This week I’m chatting with the multi-talented Chantelle Oliver-Symonds; National dressage rider, accountant and BD judge. Read on to discover more about her journey so far.
Tell us a little about you and your horse
My name is Chantelle Oliver-Symonds, I’m 27 years old and live with my husband and three-year-old son in Gloucestershire. Harvey (Stadmorslow Coffee n Cream) is a 15hh Appaloosa x Welsh D, dun spotted gelding who has just turned 15 years old. We compete at British Dressage Advanced-Medium level having qualified for numerous PetPlan, Regional and National Championships as well as representing England on several occasions at Home Internationals. By trade I’m an accountant and work part time for a strategic design company based in Edinburgh as well as being self-employed and in my spare time I’m a BD List 5 judge.
How did your horse come into your life?
Harvey came into my life in 2010 as I was looking for a bigger horse to follow on from my 13.2hh pony, Polo. I’d found his advert on Horsemart and told my dad he was in Cardiff (rather than Carmarthen which was significantly further!) so that he’d let me go and view him. He was a nervous little horse and had me off a few times during my trial ride but something about him made me insist that he was the one for me, so he got put in the trailer and taken home with us that day. I’m eternally grateful for making that decision as he has been my rock for the last eleven years and has gotten me through so many challenging times!
How long have you been riding?
I’ve been riding since I was about four years old.
When and where do you ride?
I see Harvey twice every day and have a rota of riding, lunging, pole work etc throughout the week. Normally I train him 3-4 times a week, lunge once and train over poles once as well as giving him time off to either be a horse in the field or hack across the fields during the summer months. I’m lucky enough to have amazing facilities on the yard where he’s kept so we don’t even need to set foot on a road to reach nearly 100 acres of fields to hack across.
How did you start riding?
My mum sent me off for a riding lesson with my dad to help us bond and I haven’t stopped since! It worked a treat and he still owns a small share of Harvey!
What you and your horse currently working on?
Harvey is currently working on developing his flying changes as well as strengthening the canter pirouettes and work involved in PSG tests. A couple of weeks ago he was diagnosed with G4 gastric ulcers, so everything is on pause for now until he is feeling more comfortable so I’m spending lots of time stretching him and using poles to really strengthen him up ahead of him coming back into proper work.
What do you love about riding?
For me, riding is my happy place. It gives me space to think and clear my mind as well as a physical activity which as lots of us know, is fantastic for your mental health.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
My lifelong goal was to compete at Advanced level, and I’ve managed to achieve that a few weeks ago before Harvey’s diagnosis so for now my goals are to get him fit again and hopefully one day qualify for the PSG Area Festival Championships. Longer term I’d like to be able to find the right horse to take on once Harvey retires but I won’t be in any hurry to do that – for me, you can’t beat perfection and Harvey is my horse of a lifetime meaning any horse that comes into my life will have exceptionally big shoes to fill!
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
People never believe me when I tell them that I get nervous, but I do a lot! I’m a huge worrier in all aspects of my life and I tend to over think things, so I get very nervous when people watch me training or riding and the fear of failure is huge for me!
How do you deal with them?
I’ve studied lots of great material on sports psychology and mindset training as well as having some fantastic contacts in that field. I like to plan situations that I would typically get nervous in and use visualisation techniques to ensure that I’m fully prepared for the challenge ahead.
Your Top Tip
Never stop asking questions and learning! Even when we think we’ve got something nailed it’s amazing how much more you can learn from just asking questions and it might make the difference between that .1% of winning and coming second.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Ellie McCarthy’s Londy, he’s stunning and looks beautiful to ride!
Who is your equestrian hero?
Matt Hicks – I first saw him at the Winter Championships in 2013 and was really impressed with how he rode, from that point I was determined to have a lesson with him and 6 years later my dream came true. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without his wise words, he completely changed the way I saw my horse and I will be forever grateful!
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Isabel Wessels, Cathrine Dufour, Abi Lyle, Lottie Fry & my trainer, Helen James.
Favourite colour horse?
I’m pretty biased on this one but I do love an unusual looking horse! Anything that is striking to the eye (palomino, dun, spotted etc)
Favourite horse event
Without a doubt it has to be Badminton! I go every year with my mum and have a really good day out watching some cross country and of course, doing heaps of shopping!
Is all the food an answer?! I love every kind of food, but I would have to say my all-time favourite is pasta with a good, rich sauce and lots of cheese!
Favourite way to relax
I’m a big fan of a night in on the sofa but lockdown has meant these are quite monotonous! Recently I’ve been creating mini ‘spa nights’ at home with face masks, deep baths, a book and a glass or two of nice wine!
The Greatest Showman – I just can’t help but sing along!