Sinead Halpin, member of Team Absorbine®, shared her advice for up and coming eventers. Includes the best advice she ever received, how to grow from failure, and how to always continue developing as a rider. As a top level eventer, Sinead has years of experience riding and training with the biggest names in Eventing! We were so lucky to be able to talk with her about some of her secrets to success.
Absorbine®: You yourself have said that “all great riders are lifelong students”. How do you think that your commitment to continuing your own training, especially through work with discipline specific coaches, has helped you to achieve what you have so far in your career?
Sinead: I think that taking lessons and going and riding with discipline specific coaches, as well as reading magazines or watching videos on YouTube is inspiring. I think the thing that keeps you motivated and keeps you inspired and keeps your horses happy is that yearning for knowledge and being surrounded by people that are excellent at what they do and that are excellent coaches. I’ve been very fortunate to not only have been around some great riders, but some great communicators. David and Karen O’Conner are amazing riders, but they’re also amazing communicators. So what they think and how they ride and how they feel about the horses, they are able to translate. And when they watch you ride, they are able to say that as well. So developing relationships with people like that, with people like Willian Fox-Pitt, coaches throughout the world that I can feel comfortable picking up the phone to talk to or throwing a horse in the trailer and driving over to their farm. I’ve developed a language with them that they don’t even have to teach me a forty-five minute lesson, they can say three words to me and it’s like a light bulb has gone off. I think that the constant feeling of being interested in and inspired by what’s new and what’s next and how can I do this better and having people around you who have that constant craving as well helps so much in the sport. The sport is constantly evolving and if you don’t evolve with it, you get left behind. If you don’t enjoy being involved and taking lesson and getting help to figure out what’s next, at some point you will most likely end up being left behind the curve. I really , really love my job and the horses and if I’m feeling like I’m getting into a grind, that it’s been two weeks and I’m not enjoying going to the barn every day, the first thing I do is call someone and go get a lesson. It makes it so that I can’t wait to get on that next horse and practice something new, something that I hadn’t heard before that all of a sudden made sense.
Dressage day with SW Lhittle Rascal aka “Rascal”
Absorbine®: Do you have any tips and tricks for riders starting out in Eventing? Ways to strengthen a weak discipline, strategies for the course walk, what to focus on in the start box, etc.?
Sinead: I think that what is most important is knowing yourself and the people that you need to surround yourself with to have a positive experience. By that I mean your trainer, your family, and your friends. I think that you are going to be able to gain knowledge and be safe and have fun if you surround yourself with people who are going to create that within you. Knowing yourself and being able to say out loud what you need to be safe and have fun is very important. Next is your horse selection. I think you should always have a horse that is capable of going a level above what you are going, especially when you are learning. Riding a horse that is maxed out in terms of their scope or their education while you are trying to learn makes it very difficult. You also have to be willing to learn, to put yourself out there and make mistakes so that you can continue to try again and to grow as a rider. So, my best advice would be to surround yourself with good people, ride a suitable horse, and have a positive attitude and have fun!
Sinead and Stakkato Bronx aka “Will”.
Absorbine®: Any rider who is as accomplished as you must have faced their fair share of failures and setbacks, be it a bad day in the ring, a lame horse, etc. What advice would you give to developing riders who might struggle with resilience in these situations?
Sinead: I think that adversity is what makes the strongest and the best riders the strongest and the best. Every time that something like that happens, I give myself time to be upset about it, but I have a cut off. Normally it takes me a day. With riding, upsetting things are going to happen, and if you cannot deal with it then honestly you should do something else. That may sound like harsh advice, but these things will follow you for the rest of your life. Your horses are going to get hurt, you are going to be disappointed, you are going to be left off the team, you are going to be financially stressed the majority of the time, it’s just the lifestyle. If you’re a young rider or an up-and-coming professional and those things are beating you down, and you can’t get to the other side of it, it’s not going to be a fun life. I really encourage working student programs so that people from young ages can really see what it’s like working in a barn with a professional like myself, and see it go wrong for us all of the time and recognize that you never reach a day were suddenly the sun never stops shining. It’s just not the way this life works. You just have to flip the attitude so that every time you stand back up and go back out there and try again it makes you more resilient. You are going to get stronger. You are going to get tougher. You learn to understand that it’s the nature of the game. Resilience is a muscle that you build and it gets stronger the more that you use it.
Sinead and “Tayo” schooling over fences.
Absorbine®: What was the best piece of advice you ever received about riding?
Sinead: A lot of times I go back to a conversation that I had with William , talking about Tate. William has an amazing way of seeing a horse for who they are and developing them to be the best that they can be. For him, it’s not about trying to change who the horse is, but making the best of what drives the horse and makes them happy. You get yourself into trouble when you try to change who the horse is, be it their mental state, or how they move, or their jumping technique. It’s about seeing an animal for who they are and what they are and trying to be aware of showing them how to be the best they can be, not making them be something else. That has stuck with me whenever I find myself frustrated, or putting undue pressure on myself or undue expectation on a horse. I try to take a step back and really look at every aspect of that horse from its individual personality to its conformation and then set realistic expectations for what you and that horse are capable of. It’s something that you deal with every day in training. You never want to tell a horse what it cannot do, just show them what they can do and where they can go. I’m lucky to have had that be an underlying idea with a lot of the coaches I have worked with when it comes to the question of how to train a horse.
Sinead and “Rascal” out for a hack.