This week I’m excited to be chatting with Yorkshire based musician and dressage rider Rachel Platt. Rachel got her first horse when she was 40 and just over 4 years ago bought her beloved KWPN mare Gracie. The pair are on a fantastic dressage journey together and have progressed from unaffiliated competitions to BD Advanced Medium during this short but eventful period. Rachel and Gracie are a very talented and hardworking pairing and are destined for even greater success. Here she explains more about their journey together and about her own life.
Tell us a little about yourself and your horse
A musician professionally, I perform and teach saxophone and clarinet. I have a wonderful family with 2 grown up sons and husband Andy of 30 years. Gracie is my 2011 KWPN warmblood mare, who alongside WC Spaniel Nelly, readdress the female balance in the family!
After a childhood interest, horses came back into my life relatively late really, and I’ve been viewing it as a giant experiment to see how far I can progress!
I love everything to do with horses but particularly adore dressage where I am competing at Advanced Medium level BD with Gracie. She is bred from show jumper lines and is very talented with a great work ethic.
I bought Gracie as a 4-year-old. We have learned and grown in confidence together. She is an incredibly affectionate mare and loves attention – quite a Princess! She’s also sharp, athletic, and absolutely has her own opinions about how things should be; but if introduced to new things in a subtle, suggestive way, she is a brilliant learner!
We have had many issues along the way – an intelligent horse learns the bad behaviours as easily as the good, and my lack of experience has caused her to get away with some quite extreme behaviours en route!
I’ve survived several falls after scary episodes buckarooing across the arena, and even resorted to a session with Monty Roberts for help with her behaviour when she was 4…
However, the more experience I gain, the better she gets. It is such a responsibility owning an inquisitive young horse!
How did horses come into your life?
As a young child I avidly watched anything to do with horses on the TV and had group lessons at the local riding school. The main horse I rode was a black gelding called Dum-Dum….a well-chosen name!
How long have you been riding?
After the riding school as a child, I came back to riding in my mid 30s when I happy hacked my friend’s horse. Then for my 40th birthday, Andy bought me my very first horse Solo, a TBx. I’m now 51.
When and where do you ride?
I am lucky enough to be at BE level 2 trainer Amy Hawley’s wonderful yard @broadstoneequestrian near Huddersfield. The facility is absolutely amazing!
I ride 6 times a week. Our usual weekly routine is a hack, 3 or 4 schooling sessions involving training, stretch/transition work, or poles, plus an in hand/free lunge session.
How did you start riding?
My mum used to take me for group lessons twice a month at the local riding school.
What are you and your horse currently working on?
We are currently aiming at Advanced/PSG which is incredibly thrilling as my dressage goal was Elementary.
Flying Changes have been the biggest but most rewarding challenge which we continue to refine. We have also begun work on the piaffe steps.
What do you love about riding?
Absolutely everything! It’s a skill even more difficult than learning a musical instrument – my saxophone is an inanimate object which works the same way every time I practise it…. unlike a wilful horse with its own agenda! It really is a Dressage Journey Together!
What would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I would be so thrilled if I eventually got to ride in a tailcoat!
Have you every had to deal with nerves in riding?
Absolutely. Both getting back onboard Gracie after her rearing episodes but also out competing when we affiliated at BD in June 2019.
How do you deal with them?
Andy inadvertently gave me the best help with this just before one of our first Prelim Tests back in 2019. After seeing my anxiety-stricken face in the warmup arena, he said ‘Rach, why are you putting yourself through this; isn’t it supposed to be for fun?’
He was absolutely right! Nowadays, I remind myself why I’m there, breathe deeply to send the butterflies away, and give the judge a big ‘I’m just happy to be here’ smile when I hit ‘X’!
Your Top Tip
When you feel you can’t work out/improve an issue with you or your horse, just keeping chipping away at it. It may take a few days or weeks to start seeing results, but you will improve little by little and suddenly realise you’ve found the answer.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Woodlander Farouche, Michael Eilberg’s chestnut mare who I saw win the PSG at the Nationals in 2014. She completely took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes with her elegance, expression, and elasticity. Such a shame her career was cut short.
Who is your equestrian hero?
Of course, the maestro himself Carl Hester. I adore watching the ease and grace with which he rides. Off the beaten track, I also love to watch Kate Cowell for the same reasons. I find it useful watching riders with long legs and feet that hang below the horse’s tummy like me – you have to use your aids differently!
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Carl Hester to my left
Jacinda Arden to my right
David Attenborough opposite
Lee Mack on entertainment
Favourite colour horse
A rich liver chestnut…. (and black of course although they do show the dust!).
Favourite horse event
Lemieux National Championships at Stoneleigh. Such a warm atmosphere where you can literally rub shoulders with the likes of Carl Hester in the queue for a bacon butty – it’s happened twice to me there! Let’s hope Somerford Park is as special when it moves there.
Favourite way to relax
With the family, nice meal, glass of wine and a board game.
Forrest Gump – such a cliché but such a wonderful moral behind it….
If you enjoyed meeting Rachel you might like to see more chatting with interviews here
You can follow Rachel and Gracie’s journey on her instagram page @dressagejourneytogether .