Fresh from being crowned ‘Best Amateur Rider’ at The British Dressage National Championships, Lara Edwards held her very first demonstration at Riseholme College in Lincoln.
Lara had to put on her ‘brave breeches’ and draw on her own coaching techniques to combat the nerves and deliver an informative session that captivated the attention of everyone that attended.
The evening was hosted by the North Lincolnshire branch of The British Horse Society, with guests coming along to find out how the winner of 12 regional and two national titles has gained a reputation for developing quirky horses.
With the help of her working pupil, Georgia Milner, Lara started the evening by introducing five-year-old Cleo, ridden by Georgia, and four-year-old Jack, ridden by Lara. This was only the second time both horses had been away from home and Lara thought this was a good opportunity to get them used to people sitting around an arena.
As they walked the horses around, getting them used to the environment, Lara explained how she got where she is today, how she started off in eventing, only concentrating on dressage when she got the ride on a particularly talented horse and nerves were getting the better of her during the cross-country phase.
Working with her two youngsters, Lara hoped the audience would identify with issues they had with their own horses. When Cleo became spooked by something at the far end of the arena, Lara encouraged Georgia to give her a pat, squeeze with her leg and quietly carry on.
“You will often hear people tell a rider to ‘get after it’, which is actually the worst thing you can do to a horse that is frightened, as this just confirms to the horse that there is something to be scared of.” explained Lara, who is a brand ambassador for The Lifeforce Range from Alltech.
By Lara’s own admission, Cleo is of a nervous disposition, seemingly scared of life but with Georgia encouraged to not make a big thing of Cleo’s spook, she soon forgot about the monster lurking at the bottom of the arena.
Riding Jack, Lara talked about how she had to be sensitive to his needs as, although he has incredible natural talent, he was still very much developing so she didn’t want to put too much pressure on his hind legs.
Jack was broken in as a three-year-old before being turned away in the field while Lara was pregnant with her second daughter. Now he is back in work, Lara still only rides him three times a week.
This brought home to everyone the importance of listening to your horse and letting them set the pace, as all horses develop in their own time.
Before the break Lara invited questions from the audience, where she was asked for her advice on what to do with a horse that is cold-backed and another that was backward-thinking.
Following a short interval, Lara brought out one of the stars of her yard, nine-year-old, Felix, who was her ride at The British Dressage National Championships. Currently competing at Advanced Medium and Prix St Georges level, Felix has challenged Lara’s skills to the maximum.
Lara explained to the audience that Felix had been sent back from three professional riders as a six-year-old, being described as dangerous, and she was to be his last chance.
With everyone watching on in awe at the incredible talent of Felix and the amazing partnership he has developed with Lara, she talked about how it had taken three long years to get Felix to this stage and how he relied on her for comfort when they were away from home.
Having really struggled with nerves in the past, the final part of the demonstration focused on the techniques that Lara has learnt to control her nerves.
Using a volunteer from the audience Lara went through an exercise to help ‘centre the core’, with the aim of making you feel naturally stronger from within, which is a neuro-linguistic programming exercise designed to teach you how to take control of your own mind.
Lara’s first demonstration was a huge success, leaving the audience wanting more as the two hours passed by in a flash.
Said Lara: “Once I got on-board and started talking, the nerves soon faded away. It was great to be able to share my experiences of producing horses to an audience that was so engaged and interested in what I had to say.
“I would like to say a big thank you to The British Horse Society, Jane White and Caroline Peatfield for inviting me to take part in the demonstration and for giving me the confidence to give it a go.”