Each week I interview the person behind some of the most interesting and popular equestrian accounts on Instagram. This week I’m chatting with the talented British international dressage rider Alex Hardwick .
Read on to learn more about young lady behind the brilliant @hardwickalexx instagram account where she shares her daily life as a dressage rider and dressage competition action with some of her amazing horses. All whilst also being a new mum!
Tell us a little about you and your horses
I am a new Mum of a little boy, James, who is now almost a year old. I’m loving life, despite the challenges we are all presently facing: being able to spend so much time with James and ride my horses is a dream.
I presently have 4 beautiful horses.
Albert is 10 years old and, at 18hh he is my BFG (‘Big Friendly Giant’). He has just done his first PSG, scoring 74%. We will be competing at Small Tour in the coming year and are training at Grand Prix.
Glasgow MH is a 9-year-old chestnut gelding and also about to compete at Small Tour. At 16.1hh, I call him my ‘Red Pocket Rocket’. He was the British Dressage National Champion at novice gold level in 2018 and Reserve National Champion at both elementary and medium gold levels in 2019.
Izaloe is a 7-year-old mare working at advanced medium level. She was the Bolesworth International 6-year-old Champion in 2019 and is quite the princess of the yard.
Joie De Vivre Prins is my 6-year-old ‘Mr Universe’. He was was placed 4th in the Shearwater BD National 5-year-old championship in 2019. He is also working at advanced medium but is already showing so much ability for the higher levels.
They all have such different characters. I love getting to know each horse and working with them to develop their talents.
How did your horses come into your life?
My Mum has always ridden and worked with horses, and I definitely get my passion from her. She has been my trainer and mentor from an early age. We run Hallingbury Hall Equestrian Centre together now, as well as being each other’s eyes on the ground at home and support when we out competing. I’m lucky enough to live on site with all my horses, who I can see from my kitchen window.
How long have you been riding?
Since before I could remember. I think I was almost born in the saddle. One of the first photos is me sat in front of my Mum on her very large show jumper (Golly) before I could walk.
When and where do you ride?
I ride every day after an early morning start and when I have finished mucking out, my other yard chores and looking after James. It is my little bit of sanity – especially on busy days. I’m lucky to live at the house on the yard so it’s an easy commute to work and teach lessons – although I can’t ever complain about the traffic!
How did you start riding?
When I was little, I always got the ponies from the riding school that were being cheeky that week or who no one else wanted to ride. I remember wanting the fastest pony, or, failing that, at least one of my Mum’s long schooling whips to try to get the ponies to zoom around.
What you and your horses currently working on?
My aim with all my horses is to develop them to Grand Prix level but, even more importantly, I want them to be happy and really enjoy their work. I push every horse only as much as they want to and my reward is that they all give so much and love learning.
I try to mix things up, doing some pole work, jumping and hacking around the fields to keep it fun.
What do you love about riding?
The feeling of flying. When it’s good and things start clicking, when the horse understands something you have been working on. It’s the feeling of euphoria and the high that puts you on is amazing. You spend so long working hard on yourself and the horses that you really have to celebrate those moments.It provides the incentive to keep working hard for the small improvements.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I am really happy in my life right now, so I don’t think I’d change anything.
I have super horses and some lovely customers. I teach a wide range of people – from Pony Club dressage novices to experienced, advanced competition riders – and really enjoy helping them evolve their partnership with their horses.
I have been honoured to represent Great Britain internationally on numerous occasions and was a member of the British U21 and U25 European Championship teams. I would love to be on senior British teams competing at Grand Prix in the future – and maybe the Paris Olympics after that if I get lucky.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Yes definitely. I think anyone who says otherwise would probably be fibbing. Nerves are good: it means you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. There are some great riders in dressage and it can be a little daunting sometimes competing against them but it’s also what is going to make you strive to be better.
How do you deal with them?
I try to channel the nerves to help me to focus and zone in. Carl Hester once said to me: “same stuff, different arena. You’ve got this!” I hear that in my ear before I compete. I believe in the training I’ve put in, believe in the horses and tell myself that I want to better my last self. The winning isn’t everything.
Your Top Tip
Enjoy the journey and take your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Simone Pearce’s Millennium! He just looks incredible
Who is your equestrian hero?
There are so many amazing riders who I look up to but, after my Mum, my ultimate has to be Carl Hester. He’s such a soft and elegant rider. His horses just look at ease when he is riding them.
I am lucky enough to have had plenty of lessons with him for many years now. The way he makes a horse move is incredible. I hope to be as good as he is one day at reading a horse and knowing exactly how to work with it.
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Hard to pick only five but definitely my family and friends. If this past year has taught us anything it’s to enjoy the company of your nearest and dearest.
Favourite colour horse?
Bay. Easier to keep clean
Favourite horse event
Aachen in Germany was my favourite place to ride. It’s such a big show and it’s almost like the audience rides the test with you.
Burger and chips
Favourite way to relax
Nothing better than sitting at home on the couch with a cup of tea and my boys (fiancée Ed and little boy James).