to the next ESEE.

With Natalie concentrating on the “Role of the Coach” and Lesley concentrating on the “Role of the Judge”, the first three mornings covered a Theoretical Session for the Judges and the Coaches at The Embassy building in Phakalane.  An afternoon combined session with coaches and judges Practical Session followed which was held at Penndragon Equestrian Centre with Demonstration Riders.  Each day was completed around 17.00pm and a De-Brief for the day was given by the Expert Coach and Judge.   


On Sunday there was a Simulated Dressage Competition at Penndragon Equestrian Centre for the coaches to Coach and the judges to Judge. This started at 7.00am with the first rider and was completed by 11.30am. Three different FEI tests were ridden and a De-Brief was given after each test was completed.  There followed a Final De-Brief of the Tests and the ESEE Workshop which took place at Sean and Belinda’s home.

The first day there was a theoretical session in two separate rooms at The Embassy. Natalie discussed the Role of the Coach and Lesley discussed the Role of the Judge. Two combined sessions followed in which the correct position of the seat, the training scale, the half halt, the halt, rein back, paces and transitions were discussed in great detail. All the participants then moved to Penndragon Equestrian Centre where Belinda Irish and Joan Terry had prepared a delicious lunch of butter chicken curry with condiments followed by (calorie and cholesterol free) cup-cakes.


A combined Practical Session for the Judges and Coaches followed with Demonstration Riders where the seat and paces, transitions from pace to pace and within the pace, working, medium and collected paces, straightness and bend, halt and reinback, the lengthening of the reins and giving of the hands were discussed at length.  

The second day there was a theoretical session at The Embassy in one Boardroom with the Judges and the Coaches. Lateral movements were discussed. These were leg-yielding, shoulder in travers, renvers, half pass, turn on the haunches and walk pirouette.


A combined Practical Session for the Judges and Coaches followed with the same demonstration riders and horses where the lateral movements from the theory session using movements from the FEI Tests were ridden. The Coaches focused on assessment and solutions and the Judges focused on assessment, marks and collective marks.   There was a final De-Brief at 5.00pm.

The third day there was a theoretical session at The Embassy initially with the Judges and Coaches in separate rooms. The coaches discussed competition preparation and competition coaching.   A Combined Practical Session for the Judges and Coaches followed at Penndragon Equestrian Centre Competition Arena working on the canter movements from the morning theory session from various FEI tests. This was part of the preparation for Day Four, a simulated competition.  


The final day was the Simulated Dressage Competition which started at 7.00am. There were five Demonstration Riders.  Each was allocated a ten minute warm-up time by themselves, followed by a twenty minute warm up time with Natalie and the Coaches before they rode their Test and once the Test was completed there was an immediate De-Brief with Natalie, the Coaches and Rider.    

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