This week I’m excited to be chatting with British international Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Emily Ormerod. Based on her family-run yard at Eccliffe Equestrian in Gillingham, Dorset, where she rides and trains every day. As well as being a top rider, Emily is also a UKCC Level Three coach and has made a name for herself as a very popular trainer with her down-to-earth approach. Read on to discover more about this extremely talented and hardowrking lady, her horses and her top tips for success.
Tell us about you and your horses
I currently run a small riding and training business in North Dorset. I have a small but exciting team of horses as well as some brilliant owners. My top horse for the last few years has been Fay Thomas’ Freya FST, who embodies everything that is great about a chestnut mare. I’ve had her from three years old and I’m hoping she will do her first Grand Prix in 2022. I also have some lovely younger horses coming through, including the first horse I have ever owned myself, FLS Samphire. Excitingly, I have recently taken on the ride on a more experienced international Grand Prix horse – he is a real dream to ride and I can’t wait to see what we can do together.
How did your horses come into your life?
With two international eventers as parents, it was inevitable that I would end up in the horse industry in one way, shape or another! I’ve been very lucky to have incredible support from them, right from the very early days until now. There are some great pictures of me as a baby being held up on various top level event horses – if they wanted to put me off horses, they certainly went about it the wrong way!
How long have you been riding?
I think it’s fair to say that I have been riding for about as long as I have been walking.
When and where do you ride?
I am based at Eccliffe Equestrian but I also ride horses for owners at their own yards in the Dorset/Wiltshire area. I ride multiple horses every day but I try to take a break on Sundays so I can spend some time with my husband, Will.
How did you start riding?
I can’t remember starting to ride but I do remember my first pony was a cheeky Shetland called Lala. She was followed by an even cheekier Welsh Section A called Harley who went on to become a champion scurry pony – he was much better at that than at Pony Club rallies!
What you and your horses currently working on?
With Freya, I am working on consolidating the Grand Prix work. She has a good idea of everything, but putting it all together is a different ball game. It’s been a few years since I rode a competitive Grand Prix so I have really appreciated the opportunity to work with a more established horse at the same time. The younger horses are all very different but with all of them much of my focus is on helping them to develop confidence and pride in their work so they feel able to tackle the more advanced exercises when they are ready. Off the horse, I’m always working on improving my core strength and stamina – I’m fairly long in the back and that can make me quite weak in my mid-section so I have to work hard on increasing my stability in the saddle.
What do you love about riding?
That connection! When a horse gives you their trust and puts 100% into their work, there’s nothing like it. It doesn’t matter whether they’re doing the basics or the higher-level movements. I love working out their individual personalities and adapting my own aids and responses to each horse.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
International Grand Prix is always the aim! I’ve been lucky enough to do some amazing shows all over Europe, and I’ll never get over the thrill of entering a beautiful arena in a stunning setting. Of course, I would like to be a contender for major championship teams one day but that would be the cherry on top.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Thankfully, I’m quite a laidback person and I’ve tended to avoid competition nerves for most of my career. I’m extremely competitive and the desire to do my best usually overcomes any anxiety. The only times I’ve really become nervous have been when I’ve been out of the arena for some time. My first international with Freya in 2019 was pretty nerve-wracking as I had been away from international competitions for nearly four years.
How do you deal with them?
The times that I have got nervous, I’ve tended to fall back on the relationship I have with my horse. One of my greatest strengths as a rider is that I build a strong bond with my horses so when I need it, they give me as much confidence as I give them. Even if I don’t believe in myself in that moment, I always believe in them!
Your Top Tip
Be honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses so you can target your efforts most effectively. There’s no point spending all your time working on things you are already good at. That said, try not to be too hard on yourself either – practice makes progress, not perfection.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Anky van Grunsven’s Bonfire. He’s the one that started it all for me.
Who is your equestrian hero?
Isabell Werth or Hubertus Schmidt. They both have an amazing ability to produce a seemingly endless stream of beautifully trained Grand Prix horses.
If you could have five people to dinner who would they be?
Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, WH Auden, Dolly Alderton, Frank Turner
Favourite colour horse?
I’m sucker for a palomino
Favourite horse event
Badminton – Dad competed there every year while I was growing up so I have some very fond memories!
Can’t beat a Chinese takeaway after a long day on the yard
Favourite way to relax
Bubble bath and a good book
La La Land
If you enjoyed meeting Emily you might like to view more chatting with interviews here You can keep up with Emily’s progress and check out her instagram page here