As many of you will know, last year George’s Ranch had the honour of hosting some top talent from the world of dressage, but even we could not believe our luck when the capo di capo of dressage instructors recently came to visit – the internationally-renowned trainer Paul Fielder!
Paul is recognised as one of the most effective trainers in Europe, operating from the UK, Scandinavia and Europe. He has successfully developed the dressage careers of many young riders, making him a much sought after trainer and mentor, and we were beside ourselves when he agreed to visit George’s Ranch – thanks to a run of good luck that started last year.
It was in the summer when a fabulous training workshop run by Carl Hester protégé Amy Woodhead not only improved and inspired a number of our riders, but also helped lure the world-renowned dressage sensation Pammy Hutton to the yard while she was here on holiday. The FEI 4* international judge Peter Hansaghy also cast his expert eye over our young dressage hopefuls – both equine and human – and a great year was topped off by an old friend of George’s Ranch, the formidable Judy Bradwell who was once described as “the teacher with the Midas touch” by Eventing Magazine. She also happens to be friends with Paul.
So, it was thanks to Judy’s encouragement that Paul agreed to visit George’s Ranch late last month to assess the potential of our two young hopefuls, Butterfly and Defender. And trust me, the thought of this was as exciting as it was terrifying. Using a system of training that blends modern techniques and classical principles, Paul is very practical in his teaching, and in the 30 years he has been involved in the sport he has seen it all, which means he knows the difference between potential and ambition. Therefore, what an honour to have him assess Butterfly and Defender.
Fresh from the 2017 British Dressage Young Horse Forums – where he was a guest speaker alongside BD Training Director Paul Hayler, FEI 5* Judge and rider Isobel Wessels and the highly-respected breeder, rider and trainer, Jennie Loriston-Clarke MBE – Paul agreed to take three days out of his busy schedule to come and look at the horses.
Being quite far from the rest of Europe, I have always been aware of how big a commitment it would take to follow a path outside of Cyprus and so, after speaking to Judy, I was very keen for Paul to come and give his professional opinion so I might decide whether it was worth trying or not.
Thankfully, the professional opinion was good!
Having Paul here was an amazing experience: he was inspiring; he gave me a lot of confidence; and he was tough when he needed to be. The man definitely has a gift for explaining things so I understood him very well, and on top of that he was just a very lovely person. But of course, the icing on the cake was the news that he would be more than willing to be part of our journey.
As it stands, I am now putting together a plan of action to help me realise this dream, but I am also trying to remain realistic. There are a number of obstacles to competing outside of Cyprus, however, I like learning and learning from people with greater knowledge who have a different way of doing things, so whether it works or not I’m enjoying the process. Of course, this level of training also pays back into my business because the more I learn, the more I can pass on to my students, and I equally enjoy seeing my students learning and improving.
Whatever happens, this year promises to be both challenging and exciting, and as George’s Ranch is committed to helping improve riding across the island – and not only in our own little corner of it – we will be opening our doors, whenever feasible, to allow other riders to benefit from the expert training we are so lucky to have access to. This means that when Judy Bradwell arrives for four days in April we hope to set up a series of clinics for any dressage enthusiasts who wish to take advantage of her visit. Watch this space for details!