It is quite a few years ago now, but I remember telling my colleagues about a learner I had visited who had delivered one of the best lessons I have ever seen. Today I was privileged enough to meet and interview that learner again. Gemma Tattersall is now a member of the British 3 day event team which is heading to Rio at the end of July. I met her and her horses at her yard in Sussex.
Gemma had three horses longlisted for the Olympics and the selectors chose Quicklook V or Pebbles as she is known at home. Gemma explained that the choice is based not only on the horse’s performance and health but also on the horse’s ability to cope with the stress of 12 hours on a plane as well as the atmosphere of the Olympics. Pebbles fits the bill perfectly as she has a very trainable brain, is intelligent and wants to learn. She is a horse who is always enthusiastic, in fact you have to remind her to wait to be told what she should be doing!
Not bad for a horse that Gemma spotted while out jumping, tried there and then and brought home as a project horse to be sold on. Of course she was never sold on and has gone from strength to strength. This has not been without problems and as Gemma explained Pebbles does very little work on the gallops, and uses swimming and treadmill work for her fitness instead.
I asked Gemma how she keeps fit and as she explained riding anything from 8-12 horses a day means that she needs to do very little else, however she uses Pilates and fits in some sessions with a personal trainer.
Gemma completed her Advanced Apprenticeship in Horse Care with KEITS and she reflected on her time as an apprentice. She felt that although she had strong practical skills the apprenticeship gave her the knowledge to support those practical skills. This understanding of topics such as the skeleton allowed her to have more in depth discussions with vets and farriers. Gemma was also able to improve her Maths and English skills while working in an area she loved.
I asked Gemma for her advice for anyone hoping to make a career with horses. She said a strong work ethic is necessary, and even if everything goes wrong you need to be able to just knuckle down and keep working hard. It is very, very hard work and you have to learn to manage being tired and realise that it will all be worth it in the end. Gemma said there are many low points when working with horses – for her one of the lowest was when Kings Gem finally stayed sound and ran really well at a 4* only to come home and kick the wall in the stable and finish her career. Luckily as a mare she has the chance of a second career as a brood mare and is now scanned in foal, she has already successfully had two foals by embryo transfer.
There will be no rest for Gemma when she returns from Rio, as she is competing almost immediately. Her plans for the rest of 2016 include Chico Bella running at Blenheim, and she has three exciting young horses (Chilli’s Gem, Billy Senora and Chilli Knight) who she is aiming at the World Young Horse Championships.
I enjoyed my time as Gemma’s assessor and I am incredibly proud to see a former apprentice representing Britain at the Olympics. The whole of KEITS will be supporting her. GOOD LUCK GEMMA.
Interview by Karen Hampshire