This week I’m excited to be chatting with Spanish dressage rider and trainer Andrea Baliarda. Based in Warwickshire, England, Andrea trains riders and horses as well as competing. Read on to find out more about this hugely talented young lady, her life to date and hopes for the future..
Tell us a little about you and your horses
I am a freelance dressage rider and trainer in the UK. I am originally from Spain where I lived till the age of 21 and where I also started my riding career. Shortly after finishing school, I moved to a big yard up north from Barcelona called CAVA. I spent over 3 years at CAVA studying to get my ABRS (Association of British Riding Schools) certificate as well as the Spanish certificate. Alongside my studies, I was also working and training at the place with the GP dressage rider Victor Alvarez.
After finishing my ABRS studies over there I started planning the next step, so I moved to England to fulfil my dream of working with Gareth and Rebecca Hughes. After the 2012 Olympic games where England won the gold, I fell in love with their mindset and training methods, so I wanted to learn all about it, and what a better way to do it at Hughes’s! They were brilliant times, worked a lot, learnt a lot, and met amazing people who I can now call my second family.
After a few years working, training, and competing with them I left England for a few months to explore the dressage world on the other side of the world: Taiwan and Australia. It was an amazing experience and very eye-opening. It also made me realise that England was home to me so after the little adventure I decided to come back to start my own business as “Dressage Andrea Baliarda”. It’s been two years now of training riders from all levels as well as training horses for my clients. I am enjoying it a lot and I am lucky to have very lovely clients.
Now onto the horses! Funny enough I have never owned a horse, but I have been lucky enough to keep learning and improving by riding other people’s horses. At the moment my main rides are the gorgeous Spanish Stallions at Premier PRE Dressage owned by Karen Manzi.
We’ve got the main man Deseado CCV and his two sons Desperado PPD (6yo) and Destino PPD (4yo). I also get people sending me their horses on either a short-term or long-term basis to train specific things or to help them build up the training of their horses.
How did your horses come into your life?
As I said I don’t have any horses of my own, but all the horses that have come into my life have been thanks to clients and owners who have trusted my knowledge and professionality and who have given me the opportunity to train and compete their horses. I will be forever grateful to each and every one of them!
How long have you been riding?
I started riding when I was 13, I am now 26, so I have been riding for 13 years now.
When and where do you ride?
I normally ride pretty much every day, except some weekends where I’d normally teach. All the horses I ride at the moment are based at Karen’s gorgeous yard: Premier PRE Dressage in Oxfordshire.
How did you start riding?
I’ve always loved horses since I was a child, but none of my family is horsey at all so I didn’t start till quite late. We all know how expensive horses are and everything around them can be, so my parents couldn’t afford to pay for weekly lessons let alone buy me a horse. So, it wasn’t till I turned 13 that I decided I wanted riding lessons as my Birthday and Christmas presents.
My dad found a riding school/PRE stud near Barcelona and that’s where I started having lessons. They had school horses and ponies for the beginners and then some gorgeous PRE’s for the more advanced. Like most people, I started with the school horses, but quickly fell in love with the PRE and moved on to them!
What you and your horses currently working on?
I am quite lucky as I have both young horses and advanced horses so I can enjoy training the more advanced movements as well as teaching the babies every step of the way to the grown-up staff.
Desi is currently competing Inter II level and working towards GP at home. He is a superstar, a really well trained, kind, and intelligent soul, I love him!
Dennis (Desperado) is competing at Elementary level and working on all the 6yo staff. Introducing the half-passes and the flying changes and just keeping him ticking with the basics.
Dino (Destino) is only 4 so we are keeping it very simple and making sure he gets the basics right as well as starting some leg-yields to move him off the leg and strengthening his back end. Although he is a young stallion, he is super relaxed and safe and has a very sweet temperament, just like his dad.
What do you love about riding?
Everything. It fascinates me how we can communicate, create a strong bond, and teach a 600kg creature how to respond to our aids and language. I love how rewarding it is when they understand what you are telling them, and when they learn new movements and improve the ones they already know.
I love how healing it can be for our minds, as horses never judge you. I also love the fact that there’s always room for improvement, you never stop learning and even if you get older (as long as you are fit and healthy) you can still ride.
What would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I would like to keep working on my business, keep riding and competing with my client’s horses as well as helping other riders achieve their own goals. My dream is to become a GP rider and of course, it would be incredible to represent Spain in the Europeans or the Olympics.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Not really. Although I tend to compare myself and be very hard on myself, when it comes to riding and competing, I don’t tend to get nervous and just focus on my horse there and then.
How do you deal with them?
If I get nervous, I think I would try to do lots of visualisations, especially before competing. I think it’s also important to get to the root and understand why you are getting nervous. But if it gets out of your hand or you are struggling to deal with them, I would strongly recommend working with a sports phycologist. Meditate and set some individual goals are also things I believe would be beneficial to deal with nerves.
Your Top Tip
Adaptability! We work with living animals, they have feelings, a mind of their own and they get injured. I think the capacity of a rider to adapt depending on the circumstances defines whether he or she will progress or get stuck. We need to be able to adapt in every circumstance, whether it is changing the training plan, their feed, their competition schedule, etc to benefit them and their development.
And with adaptability comes a positive and open mindset.
Another tip is that I believe we can learn from absolutely everyone, even from the ones we believe we can’t, as may be from these ones you’ll learn what not to do.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I would love to sit on Valegro
Who is your equestrian hero?
Gareth Hughes without a doubt! Super precise, knowledgeable and an absolute great trainer apart from being a super down to earth person and an extremely hard worker!
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
At the moment my mums and my grandma as I haven’t seen them for nearly 2 years due to the pandemic. I would also have Carl Hester for all the dressage knowledge and maybe David Guetta for the music vibes!!
Favourite colour horse?
I don’t have a favourite colour, but I’d probably stay away from the grey/white horse, just because of the stains! Haha
Favourite horse event
I must admit I haven’t been to many here in the UK, but I would love to go to Olympia. Maybe this year.
Definitely peanut butter. I could put it anywhere! Oh, and of course a good paella and tapas.
Favourite way to relax
I don’t do relaxing very well! I have to teach myself that downtime is also good. For the past year or so I have discovered that yoga helps me to relax. It gives me the perfect balance between mind and body. I also enjoy a good walk with a good podcast. Although a good cup of tea with a good tv programme or a book also does the job.