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William Micklem

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About William Micklem

SPEAKER - AUTHOR - COACH - BREEDER - COLUMNIST "In the proverbial 101 ways, William Micklem has made huge contributions to the manner in which we ride, train, equip, breed, and think about horses. His positive impact spans oceans, disciplines and breeds of horses. If William speaks or writes about it, go listen or read it." Denny Emerson - USA event Team Gold medallist, USEA Hall of Fame, best selling author, and chair of breeders committee of AHSA. SPEAKER: William’s educational presentations are wide ranging, covering all equestrian disciplines and coach education for all sports. In particular he has developed a reputation for his innovative presentations and structures for improving performance in all activities, The GO! Rules, Habitual Hats, and The Winning EDGE. He also presents his one-man entertainment Ride a Cock Horse. AUTHOR: His book, The Complete Horse Riding Manual (Dorling Kindersley 2003 – published in eleven languages), is the best selling equestrian manual in the world and introduced his highly praised concept of using ‘Constants & Variables’ for all riding. In addition he was one of the eleven contributing riders to 101 Exercises from Top Riders (David & Charles 2007) and one of the contributing panel to the BHS Advanced Manual of Horsemanship (Kenilworth Press 1980). COACH: William is a Fellow of the British Horse Society (FBHS), a Tutor for Coaching Ireland and a Level 3 coach for Horse Sport Ireland. He was formerly National Coach for Bord na gCapall (Irish Horse Board), coach to the Irish Junior and Young Rider event teams and Training Director at the Mark Phillips Gleneagles Equestrian Centre. His work to make cross-country training safer has influenced many coaches and he also specialises in the assessment and training of young horses. He champions a kinder and more natural approach to horse training and his ground breaking and more humane Micklem Bridle is now in use throughout the world and fully approved for all disciplines by the FEI. In addition his innovative training ideas for children and young riders have challenged traditional methods. All this has led to him being in demand at training conferences around the world. In 2014 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Eventing Ireland. BREEDER: As well as finding Karen and David O’Connor’s three great Olympic medallists, Biko, Custom Made & Gilt Edge, he also bred Mandiba, the World Breeding Federation event horse of the year for 2010, and Zara Phillips’ High Kingdom, British team silver medallist at both the London Olympics in 2012 & the World Equestrian Games in 2014 and in the top 10 individually in their four 4* competitions. He stands a stallion, their full brother Jackaroo, and continues to breed exceptional event horses. COLUMNIST: William is a columnist for Eventing Nation and The Chronicle of the Horse and is a regular contributor The Irish Field and to equestrian magazines in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia. "William Micklem is one of the best minds in the horse world today. He has a unique mixture of practical experience at the highest levels and thorough knowledge of classical principles of horsemanship. Anything William says is worth hearing." Jimmy Wofford USA double Olympian, leading Coach and Author "I first met William when I was thirteen years old. It was exciting for me to learn classical dressage from someone whose passion was eventing, and it was apparent, even then, that William's teaching philosophies were ahead of their time. William has studied horse and human behaviour all his life and has mastered the relationship between the two. His teachings became the foundation for my riding and his horsemanship continues to be the flagship of our training programme." Karen O'Connor Five time Olympian and nine time USA Female rider of the year. From her introduction to William's book, The Complete Horse Riding Manual.

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Fittening the Event Horse a Hot Topic at International Eventing Forum

Andrew Nicholson and Avebury at Rolex. Photo by Kasey Mueller. Andrew Nicholson and Avebury at Rolex. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

Prominent vet Hugh Suffern and renowned racehorse trainer Charlie Longsdon joined Andrew Nicholson to share their insight on the topic of fittening the event horse today at the International Eventing Forum at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire. Read on for their thoughts, which are grouped under a brief explanation of their background (though Nicholson hardly needs an introduction!).

Hugh Suffern, MVB, MRCVS

His keen interest in equine sports medicine and his own experiences as a competitor at the four-star level eventing were the perfect grounding for looking after equine athletes. He has been an FEI vet for over 20 years and the Irish team vet for 13 years, though three Olympic Games, three Worlds and six European Championships.

Hugh is also the race course vet at Down Royal and Downpatrick, a committee member of The Association of Irish Racecourse Veterinary Surgeons, sits on the Tattersalls Ireland and Cavan Sales Veterinary Panels, Goffs Sales Wind Referee Panel, Goresbridge “Go for Gold” sale Radiography Panel and Irish Horse Board Stallion Inspection Veterinary Panel.

He is a member of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Veterinary Committee. High is also a National Hunt stud owner, breeding Cheltenham winner and multiple Grade 1 performer Dorans Pride, Harcon and Premier Victory among others. He also stood national hunt stallions Zaffaran and Insan and currently stands the Irish Derby winner Winged Love.

Here’s what Hugh had to say about getting event horses fit:

  • “The short format has brought changes. There used to be two main events each year and a long focussed fitness programme towards these events followed by a rest.  Now there are more events with horses kept at a level of fitness. This requires special skills.
  • “Every horse is different, and most facilities are different. Not one box fits all, but interval training is the best way forward with the least possibility of injury. But keep a note of everything day by day and year by year.”
  • “Blood tests will never replace good management and feel for your horses, but blood tests will show you what the norm is for any horse that can be useful when a horse is off form.”
  • “Surfaces have improved, and therefore there are fewer joint problems, but some riders do too much in the dressage arena with too much turning. So in the programme, you must hack and go through forests and ride on the road at times. Variety is vital.”
  • “It is not required to start with too much galloping. Long and slow and using the competitions themselves to build fitness works well initially. Also, it is a balance initially with doing all the required training for all the phases.”
  • “Blood is important, and those horses that are not Thoroughbred have higher levels of body fat, do not utilize oxygen as well and tend not to travel as well. Therefore, they need more work. Watching bodyweight is important.”
  • “Heart rate monitors can be used to tie in with GPS and there can also be linked in with measuring lactate levels. It’s fun to use but not vital, although it deepens knowledge and understanding.”
  • “Bowed tendons and suspensory branch problems are in evidence as much as ever, but more back problems and more repetitive strain injuries probably caused by work at home rather than competition strains.”
  • “We are all on a progression of learning…we have to keep studying our subject.”
  • “Jumping gymnastically and doing standard training at a slower speed is sufficient in training rather than too much jumping at speed.”
  • “There is an an overriding problem of feeding event horses too much. Overweight is baggage and causes many problems. Horses don’t need so much food. Many horses don’t need more than approximately 8 pounds of hard food a day.”
  • “Modern courses require both aerobic and anaerobic use, and the horses have to learn to cope with the lactate levels in anaerobic work.  They have to be trained for the turning and changes of speed.”
  • “A fit horse will hit less fences on show jumping day.”
  • “I like swimming horses if they have leg problems.”

Charlie Longsdon

Charlie has already packed a tremendous range of experience into his short career, including spells with Oliver Sherwood, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Kim Bailey, Nicky Henderson and, in the U.S., Todd Pletcher. Notable horses under his care with Nicky included Bacchanal, Marlborough, Trabolgan and Fondmort, and in the U.S., Ashado and Speightstown (one of whose Group 1 winning sons, Lord Shanakill, was trained by Karl Burke).

Charlie has made a considerable investment in ultra-modern facilities at his stable in Oxfordshire, which he said has paid off. Brand new stables, 5 furlong woodchip gallop, 1 mile 2 furlong grass gallop, huge outdoor school for basic ground work and loose schooling, new horse walkers and turnout paddocks located in 450 acres of grass and arable land all contribute to strong, healthy, relaxed horses.

Here’s what Charlie had to say about getting horses fit:

  • “In racing in old days, horses cantered twice a week. Now they canter each day with interval training on hills. Horses are fitter now. Horses are also smaller, not so much the big old fashioned horse, but lighter more athletic horses take the training better.”
  • “Having a history of what works for you is vital. Keep records! We keep a precise daily log and weigh them every week and before and after racing. It helps us to see if they have done too much work or a race has taken too much out of them, in which case we back off them for a while.We also do blood tests every week. With so many horses, it is like having another pair of eyes.”
  • “Our horses don’t go on the road. We use all weather surfaces, which makes training so much easier. We have both woodchip and polytrack. The woodchip gallop is a little slower. The 5 furlong gallop rises 150 feet and the hills mean going a little slower to do the same work. We also have grass gallops and try and use a variety of gallops. The National Hunt (jump racing) surfaces are slightly deeper.”
  • “We don’t use a heart rate monitor, but I think it’s a good idea if you know their norms first of all. Some of the flat trainers are now using them.”
  • “We still get injuries because of speed on firm ground, but generally our surfaces are beautifully cared for, whereas an event horse has to cope with a less consistent and prepared surfaces.”
  • “We jump twice a week in training, starting with loose schooling and usually at speed. In France, they tend to jump every day.”
  • “We changed to haylage two years ago, but our horses blew up. It was too high a feed value. We changed back to hay, and our results immediately improved.”
  • “I gallop according to their individual needs. As 3 year olds, they just canter steadily. It takes six months to 18 months to get them ready for racing.”
  • “I don’t use swimming or tread mills, as I prefer using the right gallop surface and keep it simple.”
  • “Eventers need to be more consistent with their training. I see too many tired horses and riders! This will improve; I have little doubt.”

Andrew Nicholson

  • “My horses now are probably fitter than they used to be. Half-bred horses need more fittening work. In addition, with so many jumping efforts close together in modern courses, it requires greater fitness. The steeplechase was easier because it is a consistent speed.”
  • “I start galloping my horses at 400 mpm as 4 year olds once a week, and they finish tired. This helps all the work in the other disciplines. The four-star horses gallop every four days up a hill, which they do up to three times up to slightly quicker than they do in a competition. The heavier half-bred horse can be breathing more heavily at the end of a gallop but often recovers more quickly than the Thoroughbred.”
  • “They don’t do road work, but they go into a national park and trot up hills on tracks that are fairly firm. They do this approximately every third day. The hill is steep!”

Christoph Hess on Working with the ‘Not So Good’ Dressage Horse

500 people are in attendance at the International Eventing Forum at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire. In session one, Christoph Hess spoke about working with the "not so good" dressage horse. Or this could be entitled "Why I love this trainer!” It was such a huge pleasure to hear these words from Christoph. My hope is that his messages reach an even larger audience and this is why I report them.

Christoph Hess gives a thumbs up to Sam Griffiths at the International Eventing Forum. Photo courtesy of Jon Stroud Media. Christoph Hess gives a thumbs up to Sam Griffiths at the International Eventing Forum. Photo courtesy of Jon Stroud Media.

Christoph Hess is an FEI ‘I’ judge in both dressage and eventing and is currently the Head of Instruction at the DOKR, or German National Federation. He takes every opportunity to promote a horse friendly system of training and emphasizes over and over again that we should work with the horse.

First rider: Australian Sam Griffiths, famous for his partnership with Happy Times, on Rufus, his talented but tense 2* horse.

Christophe worked Sam and Rufus largely in working trot and canter with simple figures using a mixture of light seat and dressage position. These were his truly wonderful key instructions in this first session:

“Dressage is used to promote the mental and physical well-being of the horse and should be logical. Dressage should promote a happy horse: This is our highest goal — a happy horse, a happy athlete.”

“It is important that the neck is open at the throat latch. Too many horses too short in the neck in all disciplines. Today’s horses are always in a frame, but often they don’t seek the contact properly, and you can’t give high marks to a horse that is behind the bit.”

“Opening the neck gives the horse the possibility to use the back. Allow the horse to seek the bit.”

“Use light seat to help the horse use his back. It’s like the rising trot. Too many horses in canter are balanced but not correct because they are not true 3 time with a period of suspension. This must be protected.”

“Taking a strong contact to hold the horse together is ridiculous.”

“Horses benefit from a rider that sits independently without a reliance on the reins for balance. At times, you can ride with one hand and pat the horse, give a long rein to let him stretch. A well-balanced rider can easily retake the reins without too much fussing. I would like to see more dressage movements ridden with reins in one hand!”

“Learn to ride the corners by riding 15-meter circles in each corner. The new FEI event tests emphasize the use of corners and correct bending lines.”

“The normal schooling day to day is the preparation for the new tests. You do not need to keep riding the test because the homework is the test.’’

“This work is for all the disciplines — as much for jumping as for dressage, and it is for all horses and all ponies.”

“What a session! What a horse! What a rider!”

Sam was delighted, saying that Rufus became really rideable with much more swing in his back than in the past.

2nd Rider: Scotland’s Nicky Roncoroni with her lovely grey Advanced horse Stone Edge aiming for British team at European Championships at Blair Castle.

Christoph warmed Stone Edge up in a very similar way but also included leg yielding and asked for more impulsion to keep the quality of the paces. Then he introduced travers and lengthening. Once again, he asked Nicky to work in a light seat at times, particularly in canter and in the lateral work.

It is very important to first get a feeling for the horse.”

“Riders use the spur instead of the calf of the leg. This is wrong. As trainers and judges, we need to encourage putting the rider in front of the leg, NOT the spur.”

“With the bend on the circles and in the travers, it is important to use as little inside rein as possible. If you need the inside rein, there is something wrong with the earlier work.”

“He is a little behind the bridle, so like all horses he must be allowed to stretch, and you must be very sensitive with your hands to go with the movement of the mouth. If necessary with a longer rein but with a contact.”

“You need to produce a walk. So work at the walk as well as the trot and canter. Get a good feeling of the body working in the walk.  The walk is a mirror of the training of the horse.”

“Open the neck. Open the neck. Open the neck. The more you do this, the more he will be happy. Ride with the reins in one hand and give the rein, then make the circle smaller with no rein contact. The horse must seek the rein, and the rider must ride from the front to the back. To ride from the front is WRONG!”

“You cannot ride in collection before the horse is 100 percent in front of the leg, open and forwards. Using the body will get longer steps. So all riders must do the basic work long enough to get this.”

“Happy horses get high marks. Good basics get high marks. Too many horses do the movements held and forced, and this will get low marks.”

“When you drive the horse into a transition, you have to have a bit more the idea of a light seat. When you sit too heavy, you work against your horse. Think of a swinging seat, not sitting harder into the saddle, which is incorrect.”

“Wow! What a lovely horse. Top class. A hero in white with three lovely paces.”

Nicky said he usually goes like a peacock so she feels she can use this way of riding at home to overcome the problem.

No Need to Spot the Genius

We're delighted to welcome William Micklem as EN's newest columnist. Click here to access all of his columns for EN, and click here for much more on his website.

Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless at WEG. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Fernhill Fearless in his Micklem bridle at WEG 2014. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The race for the Oscars is gathering pace. The leading runners are on the promotional round that leads to short-term glory and long-term inclusion in the history books. Out of all the nominations, I recommend The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the brilliant computer scientist and mathematician.

Turing’s success at decoding German messages in World War one probably shortened the war by one to three years and saved seven to 21 million lives, based on the seven million lives lost each year of this brutal carnage.

So what has this got to do with horses? The first and most important point is how lucky we are to live in relative peace in the horse world. Sometimes equestrian tunnel vision, made worst by competition emotions or positions of power, make us blind to wider priorities and to our ability to simply treasure health, friendship and the sheer pleasure of working with sport horses — things denied to so many of our parents and grandparents. We should all give thanks for our many blessings and be a little kinder to each other in the horse world.

Of course, people were not kind to Alan Turing, a homosexual when homosexuality was illegal. He chose chemical castration rather than imprisonment for this crime, and when just 41 took his own life. Alan Turing’s first love was a friend at school who said this to him: “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

He carried this thought with him through his life as an oddball who was not afraid to break new ground, be different and dare to dream beyond the norm. It gave him both a sense of self-worth and purpose.

In Ireland we have a blind and paralysed motivational speaker called Mark Pollock. He echoes the second part of this quote when saying that we should “challenge conventional wisdom,” and that we should not “respect the gap between reality and fantasy.” He believes that “we all have the innate ability to invent and solve problems.”

This attitude of mind needs to be an integral part of a developing horse world, but it is the first part of Turing’s philosophy that is the most important … ‘the people who no one imagines anything of.’ How many people do we dismiss or undervalue for all sorts of different reasons? Because they look odd, speak strangely, went to a bad school, write badly, are emotional, or possibly are hot headed, or worst still are different!

A good idea has to give way to a better idea, and the better idea doesn’t always come from an Olympic rider. (It is not the same with spotting potential and worth in horses?)

I have been fortunate enough to break new ground successfully with my Micklem bridle, my idea of Constants and Variables when riding, and with my GO! Rules to improve performance. But I am not a genius — just someone who tries to keep looking at things from a new viewpoint.

There are others who can do the same and then test their ideas to see if they are good. However, they need continuous encouragement and support to do this. Therefore, I welcome this week’s new competition for event riders at Wellington, just as I welcome new ideas to ensure more humane training methods in dressage.

However, the area I would most like to see new thinking is in the promotion and marketing of eventing. It is the core discipline. It takes its place at the centre of all horse sports because of the all around nature of the training required and the type of horse it produces, which is what I would describe as the ultimate leisure riding horse.

It is probably good for the whole horse population of the world because of the very high standards it produces for both stable management and training, and, for many, it gives a sense of excitement, achievement and satisfaction like no other. And for good measure our top riders are under-promoted gold. It does not take a genius to realise that in the world of eventing, we undersell ourselves!

Own Goal New Zealand

We're delighted to welcome William Micklem as EN's newest columnist. Click here to read his first column for EN, and click here to read all the latest updates on the Andrew Nicholson debacle.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo at WEG. Photo by Jenni Autry. Andrew Nicholson and Nereo at WEG. Photo by Jenni Autry.

I hope that the management of Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) are not trying to be horse trainers or elite riders or coaches, because they would probably fall flat on their faces very quickly, particularly if they were faced with the inevitable “difficult” horse or student.

For the moment, let’s define “difficult” as being unwilling to be submissive, a little emotional and possibly even anti-social. Of course, there are degrees of being difficult, and it is certainly true that even the best of horses and humans have their difficult moments! Therefore, this is a key area that is widely required and needs an effective strategy.

So what does a good trainer do with a “difficult” horse, a coach with a difficult student or even a parent with a difficult child? How do they cope with those difficult moments? Let’s take the child first. In the past, a good measure of violence, under the banner of corporal punishment, or threats of physical pain were a common method for dealing with a difficult child.

But we have moved on to a more positive approach, as it became clear that this damages children. Instead, by rewarding the behaviour we want repeated and focusing on what is required, rather than what is not required, much more is achieved both in the short and long term.

The same applies to a difficult horse. Getting into a major fight with a horse invariably has two unsatisfactory outcomes. Either it leaves you losing the battle or leaves the horse mentally broken and dispirited, with a grudging acceptance of what you are asking and little enthusiasm for the next lesson or giving more than the minimum.

Instead, what the trainer has to do is keep the task at hand easy and simple and then react instantly and positively to anything they do well. It may be as simple a task as getting the horse to move around you in both directions. But good trainers show day in and day out that once there is a little trust and understanding, the floodgates of extraordinary progress are well and truly opened.

So the question is: Does this approach work with adults as well? And, let’s add another question: Does it work with elite performers and does it work with elite teams? Does it even work with certain hot-headed, difficult, elite performers? All the research says, “YES!”

Last weekend, Christiano Ronaldo was acknowledged as the best footballer in the world for the third time with the presentation of the Ballon d’OR. Ronaldo, like Andrew Nicholson, to all intents and purposes “lost” his father at an early stage and, like Andrew, has been described as stubborn and difficult.

Both are also seen as consummate professionals, rarely seen out late, always punctual, always training harder than those around them. Ronaldo is also known as a prima donna who is rude to staff and teammates when competition passions are high. One issue of the Manchester United fan magazine even described him as “a conniving little shit!

Therefore, what is interesting is how the legendary Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson handled Ronaldo to get the best out of him. Ferguson has the reputation of being a hard man who few dared cross.

However, Ronaldo explained last week that he remembers a different man who was “fantastic. He told me to keep improving all the time. He said, ‘Christiano, you’re the best. Don’t worry about the rest.’ He still rings me regularly to remind me that I’m the best. He would finish most of his team talks with: ‘Now go out and enjoy yourself.’ It was never, ‘Do this, do that,’ because that can take away a player’s flair. I miss him.” 

In the USA last year, Alex Ferguson spoke to leading business figures and explained that the two most powerful words he could use as a coach were “well done.” He also emphasized that the timing of compliments was everything, and that it was important to “get in early with the positive and use the positive to melt away the negative and potential conflict.” One wonders how quickly ESNZ have praised and encouraged Andrew in the past?

People may have different views regarding the recent ESNZ actions, but the vast majority agree that that the timing used by them  shows incompetence. Why did they not instantly and positively welcome the first sign of Andrew being consilatory at the beginning of December? Or at the very least, they could have delayed announcement of the new High Performance squad a few days while the Andrew Nicholson situation was sorted out.

Instead, a full six weeks after Andrew withdrew from the squad, the ESNZ chairman Chris Hodson announced: “What we’re doing at this moment, and we should have it finalized next week, is working to figure out what steps would be necessary in order to Andrew to reclaim his spot with the High Performance squad.”

That should have taken two days and the whole matter settled before the latest High Performance list. That would have shown ESNZ in a positive and proactive light and confirmed their belief in their core goal stated so clearly on their website: to “support High Performance riders with the ability to achieve our vision.”

That action would have shown real leadership skills and an understanding that a win-win situation requires a positive approach. Instead, they effectively punish Andrew with a fine of NZ $50,000, which would have been his grant from ESNZ for 2015. And bear in mind that whereas Christiano Ronaldo is worth approximately $245 million, Andrew still has to sell horses to survive despite his huge success over a long, long career winning medals for New Zealand.

So ESNZ have scored an own goal and need to listen to Alex Ferguson, who says the second most important quality of leadership “is having the balls to admit you were wrong.”

Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

We’re delighted to welcome William Micklem as EN’s newest guest blogger. He hardly needs an introduction, having sourced Biko, Custom Made and Giltedge for Karen and David O’Connor; bred High Kingdom and Mandiba; and invented the Micklem bridle — just to name a few. Visit his website here for much more.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo at WEG. Photo by Jenni Autry,

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo at WEG. Photo by Jenni Autry,

So here’s a question for all eventing team selectors and high performance leaders. You have the current world’s No. 1 rated international rider with one of the best strings of four-star horses in the world, a rider who was fourth individually in the last Olympics and finished off the season in 2014 winning Burghley CCI4* for the fifth time. Would you want him on your current high performance squad, or would you exclude him over a few “hot” words following the World Equestrian Games last year?

In a staggering case of cutting off your nose to spite your face, Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) have excluded Andrew Nicholson from the new high performance squad and the training, support and funding provided to these riders. Near Queenstown in New Zealand is the highest bungee jump in the world. It gives a free fall of 8.5 seconds, and that would be all the time most of us would need to decide that Andrew should be on the New Zealand high performance squad for 2015.

We all know New Zealand and New Zealanders to be down to earth, sensible, practical and laid back individuals, but it seems that his exclusion by those in ESNZ would suggest that some have gone through a transformation that leaves us all the poorer and shows New Zealand equestrianism in a bad light on the world stage — petty, short sighted and mean spirited.

We are all poorer because eventing is a small sport on the world stage, and we need our few “stars,” from all countries in the world, to shine and succeed and bring our sport to the attention of a wider audience. Yes, this is not a life and death matter, but nothing about this situation is going to help Andrew perform better or the team be more successful. It’s about core values. The very existence of ESNZ is to help make the team successful, but their actions here do little to show that they have remembered this.

I have not spoken to Andrew about this situation, but it is clear that he was keen to move on and rejoin the squad after his previous withdrawal in October following the problems at WEG. “If I don’t put myself forward it’s sort of a dead end, isn’t it? I feel like it’s only right that I take that positive attitude because they have been happy to listen to me.” ESNZ interim chief executive Vicki Glynn has denied he was being punished in some way for his criticism but what other explanation can there be?

It is worth looking at his criticism and crime. Was he guilty of horse cruelty? Violent behaviour? Actions likely to damage the sport of eventing? NO! He was simply guilty of caring about his horse and wanting it to have the best possible care. Yes, in the process, he probably sounded off to a New Zealand official or two and was less than polite … Well, has anyone listened to our representatives and politicians in almost any country in the world?!

Robust communication is understandable when people care deeply about something, and is it not commendable to care deeply about a horse that has done 11 four-stars, was the world’s best event horse in 2013, and has taken Andrew to two World Championships and an Olympic Games, including being third individually at WEG in 2010, first at Pau, twice second at Burghley and third at Rolex? Who would not expect nothing but the best for such a horse?  Who else would not get emotional, particularly after the mud and sludge of WEG?

Andrew is also a six-time Olympian, a quite extraordinary achievement. Without doubt, both Nereo and Andrew have earned the right to be treated as equestrian heroes, and not just in New Zealand but in the whole equestrian world. This is why the actions of ESNZ leave them looking like the villain of the piece.  This is why most in the sport feel that at the very least he deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt.

It is also worth looking at Andrew’s life as an eventer. What did he do on New Year’s Day? Take a day off? No, he rode horses throughout the day. Usually 10 horses! Just as he does most days, despite being 53, and has done for the last 30 years. I don’t know Vicki Glynn, but I doubt that she or few others can match Andrew’s commitment to the cause of eventing.

Last year, he rode a string of 19 horses in over 150 competitions, and he does this, just like William Fox-Pitt, because he wants to be the best. Not because he wants to be a millionaire or famous, but because he wants to be the best in his sport — a great sport that needs heroes and needs its heroes to be treated with the greatest respect.

In 1991 in Luhmühlen, a first time three-star rider, Sarah Slazenger, was struggling to cope with saddling her mare for cross country with over two stone of lead (the days of 11 stone, 11 pounds minimum weight), having weighed in and been temporarily deserted by her coach and future husband William Micklem!

She had never spoken to Andrew before and didn’t seek his help, but he saw her dilemma and came to her aid, even giving her a leg up in the process. I would suggest that ESNZ now need to give Andrew a leg up back on to the team and show the leadership and common sense that they probably write about so glowingly on their CVs.