Rider Interview – Leah Beckett
Leah Beckett is an international dressage rider and is sponsored by Aloeride, the natural aloe vera supplement for horses.
You were a former young rider European medalist do you think this background has helped you get where you are today? And what advice would you give to other young dressage riders?
People are often quite amazed at how cool I am at a competition and how I never get nervous. I think a lot of my history as a Pony, Junior and Young Rider has a lot to do with this. You are highly supported and nurtured throughout your training and competition. It also exposes you to such high-profile events from such an early and impressionable age that you carry it with you throughout the rest of your career. Another huge benefit I gained from the BYRDS system was to gain friends for life. Dressage can be somewhat of a lonely sport at times and you can often feel a little isolated. Thanks to the system I have friends within the dressage community, and there’s nothing nicer than catching up at the bigger shows and always feeling a great sense of friendship and support!
What’s in line for you in the future?
As of 2015/2016 season I have gained some really exciting rides. My main aim is to compete in my first Grand Prix over the course of the summer, but I also have a few lovely younger horses coming up through the grades. I’ll contest the Premier Leagues this year across the levels and aim to be back at the Nationals again – this time across more levels and with more horses!!
Who is your idol in the dressage world and why?
I have had the privilege this year of being trained and coached by Charlotte Dujardin. She is quite extraordinary!! She is such a driven, motivated and inspiring trainer. She doesn’t let me get away with a twitch!!! And how she fits in all her own riding, travelling, competing, social media and filming and still have the energy and commitment to her training is unbelievable. I feel she has made a huge difference to my performance in riding and mind-set and I am very excited to hopefully continue training with her in the future.
How do you remember dressage tests and have you ever forgotten a test while competing?
I am very lucky to have competed and learnt tests since I was six! So it’s almost like second nature to me now to be able to look at a test and memorise it instantly – it’s a practice thing!!! However I do find it very difficult to learn tests off the picture sheets – I am more old school and like the old-fashioned versions!! I once forgot my way in a freestyle, but luckily took a cue off my music!! That was such a horrible feeling!!
In your opinion what characteristics make a good dressage horse?
I have no set agenda when I look at a dressage horse… I ride horses with famous breeding, I ride horses that are home-bred and I ride horses that are bred for jumping. The main thing for me is that they are trainable and willing to work. And it’s not always the biggest movers that make the best dressage horses – look for a good walk, a better canter and the trot you can train. Temperament is everything for me. It is such a special bond and rapport needed between the two of you to bring out that little something extra, you need to love your horse!
How many hours do you spend teaching compared to those hours you spend in the saddle? And do you teach anything other than dressage?
I ride up to 9 a day and teach two to three afternoons a week. I used to teach a lot more but now most of my free time is now spent competing or training myself!!
What kind of social life do you allow your horses to have and how do you feel this affects their happiness and well being?
When I am training the horses I try to make myself as interesting a rider as possible. So within their training I try to keep it varied and not do all things everyday – sometimes I will work on basics, some days exercises, some days test riding, some days trot, some days canter. If you think of riding as asking the horses for a percentage of their power, then I will only hit 100% a few times a week and just play between the percentages. I love the horses to go out in the field a couple of times a week and if I can mix up hacking and schooling as well even better!! Having a happy and well-rounded horse makes for a much happier athlete which gives a much more settled and open mind to training.
What exercise(s) would you best recommend for a lazy horse?
Hot horses have to learn to accept the leg; lazy horses have to learn to go without it! It’s so easy to get drawn into the trap of kick, kick, kicking which just makes the horse switch off even more. You have to ride them even lighter than hot horses, make them more sensitive and make them listen. What do you do that excites him?? Work out what really switches him on and then use that energy to train him.
If you didn’t compete as a GB rider which country would you choose and why?
For me there is no other country to ride for!! It may be the hardest route to choose as we are leading the world today – imagine if you make the team?? How must that feel? You will already know that you are on top of the world!!
How would describe working in the equine industry compared to a Mon – Friday 9-5 pm job?
It’s certainly a lifestyle choice!! But when it is you that is the one making the sacrifices you don’t really notice it – you are so focused on the goal. What you most need are understanding family members, understanding friends and a very understanding partner. I have missed weddings, birthdays, even holidays have to revolve around training and competition dates!! But it’s such a rewarding and exciting life to live. It’s hard to take a day out of the saddle sometimes but at the same time even my body needs a day off to recover and recharge, as does my mind need a freshen up and a break!! You often need life to give you some perspective, and also a little distance can make you look at a situation differently.
Apart from training at home in the arena, what other rider fitness activities do you engage in?
I used to run a lot (I ran the New York Marathon last year for The Brooke) but as I am getting a little older (cough cough) I have to admit that running is not conducive to riding fitness. In fact I had to only ride part time towards the end of my training due to the strain. I rode at the Nationals with suspected stress fractures!! Oh and the knee and hip pain…!!! Time to move towards yoga and pilates which I have been recommended as it is so supportive to the joints and suppleness and also incredible for core strength.
What is your favourite sport next to equestrianism?
I love every sport. When you know the hours of dedication and commitment every single athlete puts in to gain their success and the edge to try and get ahead of their rivals – inspirational.
What item couldn’t you do without?
Oooooh that’s a hard one!! Aloeride, my horses look great and feel great on the supplement and my Brown boots my dad bought them for me and now he has passed away, when I wear them I feel close to him.
Many thanks to Leah Beckett for the interview! Up next International showjumper, Yazmin Pinchen