Having ridden all her life, and with over 25 years working as a professional in the equine industry, Hazel offers a wealth of practical experience along with strong ethical standards. She holds her BHSAI and her UKCC Level 2, as well as a diploma in Equine Psychology.
Hazel is passionate about quality training being made available at all levels, not just to those who are privileged or gifted, and strongly believes solid foundations for horse and rider are key to ensuring progress in a safe, confident manner towards their goals.
Growing up on a dairy farm, firstly in Kent, then in Norfolk, it was clear from an early age that a career with animals would be her path in life. Learning to ride was a natural progression from the donkeys she was sat on from a young age, and family ponies followed – from the very good to the very cheeky!
Hazel’s quiet, tactful riding afforded her much success on more sensitive horses in a variety of spheres. Frequently mistaken for an event rider due to her love of flatwork, Hazel’s real passion is Showjumping, having home produced horses up to 1.25m classes in British Showjumping, and being selected to benefit from the regional training for a number of years, most recently with Donnorstorm. Her attention to detail resulted in something of a “trademark”, with all of her horses competing in snaffle bridles.
At 16 she left school to pursue a full time career with horses, gaining her BHS stage 1, 2 and 3 exams the following year. Time spent working at a variety of professional yards, including Piggy French’s original Norfolk base, offered a fantastic learning curve, whilst setting up her own yard on the family farm in Mileham.
She was soon being recommended to school, sell and compete horses on clients’ behalf, but became frustrated by the lack of understanding of both buyers and sellers. “I’d be sent horses to sell which I felt weren’t sound, or at least not comfortable” she explained. “It’s difficult at 18 or 19 to have confidence in your own opinion, and to turn people away, especially without offending them, but I didn’t want to be working those horses, it didn’t seem right, and I didn’t want to get that reputation”. With a natural thirst for knowledge, Hazel set about gaining a more scientific understanding to help her explain to owners that this wasn’t “just how the horse was” but actually a symptom of an underlying problem that required rectifying if the horse was to reach it’s potential.
“Some of the horses would be incredibly genuine, but just didn’t feel right, or ever live up to expectations, whilst others would have developed behavioral problems, or just be difficult to ride. I was never a “whacky” rider – even at 15 I always knew how I wanted my horses to go. To me, the decent riders kept a lovely rhythm all around a course, rather than the hold and fire technique that you’d see at shows. I wanted horses to go because they enjoyed their work, not because they’d got someone behind them with a lunge whip”. But it was all good experience – working with these “problem” horses gave Hazel an opportunity to develop her intuition that there is always a reason for a horses behavior. She realized that most horses going in an incorrect way did so because they struggled physically to be more orthodox. There were often little inconsistencies in their footfalls or rhythm, which were hidden by their tension and ”busy” paces. These would be very subtle, but rather than ignoring underlying issues, and ultimately leading to problems, Hazel began to search for information on training systems, (including memorably plucking up courage to pick the brains of a leading dressage trainer while waiting in the burger queue at Blenheim, much to the amusement of friends and passers by) and gaining a proper understanding of what we physically ask a horse to do when working. Her natural feel is now coupled with an (ever growing) in-depth understanding of more scientific information. Today, Hazel feels she can offer an established and logical training system allowing horses and riders to progress in a correct and confident manner, whilst ensuring her own knowledge keeps up with advancements within the equine industry .