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Para Symposium strikes the right note

last updated on February 03, 2017 16:59

Para Symposium strikes the right note

All those who made the trip last weekend to the British Dressage Para Symposium ‘Teamwork Makes the Dream Work’ were rewarded with a range of inspirational presentations and demos by a great cast of carefully selected experts from the world of para dressage and other sports.

The two-day conference supported by Sport England was all about optimising the relationships within a rider’s support team so he or she is best prepared for maximum performance. The overriding theme of the programme being the importance of the support crew and the part each person plays in helping the rider to enjoy success and reach their full potential.

The weekend also covered the vital role the judge plays in this team effort. Far from being a tyrant, the judge is there as a barometer of the training. Within those score sheet marks and comments are nuggets of advice given to help guide and steer riders on the path to success. It’s important to remember that judges love to see horses and riders progress, and the purpose of the dressage test is simply to guide competitors towards being the best they can be.

The first-rate line up at the symposium consisted of World Class Programme staff namely World Class Para-equestrian Podium Potential Coordinator and BD Para Director David Hamer, Podium Potential Coaches Nina Venables and Angela Weiss, and Podium Potential Equine Physio Helen Mathie. Also taking to the stage were BEF Anti-Doping Manager Sophie Thomas and FEI 5* Para Judge Sarah Leitch plus leadership professional Rosie Mayes, Janie Frampton from the world of football - a specialist in the development of sports officials - and European, World and Paralympic Gold medallist Sophie Wells.

Up-and-coming young para riders Izzy Palmer and Georgia Wilson also did a fantastic job, doing themselves proud as demo riders for a practical session on Sunday.

Saturday - Teamwork: Coach and Athlete

‘The coach as part of the team’ was the focus today and it was all about developing the home team. The key topics and discussions included:

• Developing the home team
• Ensuring you choose the right people to be on the ‘team bus’ to make the journey with you
• The importance of managing the relationship between the home coach and the rider
• How to best deliver a successful performance
• How the rider with a championship mind-set will naturally be the lead of their home team
• How Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent highlights that it's the environment we create that develops the 'gifts' people are born with into 'talents'
• The role of a mentor in a coach’s development
• Learning by the use of Reflective practice
• Conflict management

The presentation concluded with insightful reflection by Sophie Wells on how her 'team made the dream work' emphasising how important the relationship between her and her trainer, Angela Weiss, had been in developing trust, keeping focus and pushing boundaries.

Sunday – Making the Dream Work: The Two Athletes

Sunday emphasised the communication between the rider, the trainer and the judge. The key topics and discussions included:

• What is classification and how it is done
• A ridden demo with Izzy Palmer and Georgia Wilson, looking at the requirements of the 2017 tests. This session emphasised the importance of communication between the rider, trainer and judge
• Keeping the team in action by keeping the musculature of both horse and rider optimal with the support of physio and exercise
• Delivering a medal-winning performance

The two days concluded on the Sunday afternoon with European, World and Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Wells riding Valerius through their medal-winning Rio freestyle programme.

Izzy Palmer who rode at the symposium took a lot away with her: “Really proud of Touchdown this weekend at the BD Para Coaching Symposium, he was a star,” she said

“It was a great thought provoking weekend of learning and listening with lots of great speakers. And seeing my coach/mentor do a brilliant speech and her Rio freestyle was so inspiring. Teamwork really does make the dream work! I feel very lucky to have such a great team around me, and to be learning from Sophie and her beautiful horses. Thanks to my home team, and all my sponsors, for helping me to continue to do what I love.” 

Commenting on the weekend as a whole, BD Para Director David Hamer said; "Over the two days of the symposium, we covered a range of topics that not only helped to highlight the various elements that will support a successful home team, but also emphasise how everyone that is involved in the sport has an important role to play and it is only by communicating with each other that we can help shape success."


The team in discussion: Izzy Palmer (riding), Sophie Wells, Angela Weiss and Sarah Leitch.