Expert advice – with Rodrigo Pessoa: “Keep the horses in a good state of mind”
Stuck at home – with no shows – due to the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak, it can be challenging to stay motivated in the daily training of the horses. Over the next weeks, World of Showjumping will have the pleasure of sharing Rodrigo Pessoa’s expertise and knowledge – bringing ideas and inspiration to our readers. The Olympic Champion will demonstrate exercises he uses in his daily work – with flatwork, gymnastics and poles.
As we start up this new series, Rodrigo reflects on his main priority in the time to come: How to keep the horses happy at home.
As told to World of Showjumping by Rodrigo Pessoa
“These are times of uncertainty, times that no one was prepared for. It is a major readjustment for everyone, and it shows us how delicate and fragile our lives are. The power of this disease is tremendous, and we have to be careful and responsible.
Fortunately, our sport requires that we as riders still go to work every day as our horses need movement. I consider us to be lucky as we still, under the current circumstances, can go to work every day and do something we all love. Not everyone can say the same.
However, our normal rhythm with international shows nearly every week has had a major disruption and we all have to adapt to the new circumstances we are faced with.
Staying at home every day for the foreseeable future, not knowing when we can jump our next show, can be challenging. First and foremost, it is therefore important to keep the moral up – especially for the horses. For me, that means a maximum amount of daily activity and a lot of variety. Give the horses as much time outside as you possibly can: Take them hacking and keep them outside in the paddock. Let the horses be horses, and most importantly keep the horses in a good state of mind – especially seeing that we don’t know how long this will go on.
In my opinion, the weekly schedules we lay out for our horses must keep it interesting for them. Don’t be caught in the trap to do the same flatwork day in and day out, staying on the same circles and same lines. Instead, let the horses have something different on their agenda each and every day. Do one day of lunge work, one day of flat work, one day of pole work, one day of gymnastics, one day of hacking and one day where the horses are completely off with only paddock.
As to my flatwork, I will not change much. I will continue with my normal program, with a lot of lateral work and stretching to keep the horses loose – focusing on condition and muscle-building.
The more experienced and older horses will probably benefit from a period like this, as it will cool their legs off a bit. I will jump my more seasoned horses, but only smaller and make sure to keep them in good condition and shape. When the time comes, they will perhaps need a show or two to get back in rhythm – but there is no reason to keep on jumping them big at home.
For the younger horses, that perhaps would have needed the competition experience, it can be a good idea to once a week build a course at home. Perhaps they will fall a bit behind because of this show gap, but on the other hand they have their whole life ahead of them so there is no need to panic.
If there is a positive in this situation, it is that we are all in the same boat. It is the same for everyone, and we are all at an equal when we start showing again. Perhaps we have all been going too fast for too long, and this will serve as a good reset for all of us.”