Podcast Episode 40: Hayley Watson-Greaves - All Things Dressage
In this podcast, we speak with Hayley Watson-Greaves. Hayley is a well respected Grand Prix competitor and has a yard full of up and coming horses to develop. Hayley is trained by the highly respected, Olympic dressage rider Carl Hester and was previously trained by Olympic Rider Jane Gregory. Some of her notable achievements include World Cup Finals in Paris 2018, FEI Gold Badge, Olympia World Cup 4 years running and British Dressage Supreme National Champion in 2017.
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Welcome to this Your Riding Success episode with Hayley Watson-Graves. Hayley has competed very successfully in a number of disciplines and apart of many teams winning both Gold individual and team medals. She is fortunate to be trained by highly respected, Olympic dressage rider Carl Hester for the past 12 years and was previously trained by Olympic Rider Jane Gregory. Some of her notable achievements include World Cup Finals Paris 2018, FEI Gold Badge, Olympia World Cup 4 years running and British Dressage Supreme National Champion in 2017. Hayley is a successful Grand Prix competitor and has a yard of top class Warmbloods from 3 years old upwards that have all been trained by her from the beginning. Here's Hayley to share her story. Here's Hayley to share her amazing story.
New Speaker (00:00:44):
Welcome to your writing success podcast. My name is Natasha Althoff and I'm Grand Prix dressage rider from Australia, author of three books and a leading online trainer of riders all around the world, wanting to take their riding to the next level. I'm also a shopaholic mother of two amazing children, and obsessed with helping riders to be all they can be. Each week I'm going to bringing you stories of inspiration, ideas, and strategies of how to make real progress in your riding and give you actionable advice on overcoming riding fear and anxiety so you can take your riding to the next level and be the rider you dream to be. So let's get into today's episode.
New Speaker (00:01:20):
So let's get started. You have done everything in the riding world. So tell us how you got started and how you got involved with horses and a little bit of what your early horse life looked like?
I think my parents were quite into animals and horses. Um, so I guess I've been around them all my life. Um, I started off as probably a lot of people did as a, at a riding school, uh, used to go after, um, school to have lessons on some crazy little ponies and, uh, yeah, so it sort of really started from there. Um, and then I just, I loved horses. I loved being around them. Um, and my parents always said to me, I had to work hard to, you know, if I wanted to be involved with horses, had to work hard. So, uh, yeah, I, you know, it was super, super keen, um, yeah and to develop from there really. So that's my very, very early, early start and then slowly progressed and, uh, mum and dad bought me a pony when I was about eight years old. Um, there's was a naughty little what's it used to tank off with me, used to jump the first cross country fence, turn around and Gallop back to the trailers, um, fell off him numerous times can stop him, everything else. So she did. So I learned the hard way how to ride and hold on. I think the main thing. Um, yeah, so yeah, kind of all started there..
I have a theory. I've been having a lot of conversations with the amazing riders just like yourself and the more amazing the rider is, the naughtier the pony they had at the start. It appears I'm seeing it's complete correlation it hilarious.
Sounds about right, yes. Teaches you how to stay grounded. And sometimes it's actually literally grounded on the floor. Just get back on again. So yeah, that's always the motto that you fall off and get straight back over again. So yeah,
Perfect. So, your age, you've got your pony, everything's going great. Do you even know that competition's existed? Did you want to be an Olympian when you grew up or were you just like, I want to go fast. I just want to ride, I just want to be with my pony.
I think at the very start I was just wanting to be with my pony, but I am a crazy driven person. Um, I do like to have goals and aspirations, so I guess as I started competing and action.
Um, I was always really driven and had aspirations to do well in life and um, yeah, when I started competing and being really successful competing. Um, yeah. I then started thinking actually, this is what it wants to do and I want to be an Olympian, I want to ride at Badminton um, horse trials eventing, and really sort of spurred all that.
How old were you?
New Speaker (00:04:22):
Uh, probably about 12, possibly a bit younger actually. No, it might have been 11, 10, 11. Yeah. As I write this, I have pictures
I love it and those jumps must have been so big when you were 11 literally looking up.
Yeah. I think even the jumps I did at that age, um, because I did like senior veenting trials, which the jump's there were three foot six, and I was still really small on my little pony and I did actually win a senior eventing trials and even then the jumps were huge. So yeah. I was quite used to it. It's um, yeah, that was my aspiration that changed it after a while. So yeah. To dressage.
So how did that change? If you've got Badminton, I'm going to become an eventer I'm going to rock and roll. What happened?
Oh, I just wasn't brave enough I think. I um. Yeah. I had a couple of quite bad falls and um, to be honest, I was said my pain, he was so good at jumping. This is a different pony, not the first little thing that I started off with. Um, but yeah, he was just amazing at jumping. Um, my mum and dad said to me, you know, if you want to win, you're going to have to get some dressage lessons because you know, you can't win just on the jumping. Um, but I'm, to be honest, the pony that I had, who was a star jumper, I couldn't get him on the bit. So I was going around this dressage test eating his ears pretty much. I was thinking I was doing the right thing. And then mom and dad thinking, you're pretty
Good. Yeah, I did. Yeah.
Yeah. So look at me. I can't stop, but we'll just go around this ring. Didn't have a clue. Um, but yeah, I got a few dressage lessons and uh, yeah, I mean, not really, really paid off I learnt how to get my pony on the bit and ride accurately. And um, yeah, and for me, dressage sort of became a bit of a puzzle and I love puzzles as a kid. So I've got some, I was really good at jigsaw puzzles and things that lots of working things out. Um, so yeah, I think it, just, to me, it was a puzzle and you had to sort of find all the pieces to make the picture perfect. And that was kind of, I got a bit addicted to it. I have to say so. Right.
I love it. So, and I'd love the, I use the puzzle analogy a lot when I talk about dressage as well and what I say is when I started dressage, I don't know if it was for you, but I thought the puzzle had eight pieces. So it was a pretty small puzzle, maybe grew to 50, a hundred. And now I think it's like a million piece puzzle and I've only filled out 10 of them.
New Speaker (00:07:03):
Definitely. You're always learning. You're always sort of play these pieces. Every horse is so different that you have to find a different puzzle for them. Uh, yeah, no puzzle is the same,
More fun. So are you a patient person because you said you liked doing puzzles as a kid and I did not like doing puzzles, and I'm not patient. Like I'm like what, can't find a piece and off I'll walk. Um, bit more patient and a bit more methodical. And you, you really do enjoy that part of the puzzle.
New Speaker (00:07:37):
Yeah. I think I, I definitely do have patience, um, which is what I feel, um, I need, especially around horses. Um, we need to sort of keep stepping back and reassessing, you know, why isn't this method working for this horse and be very open-minded and yeah, so I would say I'm quite a patient person.
And are you also, I find, um, dressage riders in particular, they tend to be very, um, like type a personalities, very perfectionistic. Everything needs to be in the right place at the right time with the right thing. And is that you as well, or are you a little bit, yeah she'll be right.
I think I'm a little bit of both actually. I'm not too, uh, too much of a perfectionist that it rules my life, if that makes sense. Um, I do like to have a bit of a relaxed side to it as well, because I feel for me it would lose the enjoyment if I was like, you know, every little bit of hair needs to be in exactly the right place. And, um, so yeah, I've kind of, I think I've got a nice balance of the both actually being, being a bit of a perfectionist, but also having a bit of a laid back side and saying, you know, and I think, I think that's side, Um, yeah, uh, laid back side to it, to me that I, um, you know, can, can sort of reassess and say it's okay, don't worry. Know if it doesn't happen today. There's always some other day and yeah. So
I love it. Okay. So, um, you, uh, have been trained by Carl Hester for many years.
New Speaker (00:09:22):
Yes. I have yeah.
And you previously trained by JaneGregory and Adam Kemp amongst other trainers. So what's your biggest philosophy in training. And was there something that you believed earlier that you now don't believe or you, you learned? Like, I think back when I was learning, and then I remember the first time someone told me, you turn with an outside rain, I was like, no. And this whole concept of an outside rein in a and shoulder control, I was like, what. Do you want to talk for people that are going through that dressage journey and this, this whole discovery of more puzzles? Um, just what your trainers kind of helped you along with?
Yeah, I think, um, so Adam Kemp was really, really early days, uh, when I had the ponies. Um, think I just, uh, I'll just quickly talk through how I sort of came to train with Carl, what have you, um, Jane, Jane Gregory was a massive influence in my life. So when I was, uh, 13, 14, every school holiday, like summer, winter, every half term, I was up there at her yard with my pony working as a group, um, having lessons sitting on her, some of her school masters, just walking her Olympic horse off. That is why, you know, I remember that moment when she said, can you walk, can you get on a, uh, Capito and just walk him off from me? And I was like, my eyes.
I just sat there like a pee on a drug, just like, ah, I don't know what to do. Um, so yeah, I mean, she taught me, uh, like hard work and, um, you know, patience with the horses and also to, uh, build up a relationship with them on the ground as well as when you're on them and that's vitally important. So I think that's something that's really, really stuck with me, um, through all these years is that, you know, it's not just about when you're riding the horse. It's about the relationship you have with them and the respect between each other, between you and the horse on the ground, as well as when you're on board. And it does translate quite a lot. So I think that's pretty important and what I learned from her quite a lot. Um, yeah. And then, um, Jane moved a bit further away from me and unfortunately she passed away a few years after I started training with her.
That was when I was in horses and then I moved on managed to get lessons from Carl, so I haven't looked back. But, um, yeah, I mean that, I've learned something different from all the people I've trained with and I've never sort of squashed any of it. So I've never said, Oh, you know, that's, that's not why, you know, that's not what I know, Mary, you know, I think you have to be very open-minded and everybody's trying to get to the same point of the mindset that everybody's just got a slightly different way of doing it or the peak of the mindset. Um, yeah, everybody's got a slight, slight different, a slight different way of doing it. So I think it's important to take little bits and actually learns from it and develop it. And yes, you might find that, that you turn more from the outside rein than the inside rein. Um, but why is that, you know, you've got to then think it's not like turning a motorbike or a bicycle it's, it's about actually wrapping the horse around your inside leg. Like, and so it's sort of developing on these things that you learned.
So did you find with Carl, that it was just developing on things you learned or were you, is there something that stands out? They were like, Oh, you like really mean that it's a directive rather than an absolute yeah.
I mean it definitely. Yeah. Um, I just learned more and more from Carl. I just remember the very, very first lesson I had with him. I have the, so this is moving into horses with like really fast trapper journey. Uh, he, the whole cyborg was four years old. He was as naughty as sin. And, um, at the start and the very first lesson I had with Carl, it was pretty much galloping round round the arena, getting the horse in front of my leg.
I was like, Oh my goodness. This is like the biggest revelation ever is to get the horse forward. And it was, yeah. One of those sort of standouts, not the best lesson because I had to watch my mirrors and, um, uh, but yeah, it was, uh, it was definitely a lesson that's kind of ingrained, ingrained to me now. And I, uh, you know, see a lot of lazy horses and now I have to get them a bit sharper. So just by a bit of [inaudible],
I absolutely love it. Okay. So I don't know where we're at in your journey so just take us back to that point. Um, maybe like your, your first, uh, idea of a Grand Prix test and what kind of horse you had at the time and, and your first journey towards Grand Prix with that particular horse.
Okay, so there's um, right. So the four year old horse I spoke about with Carl, when I started training with Carl, um, he moved, uh, like a poker pony. We used to call him, um, uh, but he said, you know, this will be your horse that you'll take to Grand Prix, you know, your first grand Prix horse cause he was pretty trainable. And, you know, he was, um, eventually as he started going forward.
He was, he was good. So yeah, I started training him and uh, yeah, it's amazing. Um, so training up to that, the grand Prix level, and I actually sort of forced a couple of youngsters coming along behind him, which I use, I trained as well. And yeah, I did my first grand Prix, um, probably got over 60%, just other,
Did you cry? How did it feel because how many years had you been working towards, like you were 11 when you kind of got the first idea of it?
I actually then did pony, I competed I did a lot of, um, sort of top level competition on my pony that Jane breed helped me or Jane Gregory helped me train up to the age of 16 and I was reserved for the European pony team, uh, just missed out, but I am like miss reserve, I think I missed back up. Yeah. And then I actually, I actually gave up for a couple of years, um, and traveled Australia.
Oh, tell me about this. So firstly, for people, like what, what initiated the giving up? Was it maybe I'm not that into it as I thought I was and I want to really adventure and see, see who I am. Was it a self discovery or, yeah, I think,
But I actually, so I mean, it'd been quite high pressured because I was, I was at school and then I was competing ponies and yeah, it's quite high level. So it was quite for a young person. There was quite a lot to do plus sort of working for Jane as well, then the school holidays. So I never really got too much of a breather. Um, and then, uh, we bought a four year old mare who was a complete and utter kie bag, shall we say? And at the end he just sort of 16, this was meant to be my new junior, my next junior horse. And I was just like, you know, I just, it just wasn't going to be, um, and I wanted to do my A levels at school and I met my now husband, uh, at school as well, so I guess boys..
So that's, so once I left school, um, my husband and his family immigrated to Australia and you went, let's go for the ride. And I went and traveled, traveled with him around Australia for a couple of years. Um, which I have to say was the best, the best thing, just to have a break and actually reassess them, realize that it made me realize that I did really want to get back into the horses and I did want to get on the Olympic team and compete at the Olympics and be very successful in what I was doing. So yeah, it kind of, it was a great like press refresh button and I get going again and I was a bit more mature then. So I really had, you know, knew what I wanted to do. And it was my sort of own decisions do that, which was even better. So.
Okay. So then you got the four year old and you're like, I'm going to train it to Grand Prix. So I, what age were you again?
I must've been 22. Yep.
And then you did your first grand Prix?
I did my first grand Prix at the age of 20. I think it was about25,26.
Oh, I know, just when I was young and I'm still young,
Uh, only like five years ago.
Yeah I was just going to say I'm never going to ask what year it was. So it's just, you consistently, you can get older. We'll just say two years ago..
Is that sort of, yeah, but yeah, it was over 10 year ago and I did my first Grand prix.
And was that the start of the end? Was that like, Oh, this is so fun. There's 15 ones and skipping, I'm trotting on the spot. I'm doing cool stuff. Let's get set up.
Exactly. Right. I just want to get my horses to Grand Prix and you know, I want to scout the international stage and everything else. Um, so yeah, I mean, there's a bit of luck that I came across my top horse, so yeah. It's um, so, but by the time my top horse had come up through the levels, so I trained sort of three and then plus my top four to Grand Prix so I've done three horses, but they were only sort of capable of reaching some national competition. They weren't sort of capable of going any further as in the international circuit, so yeah.
Yeah. Okay. Do you know your top horse was your top horse when you met him or her or what?
Not at all.
Yeah, I love it.
He was two years old in a field. Um, I called him a bit of a rescue because I'd bought sort of horses, um, to buy and sell to sort of like make some money so I could buy another horse.
Gotta make some money somehow. It just doesn't drop from the sky unfortunately. Yeah. I actually went to see him and, and in the meantime I bought another one I saw I can't afford to, so I kind of left him and then I got phone calls a few months later saying, you know, the owners, um, don't want to pay me the livery. Will you pay me what they owe me and you can have them. And I was like, otherwise, you know, I dunno what I'm going to do with it, but it could be put down or whatever. So I was like, yeah, well I'll have him. So I, um, didn't pay very much for him, brought him home. I saw it when I can bring him on and sell it, make money. Um, yeah, I did actually advertise him for sale and then I was like, God, he's the sharpest as shit. We can't really sell. Um, so yeah, a couple of people came to try himand then I was like, no, I, I just can't, I I've got to keep him and me and him just build some bonds. I mean, he just absolutely loved me, followed me everywhere. He was very insecure. So it was really nice to kind of, again, building that bond up from the ground. And, um, yeah.
So you then did your first international with him?
With him? Yes. Yes.
That's another crying moment. Did you cry at that moment?
Probably. To be honest I'm not really a crying person, I just, I do get quite like excited in myself and I just have this big smile and cheeks like, cause I like her. Um, but, uh, yeah, there is, it was amazing. I just, you know, when I did the small tour international, I was like, right, okay, next thing's big tour. Um, and it actually, um, it, it all that developed really, really quickly, um, with him. So I was kind of like rushed, not rushed is the wrong word. It, it just felt like a bit of a whirlwind. It was like, I was like, well, this horse has international potential, grand Prix potential, team potential. And I was like, Oh my goodness, this is what I really want. This is my dream. Are we really going to get there. And he was like, right, you have to get on the world class program because he's got amazing potential to get on these teams and we have to get you the support and yeah, it just absolutely snowballed from there really and it was. Yeah. So I did my first international grand Prix in this country, in the UK. And then, um, I did my first abroad international in Barcelona, which is probably the furthest point in Europe.
But it's nice and sunny. It's lovely.
Lovely. Yeah. Brilliant. So there is a two week long show, three days to get there because I traveled around in a trailer at that point. I mean, you know, I was kind of doing it all on a shoestring and um, the Carl and to Caroline had said, Oh, you know, from the world-class it's such, you know, you've got to, you've got to get lorrie cause going to have to stay somewhere if you want to do these international competitions, I was like, Oh crap. So I had to take my HDB say, buy a lorrie and then within like a couple of weeks, I was driving down to Barcelona.
And what does your partner do? Does he have the ability to take off work and come with you? Or is he nine to five?
Um, I had a friend come along with me. She'd been sort of, uh, helped me out with horses. So that was nice that she got like nice free, free holiday trip and helped me with no, my husband runs a printing company, run a printing company. So he does that.
Yeah. I mean, you're like, Oh, I'm just off to Barcelona have fun.
It's funny cause I see as a progressive, these realized that I'd been going away a bit, then he's like, Oh yeah, I'll come with you on that one. So going to like Doha in Qatar and I'm going to Palmer to Mallorca the size, the Ireland or Spain and Australia, you know, he was like, yeah, I'll come.
Love it. Okay. So what year was your first international grand prix?
25th. Oh, so 2014 was my first year of international Grand Prix in this country and then the going abroad was 2015.
Okay. So you're like, I'm assuming 2016. Um, that's my that's when I finally resolved my childhood ambition. I'm very much looking forward to it.
We know our horses. It's just always a straight line between here and where we want to go. And it always goes magically perfect. Yeah. Tell me, um, how the 2016 year started and what involved, what happened in that year?
It was so many shows. It was crazy. Cause I mean, I was on the, I was on the long list for the Olympics, so we had to get a certain amount of shows in before the 2016 Olympics and yeah, it was pretty crazy and I was, um, it was slightly frustrating because, uh, I'd actually the first international I did in Europe, Barcelona where I actually won the freestyle. So I was like, wow, like, you know, first show, how does it happen?
Yeah. Yeah. That's how it goes.
Yeah. It was, it was great. Uh, the sort of development, there's a lot of pressure, you know, to, to get the scores. And my scores were a little bit under parts, the off, and then they picked up again. I sort, gosh, have I peaked too early? And um, yeah. And then it was sort of coming because we don't have a selection trial. So it is literally just, you know, during the competitions and trying to get as good as scores as possible and be consistent and to be fair, we were consistent with a few sort of highest scores, you know, mixed in the, in and out. So, um, yeah, so it was quite, it was quite a fun year. It was just very, very busy because I was competing once or twice a month abroad. But as much as I could to get my scores up.
Were you riding any other horses at the time or was it just focusing on this one horse and this one dream or were you trying to actually do life?
Oh, to do life as well? Yeah. So, Doing a lot of teaching still. Um, I had my others at home, so younger ones on my actual national Grand Prix horses at home as well. So having to keep them because I don't have a rider. So I am, I mean, I'm lucky now I've got a rider, riding my youngsters now, but um, yeah, I didn't have a rider at the time, so I was having to try and do everything and fit everything in. And so yeah, it was pretty crazy, but you know, you've got to work hard to get there and it's a, yeah.
So let's talk about, talk about the 16 games. People might not know what happened. Right. Talk us through your emotions through that.
Yeah. So I mean, I, I knew you have an idea of who's going to be selecting the teams. Um, um, I kind of, I saw go and gotta be way down the line and what have you. Um, but yeah, no, I got phone call. I was in Austria competing because it was after the selection date and he said, Oh, you're a good, she was all chef to keep that. And he said, you know, your non traveling reserve and I was like. So I was reserve for the Olympics. I was so you know, that was just for me, although I didn't quite make the team. It was so like amazing to even be sort of at that high up and considered for it. Um, yeah. So, uh, yeah, pretty shocked and excited as well. And um, but it did mean that we had to hold on.
Like we had to pack as if we were going get everything prepared as if we're going to train as if we were going, because up until that D day up until the very, very last flight, I could have we got called up at any minute so we were preparing for the Olympics. Um, yeah. So, I mean, unfortunately I didn't get to take squeak over. Um, but I did get to go over as part of an ambition and athletes ambition program. So I got to experience it as well. So which then of course made me want to even more, I'm just like, right. Yeah.
Yeah, like was there a cycle. Like I can't imagine the psychological, I have to kind of trick myself that we are going to give it my hundred percent and to push and fight and to just, you know, cause I gotta be ready. And then that 12 hours of our, yeah,
Because you do build yourself up to, you know, you have to get yourself in sort of competition mindset, you know, you have to be prepared as well. Um, but you know, I di I guess this is where my slight sort of relaxed side concern where I'm like, you know, you kind of build up and, you know, the perfectionist side, the driven side, and then you're like, okay, I need to, yeah, you do need to sort of that day, just to kind of reassess the, sort of bring you down a little bit and reset and say, well, you know, I was, I was bloody close.
Exactly and angry now. Not angry, I don't think that's the right word. Ferociousness, driven. So you're at the games and like isn't this just lovely and can't wait until 2020. Were you thinking 2020? Did, was it going to be that horse? Are you thinking a young one? Did you also have 2018 in your mind? What goes on in your planning for the goals and what has to happen? It's not just you wake up one day and go, I'll go to the Olympics tomorrow. You need a plan and a big kind of a five, 10 year goals that you've got to put in with animals that hurt and do stupid things because they're stupid sometimes. If you can talk through how you try and manage that and what you were thinking at 16 in terms of 18 and 20?
Yeah. So after 2016 I mean, the drive for the Olympics was still 110%. Right. You know, this is what I ultimate goal. I think that is, you know, to the point. Um, but also, you know, in between you've got other competitions that I always wanted to do the world cup series and gets to the finals at the world cup and there's the Europeans and The World Equestrian Games and other things to plan for so I guess, you know, although your sort of ultimate goal is the Olympics. You also have to sort of think about the next year. Cause like you said, horses, the horses and they do silly things sometimes and you think, Oh, you know, and um, yeah. So I guess that's what aim for, and in 2017 I actually just gunned it for the world cup series because the program I wanted to do the Europeans and the world cup season is it's really difficult to run one horse at that.
Aw, that's really, really hard.
Do you know, the world cup series was so hard because you're chasing points and training in the winter, the snow. And I mean, I'm not, you know, I have an outdoor school, so it was freezing sometimes. So I mean Rubin's light would be out there in like winter rugs, just, you know, just trying to keep him exercised. Um, so that was really, really hard, but amazing. And I got there and I was like right.
Uh, it was incredible, um, you know, competing in Paris and yeah, just being part of the world cup finals is just amazing. So.
Alright. And then were we aiming for that 17? Where are we aiming for 18?
18 was the uh, World Equestrian's. Yeah. Yeah. So then yeah, the next sort of focus was on World Equestrian Games so although I'd done the world cup, cause the Paris world cup finals was, uh, April, 2018. It kind of runs quite close towards that. So then we had to just take a little bit of a breather cause we'd had quite a busy winter and just do a few shows up for the World Equestrian Games, um, which I'm fortunate like that hadn't done it. I couldn't do enough, um, to get the qualify, you know, to get sort of teams based. So that was fine. Um, yeah. So then the next one was the Europeans and I was like, right. I'm gunning for the Europeans, which has, which was the 2019.
Um, So I made a decision to either do the world's cup, either do the World Cup competition or go over to Qatar in Doha. And I went over to Qatar and we did. Yeah, well, I've been there. I think that was my third time. Cause I just loved it. It was incredible. And um, yeah, I finished my grand Prix, did the freestyle the next day. And then my beautiful horse was seen bolting was no bride on. So after I did the freestyle, I was being interviewed. So, um, my husband, because my husband came over as far as my grom, um, they were just, he was quite happy in the warmup, just being held and giving treats and he shook his head fly bell came off, he freaked galloped and fell over a couple of times and luckily get it back to me find his mommy.
Yeah mommy I got a fright.
It was very much like that. It was like ah you silly boy, but no didn't well, luckily he, um, there was nothing serious, so it was just like bruised, bruised muscles and uh, like skin burns cause he'd fallen over on the rubber mat. Um, but apart from that, my God, he got off unscathed. I was lucky. And then of course we had to fly out the next day. I think it was in the evening. Um, so he had to be fit to fly cause if he wasn't was would have been staying there for another four months because there wasn't another flight.
Yeah. He was very, very lucky. So that kind of wrote out a little bit of 2019.
Like were you still thinking 2020 for him?
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I thought, well, you know, he only did two shows in 2019, um, in this country two international shows and absolutely blasted it. He just, it was incredible. We were second at hartbury International freestyle to Charlotte Dujardin and uh, yeah, he was amazing. Um, the two shows he did. Um, and then, and then yeah, he got an eye ulcer also in his eye and it was like, okay, we'll just write this year off and then crack on for 2020. So that was the aim.
And how were you gearing up in, did you compete in, so February March, was there any early indications for how your, how you were traveling for 2020?
Well, so we were meant to be competing early March, but cause it was locked down. So I have my competition plan for the year and I had sort of a glass and then obviously the lovely COVID hit so yeah, nothing's been happening.
So how did you keep momentum and, and focus? Um, and how were you still doing that? I assume you're still aiming for 2021 then. How did you keep that going? That focus still and, and that, that energy.
Yeah. Well, um, it's quite nice to be at home actually and, and sort of train a little bit, although obviously missing out on competitions and everything else is frustrating, but it was quite, um, so getting a bit twitch now what's going that, but you know, it's quite nice to kind of refocus, um, just gave him a little bit of a breather and then I actually started doing some training videos, um, through lock down because I thought, well, I want to try and give something back. So I just took like a few like little training videos and people loved them and it was keeping the horses occupied. It's giving them something different, you know, they're like being dressed up in their, you know, matching boots and everything else. Um, you know, and they were having a bit of fun and I was having fun with it as well. So that's kind of how we started off keeping the focus. And then yeah. Now it's, it's just sort of, it's, it's harder with the, the grand Prix horses, obviously, because you just got to keep them fit and mentally, you know, interested and everything else. You can't just drill them Grand Prix movements all the time. So, um, yeah, it's, you know, taking them out to different, um, arena hires and um, yeah, just trying to conjure up different things for them really.
You mentioned earlier, and I wanted to make sure that I remembered to come back to it. Um, you mentioned that you've learned from a very early on in your training, how important the partnership was and having that on the ground training. Can you speak more about what you do about that and how you focus on that only with young ones and then that takes it through and yes just a little bit more?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don't do, uh, like in hand work so to speak, but I think it's, it all starts in the, um, stable, I mean, there's just that line of respect. Um, just little things like, you know, when you went to the stable you ask them to go back and they stepped back and um, you know, do carrot stretches with them, you know, scratch them, uh, you know, massage them and just sort of actually be with them and spend time with them and build. And also you get to know their personality as well. I find it like you would spend a bit of time with them on the ground. Um, with the youngsters, I do quite a bit of loose schooling when I start them off. Um, and actually I did with the old one, uh, Ruben slice. I don't, because he he's a bit crazy, so I lose lunge, them without a lunge line and, um, we do transitions, so they will stay around me and then they followed me around the arena, chase loss, and then they come back and it just little things to that just to build up a bit of a rapport with them.
Um, so yeah, and I think that's, you know, they know, like I know if they've been getting away with something in the stable, like if they've been a bit cheeky or something. Cause when I ride, you know, Greenville, um, cause when I ride them there, then a bit cheeky. Yeah. Hang on a second what are you doing. It's, it's really, I find it fascinating. I really do. And I think it's really important to know their personalities as well because everyone is different and there needs to be, they need to be trained and um, you know, communicated to, uh, in a different way. You know, they're not all the same.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So when you think back to all your achievements and gosh, there's been so many, do you have a favorite?
Uh, I think I have, um, a couple of favorites is winningmy International in Barcelona, um, competing in the World Cup finals and being reserve for the Rio Olympics. Um, there's a lot of people that would love to even be that close. So I just feel very, very lucky. Um, I also received my FEI gold badge. Um, yeah. And a CDI is top level. Um, yeah, so I th I can't really pinpoint one if I'm honest. So I've just been very, very lucky and fortunate to be able to get to where I have and have an absolute, super horse to do that with. So, yeah. And I hope I've got many more in the yard, the youngsters coming up and I'm really excited by them as well. So I just hope we can continue on. So yeah.
And I know I asked, did you know it was a top horse and you said, absolutely not. It was a two year. I would've thought of that. When did you, was it you that thought, Oh, hang on. Or was it Carl first? Was he four? Was he six? What was the defining, would you remember a defining moment where you went, Whoa. He learned that quick or he's good at that.
Yeah. So I think it was, um, so Carl didn't actually see him really until he was seven. All right. Yeah. Cause I, I mean, I do like to try and train myself as well, so I'll have the lessons on the more advanced horses, but, um, you know, I like to work out. Yeah. I guess when I, I mean, he was just so trainable and actually he probably could have been at grand Prix at seven years old because he just had the mind for it. Um, and I remember I was trotting along in his little like poke pony trot. His extended trot was just flicking his toes out and I was like, okay. Whereas now when you see it, I mean, anybody knows Ruben smile know that's the sort of path. Um, I just, I was trying to just squeeze them as well, like gently. And he did two passage steps and I was like, mom come and have a look at this. So I did, I couldn't believe it. I was like the defining moment.
For everyone that can't see your face, Hayley's face just lit up . And like, I'm back in that moment. God, that would have been such a cool moment.
Yeah. Yeah. And although I felt passage before my others, that was something that me being young and, and just, you know, you ask and he was like, yeah. Okay. And I go, have you read it? Yeah. I mean, from there I was like, right. Yeah, this horse is pretty special. He just has that head brain on him. Yeah. And even though now.
I love it. Um, do you have any others that you're excited about?
Yeah I've got an eight year old I'm currently training up towards Inter 2 Level. Um, he'll be at Grand Prix next year. Uh, he's a bit, he's completely different. Ruben's like, he's quite the laid back dude. Um, and he's got what I would call my fun horse. Like he just, you know, you could do anything with him. He just, you know, he's, he's brilliant. I've got a six year old, um, and a four year old I'm very, very excited to buy it. Um, yeah. My, my four year old, I love my six year olds to pieces, but my four year old just gives me goosebumps every time I see him trot. I'm just like, I just, yeah. Like just love seeing him. It's it's amazing. So yeah, I hope he'll really follows in the footsteps along with the other two as well. So yeah.
I love it. Where do you, where do you find these horses? You're obviously not buying ready-made grand Prix horses. You're buying the young ones and you're doing all the work yourself. So, um, do you, do you have a particular bloodline that you like to look at or do you just, you don't even care. Don't even show me the papers. I'm just going to look at in front of me. What's your strategy? Cause I have a very bad buying horse strategy, I pick the black one.
I don't go for particular bloodlines, but there is bloodlines I do have a lead with a passionate, but that's just personal taste. I always buy stallions or geldings, I don't tend to buy mares so that narrows it down a little bit. Although, I will, I will try a mare again I just prefer geldings and stallions.
Just back to the junior horse. This junior horse really. Was she chesnut?
Well, she, was four years old and a witch. No she was light bay.
No markings on her. So yeah. I was like, yeah, no she, yeah, but she has. Yeah. So it all relates back.
I love it.
I ride other people's mares and I train mares and they're lovely. You know, when you've got a good one that's fantastic. And so I may do one day, but yeah, at the moment, no. Um, but yeah, no, I tend to carry forward. So obviously I look at that movement, but for me it's also the, um, interaction with humans.
So some horses are quite aloof and uh, when you watch them on the video, and some horses have a lot of presence and then they come in and say, hello, but like not run the person over that's videoing them, but they actually come in and say, what are you doing? And I liked that a lot. Um, and I do sort of, um, I mean I try and buy in this country if I can. So my four year old and, uh, Ruben slides are from, uh, born in Britain. Um, and then the other two were from Holland. So yeah, but there's mainly, yeah. I mean, I bought two from a video and, um, which was a huge, huge risk, but luckily, it worked out alright. But yeah. So yeah.
Do you find it hard? Like you said, you bought from a video and you kind of did just cross your fingers. Is that what you have to do?
Really hard. Yeah. I mean that, the pure reason was I just couldn't get over it. This was few years ago now when I bought my eight year old who's coming up to Inter 2. Yeah. And I just, I just loved them. I was like, you know, I'll take him because he wasn't too much money. I was like, yeah, let's take the punt on him. And uh, yeah. And so yeah, you do go, I'll read and fingers crossed to go, have I made the right decision? What have I done? Um, but yeah.
Yeah. Thanks so much for sharing. I think every person who puts money down and buys a horse, we all have the same thought, oh what have I done, have I made the right decision.
Is that the right horse for me. What am I doing?
It's a partner. It's a husband. It's not a husband, but it's a partner. And normally we date well years on end to check that's the right partner. With a horse. We get one, maybe two.
Normally it's, you know, you sit at the yard, there's less of a light settled in. Then when you get it back, it's like a roaring dragon and then you're like, well, I just bought because I buy them as two and three-year-olds.
You can't even sit on them sometimes.
So you just have to go from the sort of paces and the personality. So yeah
Well it turned out alright for you.
If you're doing it though.
I know. I know. Okay. What about, um, what's been your most disappointing moment or your biggest low, where you went, Oh, this is going to take me a couple of days to get back from.
I know you asked me this question, but I just, I can't think of anything in particular, apart from sort of incident in Doha, which is most recent ones. Um, because I mean, we didn't talk about it, like me, me and my groom and my husband didn't really talk about the incident after it happened, because I think we were all in shock and like what disaster it could have turned that, I mean, it was still off for like eight weeks, but bloody hell were we lucky? Um, and I think, yeah, I mean, any sort of let you know if I've had a not so good ride or anything else, I try and not, well, I I've got a 10 minute rule, which is your life, like have a, have a rant abot it. You need 10 minutes ranting, and then you have to shut up.
You're dood. I give myself an hour, 10 minutes
10 minutes is fine. Well, this is when we're like on the teams and things as well. So when you went to your teammates, you don't tend to say much to my teammates. If I've had lots of good ride or anybody, I'll take myself into my lorrie and I like to cry, I might cry. Um, or I write it down, like my feelings and I'll just be like, okay, well, why didn't it go? Well, you know, things in my head never to be read again, walk out, start again. That's my kind of little competition message. Yeah. Yeah. My mom's brilliant because I can, if I do need to rant to somebody, I just pick up the phone. It either went really well or didn't do well.
That's great philosophy. Awesome. And do you ever get nervous when you compete?
Your balance of I've got to get it perfect, but it really doesn't really mean too much. And if you've got that balance, right. There's nothing really.
Yeah. I mean, I think when I go into the arena because people often ask me, you know what I think when I go into arena, it's just me and my horse, you know, I, I'm going to try it. I'm going to do the best I can and do it to the best of my ability. I'm not going to flunk it on purpose or anything like that, you know, compete and potentially win. Um, but yeah,
You're only going to win and do your best when you're relaxed and enjoying it.
Yeah. So read you like a book and be like also stays in something as simple as going into canter and it'll start doing something else because it won't read you properly. So, yeah.
That's it. Um, do you have a piece of advice that you live by or a quote that you are always known for saying?
Yeah, my biggest thing, and this is me and my students is that less is more. I seesSo far, too many times. You know, you're asking for a basic transition, they're doing 101 things, or you can think yourself, am I doing this using the horse? And I think actually if you just peeled it back and do a little bit less, your, you can then expect or have more from your horse, don't bombard them with too many aids or come out with, well, yeah, definitely. So less is more as my little quote.
No, that's perfect advice. Have you heard of the 80 20 rule?
Yes. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. And that's, that does, I've heard of it, uh, quite quite a couple of times, but I've just gone back into reading all the books and I'm like, ah, like that 20% of what I do could be 80% of what the horse gives me 80% of everything that principle in action.
And if you do too much confuse the hell out of the horse and find yourself sometimes because what am I doing? Riding a shoulder-in or a half pass or something, it's like I said, I bought 80, use it while I'm doing this. There's this peel it back uncomplicating.
And you're offering online virtual lessons and freestyle floor plan's. So tell me about this freestyle floor plans. If you won your first freestyle, are you a dancer? Do you have a musical background or what's going on?
I enjoy music? I I'm learning to play the piano again. Um, for many year's um, yeah, my brother's pretty musical as well. Um, yeah, so we've always been brought up with music in the family and um, freestyle I love dancing. Um, I would like to, you know, would have back in the day, like to have been a dancer.
So I did like a little mini dancing with the stars type thing for a local charity many years, and I loved it, but definitely not a dance dancing on the horse. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Um, yeah, I actually started the online, um, online business back in January, 2019. So before this COVID stuff hit and it was just to allow people, access to have lessons and obviously, uh, you know, develop their floor plans and, and, um, you know, do video assessments and things. So then obviously when this year hit, uh, it became really, really popular. Like I'd already set it up and I'd already done the trials of which works better and systems and everything else. Um, so yeah, it's been really popular and it means I can teach around the world. Like I used to come over to Australia to teach how can just teach from my office.
So yeah, the floor plan is I just, I find it really interesting. I love coming up with patterns and you have to communicate with the rider and they want the horse is good at as well. Yeah. You have to think about, so it's like, you know, you do have to find out a few things about the horse and the rider and you know, sometimes they send me a video of them actually riding. Okay. Yeah. Then you make a floor plan to suit.
And do you do the music or do you have someone that you partner with?
I used to, well, I used to do the music many years ago, my own music. Um, and I did for a few years until Carl told me to get to a professionals, to do your music. If you're going to the Olympics, you gotta have to. Okay. So yeah, no, I worked with a local guy who doesn't live too far away, so that's great. And he's done my, um, compositions for Rubin the last few times, so, yeah.
Super. And, um, you mentioned you're a gorgeous husband that you met when you were still at school. I met my husband when I was in school. So have you, have you found it hard balancing life and the Olympics and is there any other goals you haven't said. You said that you've started playing the piano again? Do you ever get frustrated that there's more, you want to do, trying to fit it all in, you've got your business as well.
I try, I try not to, I try, try and keep my goals how they are because I think I put myself into too much pressure, then I'll never succeed at the ones that I want to like truly do. So, you know, like the, the whole that, you know, obviously the Olympics thing, team competitions and training more horses up to that level as well. You know, I don't just want to be a one horse wonder. Um, you know, I want to want to keep going now I've got to this level of like right off the bat. Um, so yeah, that's my ultimate sort of goal. And then the things that, you know, the business helps with every day life and yeah, learning the piano, that's just a little hobby just for my time to switch off a little bit. And so I don't put myself as too much pressure with those. Um, yeah. And just teaching as well. Um, I think it's important to not bombard myself, assuming it goes, cause I will just keep going, keep going, keep going inside.
You know yourself very well, which is a good thing or you know, what the right balance for you.
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I think you have to definitely get the balance. Right. Um, you know, I've been lucky that my husband's not that involved in the sort of horsey side, um, of it is actually quite nice cause we can sort of take time out together and go do something else. It's not all revolved around the same thing all the time. So yeah.
Uh, do you have any sponsors you'd like to mention?
I have quite a few sponsors and I absolutely, you know, I couldn't, I wouldn't be where I was with them. They're absolutely fantastic. And I mean, I, I list them all. So, um, Topspec has been one of my main sponsors for many well, since I can remember. And it's, I mean with a lot of the products that I'm sponsored by, um, I was, have been using them first and it's kind of been built out through our relationship, of using them first rather than sort of approaching me saying, would you like, um, so yeah, I mean, Topspec Horse Feeds has been feeding my horses for 15 years, plus they know quite well. Um, Ideal saddles, um, there in Australia as well. Um, I have my own, uh, Hayley WG Saddle. Um,
Let's talk about that as an 11 year old kid, when that happened, that would have felt pretty special.
Yeah, it definiately was. They, they just said, Oh, we want to design the saddle for you and for the public and you know, have your name on it. And um, a brand that's yours because all those saddles are named after girls. So yeah. So it's really cool. So I've got my Hailey WG and then I love it. They're fantastic. But I've been riding in Ideal Saddles again for ages. I used to buy secondhand ones. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Fantastic. Um, yeah.
What makes the Hayley the Hayley?
So it's got a very comfortable, um, arm chair seat. I love that. Yeah. It's just a slightly different tree and the horse has got a bit more freedom and movement, the flaps are shorter so that you can get more connection with the horse. Um, and because I do make everything from scratch, you can have your own knee rolls, but I've obviously piked my knee roles that suit me. Um, and I have a deeper cancel at the back so that my tail sits here, the side of the it and you don't end up sitting on your tails.
That's an annoying thing, but it's
Sort of all in a, in a nutshell, that's kind of what it's designed around. So yeah, it's brilliant. Um, and yeah, so, uh, this year, um, I'd talked enough jackets. So I suppose by Lotus Romeo, Centreline
I like the bling bling, I like the bling bling and all the colors and all the choices.
So many colors, so many designs, you just, there's such an amazing fit as well. When you put it on, you just feel like royalty. It's like tailored jacket. Yeah. Um, my chef hats, um, and uh, yeah, which, what the jacket was designed around. So that's fantastic. And it's just such a shame that later things were canceled this year cause was supposed to campaign in them then. Yeah. So, yeah. And then Stockpin Chic, who've been such brilliant sponsors since I won the, Oh, I forgot to mention that I won the British Dressage National Champion 2017.
That's pretty fancy. I love that.
That was huge. That was a British National Championship. Anyway, it didn't make it that's okay. Yeah. That should have even gotten a trophy there. Yeah. Stop. Stockpin Chic. I met them at the national championship that sort of reminded of me and they do matching stops with, for the Lotus Romeo jackets and perfect. Yep. Um, but Supreme products, which is obviously to make the horses shiny. Um, Petrie, riding boots. Lovely. I've got such fancy boots, they are fantastic.
Do you go for the colors or, or, you know,
I've, I've got my, uh, my show boots black, and then I've got blue ones. Um, I have like a snakeskin, I've got red ones with a, uh, like a black sort of flower print on them.
Um, my clothing, uh, sponsors Trendy Equine who do arrange of names clothing and gloves, um, and Scharf. And I have some quite a few sponsors. Yeah, definitely. Um, the boots from Scharf Equestion. Fantastic boots. They're featured in all my videos, all my trainings I did as well, horses love them. I've been using them for many years as well. Lovely Barbie, bright pink ones. Um, and sorry, Cirencester Saddler's who actually put me in contact with Ideal Saddles. Okay. Arc Equine who's a micro current technology, or you start with my horses every day and Filthy Beasts Horse Rug Laundry as well.
Love it. You've used them. You know, they're great. Really great.
Exactly. Yeah. It is really a good partnership. And like I said, it wouldn't be where I am without them. Um, and it's great to be able to support some of the up and coming businesses as well.
So some of the time as well, you know, we work well together and, and try and help each other out. So yeah.
Is there anyone else that we need to mention.
Yeah. So I have a great home team and I've got, uh, Anna Davidson who is my equine physio for the horses. Uh, she's a fantastic support and sponsor for the horses and Theresa Prichard, who is a chiropractor and I've known both of them for many years and they've been absolutely fantastic sports names on my home team.
Ah, perfect. Awesome. Excellent. Okay. So where can my listeners find you on social media? They can see all the cool boots, they can see your training, if they want a freestyle or some lessons. Where can they find you?
I have a website which is, uh, WG, dressage.co.uk, which has all the information of lessons and training videos. And then on social media, Facebook it's Haley w no, it's not. It's Hayley Watson-Greaves WG dressage is my Facebook page. And then Instagram is Hayley Watson-greaves and on Twitter as well. There's WG Dressage.
Twitter. Is that what you called? No, I should have said tweet.
Uh, to be honest though, I don't, but I do sort of keep up, I've got an account to sort of share my sponsors, uh, posts and things I don't want to get to it if I'm honest. It's taken me a while to get Facebook.
Oh, I know. And let's not bring up tik-tok we just, we just totally young.
No tiktok I do not get.
I love it. We'll put all of that in the show notes so people can access all of that. Is there anything else you'd like to say before we go?
Thank you for inviting me to do the podcast. It's been, been great fun, and it's great that we can talk through the other side of the world as well.
Very cool. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing so much of your journey with our listeners really appreciate it.
My pleases. It's been great.
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