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openness and warmth of this book,
especially when it is laced with
anecdotes of the world’s best riders
in action – as in: “When I asked Willi
Melliger to ride over a certain exercise
with his horse, he always took about
fifteen seconds, at a halt, to plan what
he was going to do. It was only when
everything was clear in his mind that
he started the exercise.”
Or this one: “It is crucial to dominate
one’s fear in order to dominate one’s
gestures. One can only achieve this
control by gaining self-confidence.
At La Baule I was recently the last
competitor to ride in the jump-off
for a Grand Prix. Peter Charles and
the others had ridden very fast clear
rounds. Before entering the ring, I
told our team coach Jean-Maurice
Bonneau: ‘I’ll be faster than Peter
Charles.’ I had planned my course
in detail and with 100% clarity.
In my mind, I had already ridden
the course; all that remained to be
done was to allow my movements
to act instinctively: the track, the
approaches, the speed... nothing had
been left to chance. The clock stopped:
mine was the fastest round and clear!”
Throughout the book there are little
info boxes, like this one:
The other wonderful feature of this
book is the delightful illustrations –
like this one:
Michel Robert is particularly good
on how the rider’s perception, even
his physical perception, can influence
the way he rides:
“I myself regularly practice jumping
with my eyes shut or turning my head
to one side.
It is impossible to imagine to what
extent simply ‘disconnecting’ the
eyes can improve one’s seat, help the
understanding of a movement and
improve harmony with the horse...
The most rigid rider can become
supple over a very short period of time.
Once again, rigidity and hardness are,
above all, mental and not physical as
most of us tend to believe.”
“Everyone is capable of using a
wide-angle view. I have tested this on
riders of all ages and all levels. I have
come across riders with totally stuck
and rigid seats, blocked shoulders
and gritted jaws... It would have taken
ten years to solve all their problems.
In two sessions, we achieved
exceptional results simply working
on their minds... through their eyes.
I never even mentioned their seat,
their horses, or their manner of
THE RIDER’S MIND...
The rider’s state of mind is crucial to ensure
that the horse accepts a stranger on his back.
Personally, I devote my energy to controlling
my mind and to trying to stay calm, contantly
analysing my seat and the horse’s reactions.
At The Hague, the most sensitive and difficult
horse to ride was certainly Ratina Z. This mare’s
personality left no one indifferent: neither the
riders nor the spectators... I only had a few
minutes to get to know her, which was really
too little. I instantly put myself in a state of
mind of admiration and respect for this mare.
I approached her calmly, and my only intention
was to love her and understand her. I placed my
open hand on her shoulder and we exchanged
information about our personalities. A sort of
fluid moved between us. Magical moments
such as these are engrave on my memory. Once
in the saddle, I ‘glued’ myself to her, to better
feel and encourage her. We both made the best
possible use of each other’s qualities and... it
was a clear round!
A clear round for Michel Robert and Ratina in the four horse, four
rider ride off for World Champion at The Hague in 1994
I have had many occasions in
which I became aware that the
rider’s breathing influenced the
horse’s behaviour. This was the
case during a training session
with one of my pupils.His horse
had stopped three times in front
of a small fence. Observing
the scene, I noticed that it had
not breathed since the turn.
So, I asked the rider to repeat
the fence. He himself had
blocked his breathing riding
the turn at about six or seven
strides from the jump. While
training, this rider had taught
his horse to behave exactly like
him. I asked the rider to canter
and sing at the same time.
Initially, while his breathing was
blocked, this proved a difficult
task; then both he and his
horse progressively started to
breathe again... and to jump.
Personally, I have the habit of
humming and whistling while
I jump a course. Even when I
ride in big classes; it’s a good
way to make oneself breathe.
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