This week we chat to Rebecca Ashton; Dressage Rider, Coach, Pilates Instructor, Journalist and Photographer. This lady is a force of nature, always involved with impactful work whether it is on a horse, helping people move better or bringing stories and photos to us that entertain and educate. She is an absolute delight, and I remember cooling our horses down (about 8 years ago) and chatting about how we wanted to bring more of a movement conversation to riders.
She is doing that and so much more, so please check her out at equestelite.com
Tell us a little bit about your riding journey, and how you’ve come to arrive here?
I have been in love with horses for as long as I can remember. My first one was actually a wooden saw horse called Rupert! That’s how desperate I was for a pony. My dream came true when I was 11 and my parents bought me an Arabian gelding called Karim for Christmas. I was shell shocked. Although it had always been a dream, I never really though that it would come true. Karim taught me so much and accompanied me to Pony Club but unfortunately our time together was short with him running into another horse and breaking his neck about 18 months after he came into our family. The vet put it down to a brain tumour.
My next horse was Karinya Doc’s Dillon who was just four when we got him. He remained with us until we had to put him down at the age of 27. He truly was my “horse of a lifetime”. We had such a bond and we learnt the dressage ropes together. Although a second cross quarter horse, he had a big heart and a character to match and we made it up to Inter 2.
Pharoah was my first warmblood and was a bit of a “problem child”. “Oskar” was like a puppy dog on the ground but very tricky under saddle. Being stubborn, I persisted with him and we eventually got to Prix St Georges/Inter 1 until injury forced him into retirement but he spent the rest of his years happy in our paddocks with Dillon as his mate.
In the meantime I did a couple of training stints in Europe. Originally with Christopher Bartle, who I had spent a fair bit of time with previously training with on his visits to Australia. Chris is such a gifted communicator and is able to simplify and explain difficult situations beautifully.
I was also fortunate to spend time with Chris’s trainer Baron Von Blixen-Finecke when he was in his 80s. Another great teacher and with such vast experience dating back to the old cavalry days. That knowledge is seldom found today.
The discipline that is the German dressage scene was introduced to me by Rudolph Zeilinger and later Wolfram Wittig. Herr Zeilinger was the protege of Willi Schultheis and to receive instruction from him was truly a privilege.
Herr Wittig loves his horses so much and it shows in his training. Such a knowledgeable man and wise breeder of horses……with a great sense of humour!
I was also lucky to spend time at the private stables of Johan Riegler who was a head trainer at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Some of the Lippizaner stallions were kept there and the riders from the school would come up everyday to train. To be surrounded by that method and tradition was very special. Herr Riegler even invited me behind the scenes at the School’s performance at the Schonbrunn Palace. I’ve never seen so much sugar given to horses! The riders were always sneaking them treats.
My biggest influence in Australia has been Alan King. Hailing from England and having been based in Holland and Germany for quite some time, he was in contact with all the greats from whom he built his knowledge and his eye for detai. Alan is a strict and correct trainer which, in a world of “yes men”, is a rarity and a gift.
I lived in the UK for five years at which time I trained mainly with Vicki Thompson-Winfield. Her classical training by Franz “Rocky” Rochowansky was a real drawcard for me and Vicki is a generous trainer who makes you really reach for your goals. She also always went out of her way to find me lovely horses to train and share my journey with, my favourite being Romantik.
Since being back in Australia, most of my time has been spent in the company of Vicki Newham’s chestnut gelding, Imaren. Immy is super cheeky on the ground but I love his character and he always gives 110% under saddle. We are currently competing Advanced but hope to make the jump to Prix St Georges next year.
Where are you from?
This platform, Equestrian Movement Journey is all about riders living a movement based lifestyle, however that looks for each individual.
Can you give us an insight into what movement in your day looks like for you?
Most days I ride two horses and do an hour of pilates. I do equipment pilates about three times a week and the rest on the mat. I also jump on my Oov everyday to check in with my body and to switch deep muscles on in a task based learning environment. I also incorporate the Oov into my pilates workouts. Every once in a while I might do a little bit of yoga and I don’t mind the odd boxing session. I also love hiking but usually save this for holidays just because of time restraints.
How important is it for you to keep your body moving as much as possible? Do you have any daily movement routines?
I feel I can’t operate unless I move everyday! Taking my body through a full range of movement and exploring the edges is very important. The journalist side of my career involves the inevitable desk time as well as carting around heavy cameras so then it’s even more important, especially as my body is used to moving and I never thought I’d ever say it, but as you get older, regular exercise becomes even more important for good health and just a sense of wellbeing. I think it also decreases the risk of injury for you and your horse. I even find if you do have an injury, recovery tends to be much quicker if pilates is part of your life.
What are some of the lessons you have learnt about what movement your body needs?
For me it’s not just important for the body but for the mind as well. It also refocuses and recentres which is necessary with a busy schedule and helps keep me sane.
I love pilates so much for the aforementioned reasons. Range of motion, deep core work, working muscles evenly, suppleness, spine health…..and good breathing, which is possibly the most important thing. It’s also why I’m totally obsessed with the Oov. This aperatice gives the body so much information so that it can self correct, rid itself of rigidity strategies and help with good, diaphragmatic breathing and the core work you can do on it is amazing. I believe it’s one of the best things horse riders can use and it’s why I’ve become an Oov practitioner.
I think being a rider, keeping yourself supple, physically in shape and mentally balanced as well as mindful is of paramount importance. We owe it to the horses.
Do you think a daily movement practice impacts your riding?
Absolutely it impacts my riding. The routines I choose rebalance the body and I hope make me an easier load for my horse to carry and also a better and more consistent and reliable communicator so no aids are given “by accident”.
What are 3 things you really believe in?
Honesty to yourself and others
What would you tell your teenage self?
Keep going. You’re doing ok….and don’t forget to enjoy it all! There will be ups and downs in life, things don’t always work out as planned, but trust yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you but will also be honest with you. Sometimes you need to hear the bad stuff as well as the good! Work hard, but remember to take time out sometimes as well (Actually…I still need to tell myself that! I’m not very good at relaxing!)
If we could get a sneak peek into your future, what would you like it to look like?
Hopefully more of the same. I love everything I do, I’m very lucky. I get to help people move better, work and play with horses and through my writing and photography meet the most wonderful and generous people and go to the most fascinating places. I just wish there were about two more of me so I could fit more in!