ABOUT ANNALISE SIMSEK, EQUESTRIAN ATHLETE AND TEMUJIN GAGE
“I was hoisted up onto a giant Clydesdale when I was 5 years old. That’s all it took, I’ve been horse mad ever since!”
I’ve always loved horses and have always wanted to ride. Besides a handful of opportunities to hop on as a kid, it was 25 years after that first ride before I could explore my passion. Whilst living in London in 2004, the opportunity arose to take my very first riding lesson. I leapt at the chance and have not looked back ever since. I could hardly wait all week for my lesson, and once I was at the stable the sights, sounds and smells of the horses was wonderfully overwhelming. As the instructor guided me to mount up, I became that wide-eyed five year old girl sitting atop the most amazing creature on earth and fell in love with horses all over again! This life long love of horses suddenly made sense. I knew I needed to ride to feel alive.
I started with weekly lessons, then progressed to twice a week when I could afford it. I was always longing for more of that awesome feeling of being in the saddle. I improved quickly and thought I’d like to try a jumping lesson. That turned out to be the defining moment. I remember coming towards my first cross rail, a bit nervous and incredibly excited. In that weightless moment, that fraction of a second everything stood still. Everything changed. Instantly I had a goal, a dream and a focus. I wanted to jump and I wanted to do it at the Olympics!
I was still so green at that time that I didn’t really know what it meant. Show jumping was just something I’d heard other horse folk say. I didn’t care! The moment was so telling to me, it felt so incredible, my reaction was that I best get busy figuring out how I was going to achieve it.
And so this journey began.
INTRODUCING TEMUJIN GAGE
I got to thinking that I just might need a horse, so I started looking. I didn’t really know what to look for, so it was serendipity when Temujin Gage practically fell into my lap. He was a well bred yearling jumper prospect. I was still living overseas and couldn’t get back to see him. All I had was a single picture of him as a weanling and the word of his breeder. That was enough. I had a gut feeling to buy him. It spoke louder than anything, so I did!
I was told the story of how Temujin Gage was born dis-mature, of his struggle during the first few hours of his life. How he rose up on wobbly not yet fully formed legs, and his determination to nurse in order to live. Temujin was the birth name of Ghengis Khan and chosen to pay homage to the warrior spirit shown by this new born colt. He had what it would take. I felt the two of us, against some pretty steep odds, could rise to the top levels of the show jumping sport.
When I finally met Gage in person he walked up to me in the field and started to lick me up and down. That sealed the deal and from then on I knew I’d made the right choice. I was his person and he was my horse. There was so much to do, so much to learn (remember how green I was!). None of that mattered. The most important part of the equation had been set. The ‘we’ of our partnership was born.
THE ‘SLOW IS FAST’ APPROACH
Gage and I have learned a lot together the past three years Through a lot of trial and error we’ve explored many avenues before developing the method that works for us. We call it the ‘slow is fast’ approach. It’s simple and straight forward, but certainly not easy. We are inspired by an anonymous quote:
“An Amateur does something until they can get it right. A Professional does something until they cannot get it wrong.”
From this quote we’ve crafted an equation that looks something like this:
PRACTICE + FOCUS + PATIENCE(LOADS OF IT) = FOUNDATION, FOUNDATION, FOUNDATION
A solid foundation has become the pivotal aspect to our training programme. It opens us to integrity whilst giving confidence to train towards our Olympic goal. When things go wrong, foundation brings us back to centre. It grounds us and gives us courage to try again. It keeps us honest about our abilities, optimistic as well. If we move too fast, foundation slows us down and steadies us. When things go right, foundation broadens and we become better, providing more for us to draw upon. Foundation guides us, teaches us, mentors us each and every stride of the way.
(Check out our blog where we will be highlighting our progress using this approach during our training in Florida this winter.)
IF YOU’RE GOING TO RIDE AN ELITE ATHLETE, YOU BEST BE AN ELITE ATHLETE YOURSELF!
Just like developing the equine athlete, I’ve realised its equally important to develop the human athlete too! I always felt I was reasonably fit and strong enough to ride, but I also knew I could be fitter. I needed to be just as much an athlete as my mount. I got started on my own, improving my fitness in fits and starts, but I was frustrated. I wanted to be better, stronger, more balanced but I really didn’t know how to do this alone. I didn’t really fancy the idea of joining a gym, at least not the vision of a gym I had in my mind. So, I researched some options and discovered functional fitness and Monkey Bar Gymnasium(MBG). The trainers at MBG explained the concepts about becoming an athlete in a holistic way without relying on the typical gym machines. It all made sense so I took the next step and started sport specific personal training.
FIrst I needed to understand what skills an equestrian athlete needed. My eyes were opened as I learned the complexity it took to create a balanced equestrian athlete and the broad range of skills needed to succeed in the saddle. It all started on the ground and boiled down to the following mix:
Achieving this was no small feat. In the beginning all I really remember is being sore and dreading my next training session. It was tough, impossible at times. In the thick of it all I would ask myself “Do I really want to work this hard?” Despite the difficulty, I kept hearing a resounding “YES!’, so I continued on. After the first three months I started to find a rhythm. One morning I woke up realising I actually liked it. Not only was I getting stronger and more fit, I was looking better too. People were starting to notice. The best part was that my riding was improving. I had more balance, more strength and flexibility. I felt agile in the saddle and had much more control of my body which in turn helped me influence my horse.
I’m not an elite athlete yet, but I’m well on my way and have a solid foundation to support me. The training system is in place and I have a good understanding of what it will take to get there. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to sharing my progress.
The other day I rediscovered a fortune cookie message I’d tucked away in a pocket. It said:
“You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course.”
It was an inspiration then, and is an inspiration now. We’ll make it, Gage and I, warrior spirits at heart. We are ready to move forward and work our way up and we will always be exactly where we need to be as long as we stay the course.
Thanks for visiting. We look forward to sharing our journey with you.
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