Dressage in the Ox Mountains – Simone Hession of Woodlands Equestrian Centre

After last month’s post about Derryronane Stud and the versatility of the Irish Draught horse, I thought I’d ask my dressage coach, Simone Hession, to add to the topic.

Simone is a BHSAI and HSI Level 2 equestrian coach based just outside Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo. She runs Woodlands Equestrian Centre, providing lessons for beginners to competitive riders of all ages and disciplines. The equestrian centre runs adjacent to Beezie’s Stud, managed by Simone’s mother, Julia, who specializes in the breeding of connemara ponies.

Simone is a competitive dressage rider herself (and is also known to compete in showjumping) on her home-bred Irish Draughts, Beezies Big Brother (Duke) and Beezies Double Diamond (Dime). She started her riding career at the tender age of 4 at her local riding school, Aldersbrook, in London. In 1991 she and her family made the move to Co. Sligo, where she joined the Sligo Hunt pony club. Simone jumped to grade A level on ponies, before turning to dressage full-time.

Simone has competed nationally and internationally in dressage on various horses, mainly her homebreds, up to Small Tour level. At the beginning of December, 2017, Simone was asked to be a demo rider for Judy Reynolds’ Masterclass, held at Jag Equestrian Centre. Judy described Simone’s partnership with her horse Duke as follows:

“Simone is able to show that through correct training and good riding, any breed, even an Irish Draught, can be brought up through the levels and show good work. There is no reason why this pair couldn’t continue on to Grand Prix.” (Read the full article from the The Irish Field here)

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Simone on Duke (left) pictured with Judy Reynolds (center) and demo riders at Jag Equestrian – Photo Cred The Irish Field

I began training with Simone over a year and a half ago, in a bid to improve my flatwork and dressage scores. I have been in awe of her dancing draughts since I first walked into the yard. The majority of riders competing at Simone’s level would never consider an Irish Draught, but Simone has shown that with careful and correct training, the Irish Draught can hold their own up the centre line as well as any warmblood. That is why I was interested to learn more about her horses and her work ethic towards their training.

Meet The Horses

simone and duke

Beezies Big Brother, 12 year old Irish Draught gelding. Competing at small tour level and grade D showjumping.

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Beezies Double Diamond, 11 year old Irish Draught gelding. Competing at Advanced level and grade C showjumping.

Milky

Beezies Milky Way, 10 year old connemara pony mare, competing at preliminary level and grade D showjumping pony.

Donnah

Beezies Contrast, (or as I call her, My Mare!) 7 year old Irish sport horse mare, preliminary dressage and grade E showjumping.

Planning, Organisation and Dedication

I’ve asked Simone a few questions, outlined below, about her training techniques and plans for the future.

What are the aims/goals for your horses?

The main aim as for ever year is to qualify for the National Championships and I’ve trips scheduled to UK to compete at Premier League shows. Beezies Big Brother is established at Small Tour level, he will continue to compete at this level. He has started working and training for Inter 2 level and a decision when to compete at this level will depend on the progress made in training.

Beezies Double Diamond has just moved up to Advanced level, and I’m aiming to compete him at PSG later this Summer.

Beezies Contrast will continue showjumping as well as competing in dressage, with the aim to move her up to Novice/Elementary level.

Beezies Milky Way is ready to compete at Novice level and will do so this year, we’ve also decided to breed from her as she has excellent bloodlines and unrelated to Julia’s (Mum’s) resident stallion Beezies Echo.

What are the horse’s schedule/workout routine?

All the horse’s have a 4 to 5 day a week training schedule. Turn out is essential which they have everyday. Hacking and lunging are also included.

They also have 1 or 2 sessions with the equissage pad each week.

Feeding is of utmost importance each horse has their own requirements depending on type, training and personality.

Stable management and care of the horses is most important so they work well, their needs and requirements are constantly considered and taken care of.

Do you find the same schooling techniques work for each horse or do they need individual attention and planning?

As each horse is at a different level of training they do tend to be schooled differently, and due to their individual personalities. Planning is essential for each horse as is patience, each horse will develop differently and some may take longer than others. I do use similar training techniques with all which I’ve picked up over the years training with my coaches plus techniques from upgrading my own coaching qualifications. Luckily I have a good memory!

With so many horses and ponies to keep in work, do you find it hard to keep on track?

Absolutely, especially as I have a couple of horses at the higher levels to compete and then also others at the lower levels plus youngsters for the future or for sale to produce. It can be testing at times, but with lots of planning for each horse regards training and competitions it does make it easier to keep on track and I do record everything in my diary which is never too far away from me, I still prefer the old fashioned pen and paper though!

Luckily with my mother Julia here to help and recently Aoife Chambers joining us as stable rider it makes it a lot easier to meet the targets I set for the yard.

What excites you & keeps you motivated about riding at competition level?

I’m lucky that I’m doing what I love, between coaching and riding, so it’s not difficult to keep motivated even in the middle of winter with 38 horses in.

Competing is why I do it, so I can go up that centre line and show my horses off to their best and it’s such a brilliant feeling to take a horse that doesn’t know how to do something and show them how to “dance”!

Needless to say it’s a big effort and there are numerous people who help to make the whole thing possible.

What is one of the most basic & effective schooling lesson you can give?

“Leg yield,” I use it with all the horses at every level and the various disciplines. For so many reasons, from the basics of moving the horse off the leg which in turn leads us to sideways and then everything starts to feel like it’s possible for both the horse and riders!

Being home bred and produced, how does it feel to see the horses develop from foals to competition horses/ponies?

It makes us all very proud, as a family we never set out to breed dressage horses, our aim was to breed Irish bred rideable and trainable horses, which in turn is, I feel the most important qualities to have to enable you to produce a competition horse.

Julia is the one that looks after the breeding mares and youngsters as that’s her passion at Beezies Stud, it’s lovely to know the horses and ponies before they come into training, making it easier once you know their characters to decide what direction to take with each of them and what they would be best suited too.

All of our schoolmaster horses and ponies at Woodlands EC are homebred, carefully selected to suit the purpose and trained accordingly so clients can have the best possible experience too!

With so many to ride who is your favourite?!

That’s a bit unfair to ask! My all time favourite is the now retired Beezies Sue, we learned together and I got to experience so much with her!

Presently, my two boys Duke and Dime are my favourites, they are both so different and they definitely make me smile I couldn’t pick between them!

Finally, what is it about the Irish breeds that you love the most?

The Irish horses are such characters and want to give you everything they have. They are, I think, especially clever, with a huge heart! The modern type of connemara is a good a pony as you can get and hugely versatile. The Irish Draught is your all rounder and can turn his hand to anything. Irish breds are strong and hardy giving them longevity.

I wouldn’t swap them and I look forward to lots more Irish horses coming my way, there’s a few exciting one’s out the fields at Beezie’s Stud, now just patience for them to grow up and hopefully join me up the centre line.

Simone as a Coach

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I alternate between bringing my own mare, Giselle, and riding Simone’s mare, Beezies Contrast (Donnah), as a challenge to myself in fine tuning my abilities. As a (wannabe) competitive rider, getting the opportunity to ride a horse like Donnah has allowed me to feel what it’s like to ride something with the upper levels in mind, while also giving me something to compare riding my own horse to.

With the rise in popularity for performance and young event horse classes, so has Simone’s popularity. She runs regular clinics with particular themes in mind. Recently she has provided a canter and flying change clinic as well as regular “run through your test for feedback” days.

Simone’s coaching technique is both friendly and direct, with our lessons consisting of exercises chosen specifically for our personal needs and with our goals in mind. Simone has been instrumental in helping me regain my self-confidence in my own riding ability, as well as helping to build Giselle’s strength – which is clear from our improved results. I’ve gotten loads of good advice over the last year or so, but the best was when she told me to just “crack on,” – and she was dead right!

If you’d like to contact Simone, details can be found on her website http://www.woodlandsequestrian.ie

or on the Woodlands Facebook page, here.

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Happy after the dressage phase – top marks heading towards the showjumping arena!

Thank you to Simone for taking the time to partake in this post. See you soon for another ass-kicking!

Cat x

2 thoughts on “Dressage in the Ox Mountains – Simone Hession of Woodlands Equestrian Centre

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