Steph Gumn on Life Since Lockdown
Sponsored Rider Feature
This month we caught up with sponsored rider, Steph Gumn, to find out what the Staffordshire based showjumper and young horse producer has been up to since lockdown began in March.
If you follow Steph, you may already know she purchased a quality stallion during the latter stages of 2019 to compete and use as a licensed stallion. Sandros Sun, who we’ve fondly come to know as Sunny, will also be Steph’s future prospect in the six-year-old classes, but we were keen to learn a little more about the progress he has made since arriving.
Here, Steph talks of how life has changed since lockdown, including her plans with Sunny and her new broodmare, Berrywood. Steph reveals how she’s adapted her business, training and coaching while confessing how late-night foaling watch led to binge eating pizza.
How have you been keeping Steph since lockdown began?
Lockdown is strange when you’re used to being so busy training the horses, out coaching and in a good routine of using the water treadmill to get the horses fit for shows. It’s been a challenge after getting the horses so fit to have to take a big back step! I have been okay, trying to keep safe as not to take infection home to my mom who is on chemo. I have mostly been sleeping at the yard!
The last eight weeks have turned the world upside down, how has the pandemic re-shaped your everyday life and business?
It’s really got me to think outside the box to keep running my business. The coaching went online, which I do a bit of anyway with my pupils in Croatia. Still, at one point I had over 20 people sending in videos and wanting training advice all at once, so I had to find a way to divide my time, so everyone got the help they needed. I didn’t charge anyone for this help either; it was my way of giving something back in a tough time. The horses mostly focused on flatwork, hacking and spending more time out in the field.
How’s your new stallion, Sunny been progressing and what sort of training have you been concentrating on?
The lockdown came at an awful time for Sunny. We’d hired some training venues, and things were going well, he was at the stage where he needed to be out a couple of times a week jumping small courses and learning the job. He was also really fit from the treadmill twice per week, and we set on a summer spent at the shows.
I didn’t fully let him down though, as he’s been spending more time in the field and working on flatwork, which has only been a positive thing. He’s feeling better than ever, and we can hopefully get back out soon.
What’s the next steps in terms of Sunny’s career and covering services?
The plan now is a few more training shows, and then I will register him and work him up through the competitive levels. We were aiming for the 5-year-old classes, but I don’t think there will be any this summer. He will stand at stud to a limited number of mares, that way I don’t feel like the year has been wasted for him while stuck at home.
You’ve spoken of a new horse in to use as a broodmare, can you tell us more?
With the lockdown initially looking like it might take up all of the summer, and most of the competitive year, I decided to stand Sunny at stud a year earlier than I had planned. I decided to allow him to cover a small number of mares as it gets the ball rolling with my breeding plans. Berrywood was for sale with a friend, and she has already produced a 1.35/1.40 jumper which sounded ideal for Sunnys first cover. I intend to cover her by Sunny this season, and I have another stallion lined up for her the following year. Hopefully, she will be a long term and valuable member of my breeding plans.
You’ve just taken another young horse in for schooling and training, what initial steps do you take to get to know and get a feel for the new horse?
I don’t take many in at the moment; I’m trying to keep my team to four quality horses so I can ensure they get the very best care and production. Any horse who comes in gets treated the same as my own. I spend the first day or two getting to know them on the ground and under saddle. I always lunge them first. I think this is really important and tells me a lot about how a horse works and reacts in a new environment. I will then get on in the indoor and work them up and down the gears to see what I have. From there, I have a plan of what to work on during their stay.
What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during the lockdown, do you undertake any type of exercise?
I started off trying to be really good! I went on a diet, started a HIT training program, and it was going really well until we started foal watch, then it’s gone a bit to pot! I blame the lack of sleep for the extra pizza and curry in my life right now! Luckily I now have more horses in for training, and I am back coaching at a social distance, so I now have less time to binge eat!
What’s your favourite training exercises for horses?
Anything involving poles! I love them as guide rails to use for straightness on the flat, pole work, poles before and after a fence, poles as guides when lunging and grids! They not only help the horse develop rhythm and technique, but they give you a guide to your accuracy and rideability during the session. I try to avoid doing too much all in one day, so prefer chip away at things over time. I find horses learn better under less pressure, and when they are happy in their work.
We’ve seen you take in and produce some fantastic prospects for the future. What do you look out for in a young sports horse?
I want a young horse to look like its enjoying its job from the start, either loose or under saddle, and it needs to be well put together. I buy a few off video these days, but I like to see ears pricked wanting to jump the fence and they should leave it up too. I can work with the rest. I like to see horses quite raw and wobbly, and I want to see them make a mistake so I can see if they learn from it. I avoid horses that look too perfect and easy at a young age.
Do you have a preference over the UK bred horses, and those produced in the EU and what would you say is the most significant difference between the two?
It’s a tough one. Most of my horses have been imported from Europe. The main reason is that I can fly there and over three days see over 30 horses easily. The prices usually are better, and the horses are of good quality and lots in one place. I also like driving around seeing the countries at the same time. However, the UK is breeding world-class horses too. Sunny is British bred by a friend of mine, and I am also going down the route now of breeding horses in the hope that years to come I can offer quality on par with Europe.
How will you be adapting your coaching as we move into stage one of the government’s recovery plan?
Following the guidelines from the BEF, I have just started coaching again 1-1. I have mostly been visiting clients at their stables, wearing gloves when opening gates or touching poles, and maintaining a social distance. The yard I am based at has allocated an outdoor arena for visiting clients to minimise contact on the yard, and as time progresses the yard will open up their jumping arenas and get back to some normality when appropriate. I am still offering online coaching for those who are more vulnerable, or yards are restricting numbers.
And finally, what are your plans for SG Sports Horses in the future?
I’ve always had big dreams for SG Sports Horses, but I know they can take years of hard work (and a lot of luck) to become a reality. I would like a small team of four horses out competing long term to bring up through the levels. I would love to have an owner on board who is as passionate about young horses as I am and work as a team to select, produce and breed quality horses for the future. I would like to develop the stud side further with the ability to collect from stallions and AI mares onsite. I aim to have a couple of stallions standing and a small herd of mares. Hopefully, in the future I will have a nice selection of young horses for both myself and the UK market. Oh, and of course I would love to compete abroad too. I don’t want much do I!
To learn more about SG Sports Horses, opportunities, coaching and services visit www.sgsportshorses.co.uk