LAURA GORDON, a dressage and event rider based in West Sussex, has been declared KBIS “Instructor of the Year 2017”. Laura is well-known in southern dressage circles for her partnership with part-Cleveland Bay, Bantry Parks Ransom who is now, at 19, knocking on the door of prix st georges. He produced a qualifying 65.15% advanced 102 at Step Aside this week.

Ransom’s performance, attitude and health are a tribute to Laura’s skill as a rider, trainer and horse carer — all of her three horses live out largely except in unsuitable conditions.
Talking to Out and About Dressage about Ransom’s PSG potential, she said: “It’s never going to be the best. He’s built croup high. We need a judge who can look beyond his conformation and paces. He can get the marks for the more technical movements because he is so clever and obedient and quick off my leg.”
Both Laura and Ransom have had to make comebacks after injury. Ransom damaged the sacroiliac joint at one point and Laura broke her pelvis cross-country schooling.
They both ended up crooked. She said: “Robbie Carpenter helped me become straight in the saddle again and also taught me to try to harmonise with my horse’s movement rather than force a ‘correct picture'”

Laura said: “I didn’t even realise until last month when they posted the shortlist that two people I help, Helena and Georgina Dunlavey, had nominated me. They mentioned how I always manage to find time to fit them in instructing or going to competitions with them — whatever the weather — and how I didn’t let them get away with anything. They found some instructors were too soft with them but I make them work hard! Georgina started off at prelim, not really enjoying dressage, and is now doing elementary. She qualified for the U25 Sheepgate Championships in August and we are working towards her Petplan qualification at the same level.”

Laura has three horses. Besides Ransom she has Nelson, a 14.2hh Welsh cob and an eight-year-old by Saddlers Wells who will be moving up to BE Novice this year. “My mother bought Nelson for me when I was about eight and he was three and I was made to just get on with it. She didn’t want something smaller that would have to be sold on. Nelson and I grew up together and joined the Petersfield Pony Club and did their team competitions and camps. He’s 26 this year, ridden three times a week, and still competes doing some low-level eventing and dressage. We came second in the Arena Challenge at Coombelands a few weeks ago.

“Helena was riding Nelson for me but has moved on to something more challenging — a pony that had never been schooled properly and had developed all the wrong sorts of muscle and bad habits. We are retraining him and she’s qualified with him for the Pony Club Dengie championships.

“Since getting the award from KBIS I have become an accredited Pony Club trainer and I will be teaching Petersfield Pony Club members at some clinics during the Easter holidays. I hope to start doing some clinics off my own bat as well. I will be focusing on dressage because that’s where I’ve had my teaching successes.”

Laura works for small animal vets, the Grove Lodge Veterinary Hospital in Worthing, having done a foundation degree in Veterinary Nursing Science. “I’m a self-employed freelance so I can pick and chose when I work to fit around teaching, riding other people’s horses and competing,” she explained.

© Celia Cadwallader, 25 February 2017

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