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1% Better with World Equestrian Brands: Cornelia Dorr’s Top-10 Burghley Weekend

World Equestrian Brands recently caught up with Cornelia Dorr, fresh off of her 10th place finish at Burghley, to talk about her 5* debut, her feelings throughout the competition, Daytona Beach 8 (her equine partner in crime), and how she approaches day to day training and competition.

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

WEB: What were your thoughts leading up to Burghley?

CD: I’ve been based here in England since January with Kevin and Emma McNab. I came over here with hopes to do a 5*, and after our first jump lesson with Kevin, he said, “There’s an argument for Burghley here,” and I was like, “It’s my first 5*, no way!”

You know how you can plan for something, but it doesn’t really feel like it’s going to happen? It was a little hard to trust in the lead-up that it was happening.

WEB: Tell us a little about the event itself. What were you feeling after dressage?

CD: For each phase, I had a little goal in mind. For dressage, I just didn’t want it to be a disaster! She’s really emotional about the flatwork, and it’s hard for her mentally. I didn’t know how an arena with that much atmosphere would affect her. I was thrilled with the 39. That was way more than I expected!

After that, I wasn’t thinking about a result at that point. I was just thinking about completing.

WEB: Were there any combinations that were noteworthy on cross country day?

CD: I was really nervous about the Leaf Pit because a stride away from the drop, it looks like you are literally leaping off the face of the Earth! But Daytona was so dead-on there I knew that we were going to be good. She wants this.

WEB: Going into show jumping, you had moved up from 50th to 16th place! Were you starting to have some thoughts about where you’d finish?

CD: I was just really glad to be jumping in the afternoon session in the top 20! She tried so hard!

WEB: Tell us about your relationship with Daytona. (We secretly have a mare obsession!)

CD: We are finishing four years together now! She’s been really difficult. I don’t think that’s a secret. I’ve thought a few times about selling her because of the flatwork. But I think this year abroad has been so good for us. She’s my best friend now.

Kevin really understood that we can put pressure on her in training like a normal horse. Understanding that about her has changed her idea towards life. She’s much softer towards everything. Everything has to be her choice.

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8 impress in their first five-star. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

WEB: What’s one piece of wisdom that you can share with our audience that can help them to become 1% better?

CD: I have a couple, I think. I’m really big into sports psychology and understanding how my mindset affects the outcome and affects the people and horses that I’m around. Being aware of my mindset.

I’ve been reading this book called Mind Gym, which really talks about how you are not what your brain says you are. It’s helped me to work on separating what my brain says vs. reality.
Also, I think a lot about the horses’ physical strength. Fitness isn’t skinny; fitness is strength. A strong horse has less risk of injury, so I’m thinking about that all the time while I’m training. Where are they weak? What can I do to make them stronger? What exercise do they need for that? I try to think about that all the time while training.

WEB: That’s so helpful! Something our readers can take away for themselves. Thank you for chatting with us, Cornelia! Of course, before you go, we have to ask. What’s your favorite WEB product?

CD: My favorite product is the Vespucci Eventing Rein! I am super picky about reins and always have been. If I notice them in my hands, I don’t like them. The rubber reins with stoppers just fit perfectly in my hand and fingers! They don’t even think about slipping, even in the worst of weather!

1% More with World Equestrian Brands: A Different Approach to Rider Fitness

Jill Thomas Smith and Obos Darko. Photo by Shelby Allen.

1% More” is a new blog series in which World Equestrian Brands endorsed and trainer team riders give us one booster tip that will help us to improve our competitive edge by 1%. As any true athlete knows, all of those 1%s add up to significant results.

First up, World Equestrian Brands sat down with Jill Thomas-Smith, a Canadian eventer based in Middleburg, VA. She competes with her top horse, O.B.O.S. Darko at the CCI 4* level, in addition to Prix St. George Dressage and 1.30m jumper classes “for fun.”

On any given weekend, you might find World Equestrian Brands Trainer Team Member Jill Thomas-Smith competing multiple horses at an event on the east coast, in addition to coaching her students. We recently caught up with her in between rides at Pine Top to ask for a 1% booster tip.

She doesn’t have to think very hard. “One thing that I teach all of my students is that they have to be fit outside of riding to ride well in competition,” she says right away.

Jill explains that she played “every sport there is” as a kid and gives the credit for her high performance in the ring to cross-training outside of riding. “I do hot yoga and take Orange Theory classes. The core work from yoga helps me in the dressage arena and with body control over fences, and the cardio base of Orange Theory classes gives me staying power out on cross country.”

“You absolutely can’t be puffing harder than your horse when you come off of cross country,” she laughs. “If you start to empty on cross country, two things happen. Your position starts to suffer, and you can get tossed around in the saddle. (Secondly), you start to lose focus on your work, leading to bad decision making because all you are focusing on is how tired you are.”

Read the full list of fitness tips and more from Jill Thomas over on the World Equestrian Brands blog here.