‘Who is behind the words?’
Sandra Trott was born in Mundubbera, Queensland, Australia in 1985.
Growing up on a beef cattle property where horses and dogs were used 100% of the time to handle stock, she was riding before she was walking.
‘I actually have no clear memories of learning to ride; my first clear memory of riding is cantering along by myself on my pony’
During primary and secondary school, she gradually moved on from camp drafting and gymkhanas into the Olympic disciplines. One of her fondest competition memories is becoming Senior Reserve Champion for Combined Training at Interschool State Level, mounted on her parents’ home-bred stock horse ‘Trigger’.
The class involved a novice level dressage test and 1.10m show jump round; it was hotly contested with many young riders on professional level full time competition horses. Sandra only got to ride and train Trigger in dressage and show jumping during the school holidays when she was home from boarding school – he was a full time stock horse in between times – and she only had two weeks preparation prior to her State Combined Training win.
During her gap year in 2003 she completed a Certificate in Equine Sports Massage, and won the Equestrian Scholarship to attend Marcus Oldham College, Victoria, Australia, in 2004. At Marcus she completed the Diploma of Horse Business Management and graduated at Distinction level. After college she continued her education, starting as a working pupil at the international level show jumping barn ‘Diamond B Farm’ with rider Chris Chugg, and then moving on to head groom at ‘Falcon Sport Horses’ with international level event rider John Cooper and his wife Pip, an FEI national level dressage rider.
Upon returning home Sandra developed and built her stud ‘Swing Time Performance Horses’. After 10 years breeding and starting many young horses, competing, coaching and being coached by international and national level coaches, Sandra had a landmark conversation over a dinner date with a very good friend.
‘This conversation led me to go looking for the scientific evidence to back up what I believed to be the correct way to train a horse.’
Sandra couldn’t find any clear scientific study or evidence in any of her current texts. She subsequently bought ‘Tug of War: Classical versus Modern Dressage’, the supporting DVD and ‘If Horses Could Speak’, all by Dr Gerd Heuschmann. By chance, she also picked up ‘The Essential Paul Belasik: Riding Towards the Light, Exploring Dressage Technique, and The Songs of Horses’.
‘I read Gerd’s books first and was quite horrified, as many of the riding techniques that harmed horses’ anatomy were the same techniques I had been taught to use. Reading these books gave me many answers, a truck load more questions and a serious level of soul searching.
‘I couldn’t ignore the evidence that Gerd presented, and it also awakened some feelings of misgiving, that I had harboured for a very long time, about some of the things I had seen at professional level stables: some of training techniques, the way the horses were kept and the injury level and behaviour problems that were simply assumed to come with having an upper level horse.
‘It was a great consolation when I read Paul’s book as he had experienced a similar journey: he felt he needed to turn his back on his previously long held beliefs and find a different and better way to train horses. However I couldn’t just walk the same path as Paul, so I did feel quite stuck for a little bit. At some point, thankfully, from deep in my subconscious popped into my head the name of Dr Andrew McLean.’
So Sandra looked harder at Andrew and what enlightenment he might be able to offer. Thankfully she found what she was looking for: a scientifically studied training pathway designed with the best interests of the horse in mind, proven in the practical world, and with the opportunity to complete a diploma in the subject to boot!
‘By nature I am a little sceptical, so before I enrolled in the diploma I wanted to check out this ‘Andrew’ person a bit more. It was like the stars had aligned just for me. After looking into his work and seeing the diploma opportunity, I only had to wait 1 month before he was in Queensland at the 2015 Dressage Unravelled – I think this was his only visit to Queensland all that year. I wasn’t disappointed. That day I also watched Australian Olympians and German National Level coaches teach dressage and didn’t hear anything I hadn’t already heard 1000 times before. But, I think every second sentence or so from Andrew made me go “Huh? That’s new, that’s interesting” and the results were clearly visible from every lesson he taught. I was sold!’
In 2016 Sandra completed the Ass. Dip. in Equitation Science delivered by Equitation Science International and in July of the same year she flew to Germany to continue her equine and life education. This is where this blog begins.