This week I’m chatting with Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer, Tania Grantham. Based in the South East of England, Tania has her own business, Inspire Dressage. Read on to discover more about Tania, her ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us about you and your horses
My name is Tania Grantham, and my business is Inspire Dressage. I’m a Grand Prix rider and trainer and Pole Work specialist. Based in the South East of England. I work with a wide range of horses and riders striving to bring out their best using innovative and fun exercises.
On Social Media I’m very honest about the highs, and lows of my life as a dressage trainer, rider and competitor. I try to share my own experiences, mistakes, training methods, triumphs and challenges as well as looking at the funny side of life with horses.
I still find it so exciting to be able to say I’m a Grand Prix rider! My whole career my goal was to ride a Grand Prix. In November 2019 I actually did it on Sam (Samarino) my (well mum’s) quirky, lazy, sharp, averagely moving, fairly cheap warmblood. We’ve had Sam since 2011 when he was just 5 years old, it’s been a real journey to get to where we are today, but it means so much to have got here on a horse I’ve trained myself. We’re never going to be world beaters but I’m really enjoying training and competing at this level and I learn something new almost everyday. In 2023 our goal is to ride the Grand Prix Special in competition for the first time, as well as to continue to train, progress and better our Grand Prix scores.
At the end of 2018 I got the ride on a beautiful Spanish stallion, Igloo (Seni Ilustrisimo III), owned by Michelle Van Meurs. We first started competing at Elementary in 2019. In the last 4 years we’ve been to six British Dressage regionals, 4 BD Nationals, and won the medium PRE class at the BD Associated Championships in 2021 . We’ve also been Sevilla (medium) champion and Lisboa (Adv med) reserve champion at the MCI nationals. We’ve been to 2 MCI Europeans, in Paris 2019 we won team silver and in Belgium 2022 we won another team silver as well as Individual silver at Lisboa (Adv medium). Igloo made his BD PSG debut in 2022 and we are aiming to do our first Inter I soon.
I also co own a 4 year old PRE colt Norman (Seni Usio V), with Michelle. Norman and he is one of those gangly, slow to mature types. He was backed in the spring of 2022 and we’ve spent most of the summer hacking. He’s just had a little holiday and is coming back into work now. In 2023 I look forward to broadening his education and maybe even going to our first show.
Michelle has bred a lovely 3 year old PRE x Luso colt, Rocky (Roquito). He is the opposite of Norman and has looked like a little adult pretty much his whole life. He has just started lunging and will be backed in 2023.
My whole career I’ve worked with “normal” horses and riders of all levels and across many disciplines. The horses I’ve had to ride have often been “difficult”, “quirky” and not necessarily ideal dressage horses. I’ve always used polework as I find it helpful in so many ways, I really do believe it’s a fundamental part of successful training.
I try to set out layouts that have multiple uses, often in all paces and generally can be used both ridden and in hand/lunging. I use these layouts at home with all the horses as well as at Clinics and I post videos of the layouts being used for people to try at home.
I am also a featured trainer on the Ridely App, where I also share polework ideas, layouts and videos as well as answering questions in the groups feature.
How did your horses come into your life?
Sam: we were looking for a horse for mum, we both loved Sam’s canter and basically could afford him as he was rather quirky and sharp. I rode him a lot for her as a young horse. Mum did compete him for a couple of years, but then her arthritis became quite bad, so she only hacked then eventually gave up riding all together. She still comes to watch me ride several times a week and is always my eyes on the ground at competitions.
Igloo: Through my old trainer, Amy Stovold, I had started riding some horses for Naomi Vance Webb. Michelle is Naomi’s best friend so when she got Igloo, I was asked to sit on him. For various reasons he ended up having some time off and when he was ready to come back into work Michelle called me. In all honesty, I wasn’t keen to go and ride him, location wise it was tricky at the time, but Michelle literally wouldn’t take no for an answer. I brought Igloo back into work and just fell in love with riding him. Michelle is now a really good friend and I’m based at her place with Sam now too.
Norman: Michelle and Naomi bought Norman as a weanling. When Naomi was downsizing the amount of horses she owned, Michelle offered me a share in Norman. That was when he was a yearling, it’s been really fun to be able to work with him from such a young age.
Rocky: Michelle bred his Dam and then him. His Dam sire, Issy, still lives at Michelle’s. I’ve known Rocky since he was born, I actually helped pick his name. He’s by Rubi AR and was quite a feisty little foal so his full name is Roquito.
How long have you been riding?
Although my mother rode when she was younger, we grew up on the outskirts of London and never had our own horses or ponies. Occasionally I’d get to ride ponies that belonged to a family friend, but it was very infrequent. When I was about ten my mother started managing a livery yard on the outskirts of Richmond Park, the yard had a small riding school attached. From the age of about eleven, I spent all my weekends and basically any spare time I had at the riding school, helping out, working etc. In return I would get one ride a week. I was so desperate to ride that I didn’t care what I was given so always ended up with the naughty ponies no one else wanted to ride.
At sixteen, I went to college to do A-levels and at the same time, worked part time at a local ish (I had to get 2 bus’s and walk a bit!) yard. Whilst working there I did my BHS stages 1 and 2. After college I took a gap year and got a job as a working pupil at a dressage yard, I also took my stage 3 and PTT so got my teaching insurance. By the end of the year, I knew I wanted a career with horses, so I didn’t go to University (I had a place to study Sports Science).
When and where do you ride?
I ride pretty much every day. Sam, Igloo and Norman are in full work. For Sam and Igloo they tend to do 3-4 days schooling and a couple of hacks, then a day or 2 off. Norman does 1 or 2 days schooling as well as hacking and long lining/lunging, he has 2-3 days off a week.
I also ride client’s horses regularly at their yards.
What are you and your horses currently working on?
Sam: it’s really about keeping him fit, healthy and entertained. He knows all the movements now. I am quietly working at improving all sorts of little things. I’ve been starting to play with riding the tempi changes on curves and circles, he loves that sort of thing.
Igloo: I work him in hand on long lines to train the piaffe. In the ridden work we are polishing and tidying the PSG work as well as training the Inter I elements. He did his first pair of one tempi’s recently. It’s so cool to be starting to think about the Grand Prix movements.
Norman: he’s a funny mix of very green and yet very balanced. He can already do a lovely counter canter large, but he sometimes struggles with straightness and balance in simple things. I’m just trying to build his strength and confidence alongside putting in the basics that will allow him to learn the higher level movements later on.
Rocky: he has just started lunging, next up will be long lining to learn about steering and get him comfortable with the lines on his sides etc.
What do you love about riding?
The connection with the horse, I can honestly block out anything else I have going on in my life and totally lose myself in what I’m doing with the horses.
What would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but if I can continue to earn a comfortable living from doing what I love then that’s the ultimate for me.
Competition wise, I’d love to get my GB flag. I’d also love to ride another horse I’ve trained myself at Grand Prix.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
I’m not a naturally brave rider. I’m always slight nervous getting on a new horse. I don’t get particularly nervous when I’m competing.
How do you deal with them?
In terms of getting on new horses, I just remind myself that there is no pressure, I can take my time, once I start to build an understanding and relationship with the horse the nerves go away. All the boys can be a bit cheeky and sharp, but once I know them it doesn’t bother me.
With competing, it’s more about believing in myself. As long as I feel like I’ve done the best I can on the day then I’m happy.
Your Top Tip
Nail your halts!! Every test, from Prelim to Grand Prix has at least 1 halt, most have 2, some have 3!
I use polework to help with the halt training and it pays off. Starting a test and knowing you’ve made a great entry definitely sets you off in a good way.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Glamourdale….. to sit on that canter would be incredible!
Who is your equestrian hero?
Catherine Dufour, I think she rides so beautifully and consistently produces beautiful horses to the top level
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
Michel Roux Jr
Favourite colour horse?
Favourite horse event?
Olympia, but I loved London 2012
Depends on my mood, but I could pretty much always eat cheese
Favourite way to relax?
Sitting on a sofa with a glass of something lovely, chatting to friends
10 things I hate about you
If you enjoyed meeting Tania you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Tania’s progress and check out her instagram page here