ISSUE 64
MARCH 2021

WORLD CLASS

DRESSAGE BY THE SEA
EVENTING SUMMER CLASSIC
BRINGS OUT THE BEST
HEATH RYAN’S HEADS UP
FOR BRISBANE 2032

PLUS: TRISTAN TUCKER’S RUNAWAY SUCCESS, FROM HRH TO TOTAL DIVA FOR MAREE TOMKINSON, CAROLYN LIEUTENANT SMELLS THE ROSES, KAREN MILLER FULFILS FANTASY, BRETT PARBERY’S TRUE CALLING, PERCY THE OTT STAR, KERRY MACK & POLYVAGAL THEORY, MAXINE BRAIN & TOXIC METALS, & A HEART-THROB SAVES HIDALGO

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
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ISSUE 64

CONTENTS

MARCH 2021
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A few Words

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

ROBERT MCKAY

Ryan's Rave

START PLANNNG FOR BRISBANE 2032

BY HEATH RYAN

Dressage

WORLD-CLASS DRESSAGE AT WILLINGA PARK

BY ELLIE JOLLEY & ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Eventing

SURPRISES AND SUCCESS AT SIEC

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Special feature

COURAGEOUS KIWI BLAZES HER OWN TRAIL (Part 8)

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Lifestyle

VIGGO MORTENSEN SAVES THE DAY!

BY SUZY JARRATT

Dressage

BRETT PARBERY FINDS HIS TRUE CALLING

BY ADELE SEVERS & AMANDA YOUNG

Property

FANTASY WRITER FULFILS HER OWN FANTASY

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Training

TRISTAN TUCKER’S QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Training

UNDERSTANDING YOUR HORSE’S INNER THOUGHTS

BY KERRY MACK

Dressage

FROM HER HIGHNESS TO TOTAL DIVA

BY EQ LIFE

Health

HEAVY METAL TOXICITIES

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Off the Track

PERCY MAKES HIS PRESENCE FELT

BY AMANDA YOUNG

My Favourite Dish

ORANGE POPPY SEED SYRUP CAKE

WITH KAREN MILLER
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Australian Tristan Tucker is well known on the global equestrian stage as an educator, entertainer, Grand Prix dressage rider and, above all, a brilliant horseman who understands horses better than most people understand humans.

“Tristan has never left Europe,
and the thirst for knowledge
has never left Tristan.”

Tristan’s early involvement with horses followed a fairly typical path – he cut his teeth at Pony Club doing everything from sporting to eventing – however, horses were in Tristan’s blood. Both his mother, who worked at a racing stable, and his grandfather loved horses; it’s no surprise that riding was much more than just a childhood hobby for Tristan, or that he was on a plane to Europe not long after he finished school, where he would spend a year learning from Danish trainer Morten Thomsen. Returning to Australia to attend university, he later established his own horse training business near Melbourne and was soon breaking in around 100 horses each year, while also focusing on his dressage career.

Before long, Europe called again. With a thirst for knowledge and a plan to stay in Europe for two years, Tristan packed his bags and took three horses with him to the other side of the world. Tristan has never left Europe, and the thirst for knowledge has never left Tristan.

Eloquent, observant, and still in possession of the unpretentious Aussie sense of humour that saw his alter-ego Brett Kidding come to life, Tristan has unquestionably learned – and achieved – more than a lot after 12 years living and working in Europe. Between training and campaigning several horses to Grand Prix level, establishing his own training stable in the Netherlands, teaching clinics and giving demonstrations all over the world, he’s also developed an online training program, the TRT Method.

Many online horsemanship training programs exist, however, very few have achieved meteoric growth or created a truly engaged family of students to the degree that the TRT Method has. The numbers are quite staggering; in just over five years, the program has grown to include over 14,000 members from 60 countries!

Staggering though the numbers may be, they are not surprising. The authenticity with which Tristan speaks about his purpose – his desire to help people teach themselves to understand their horse so that they can in turn teach their horse to understand itself – is unmistakable. While many people are drawn to the TRT Method because they are seeking answers to their horse’s behavioural problems – whether they be general spookiness or specific issues such as trailer loading – it’s Tristan’s genuine desire to educate people for the betterment of their horse’s wellbeing and its ability to exist in a human’s world that keeps them there.

Some people would consider self-improvement and horse training to be two completely separate things. For Tristan, they’re intrinsically linked. It’s this holistic approach to his business, his riding career, his horses and his relationships that have allowed him to develop, improve and refine his approach when the world was disrupted by a global pandemic in 2020.

“The Covid situation has changed up the routine. For me it’s been a really positive thing because being in Europe in the horse world you tend to be doing a hell of a lot of things,” Tristan explains. “I was stretching myself between clinics and demonstrations, competing, travelling a lot to the USA, UK and all over Europe, plus we have the TRT Method online training, the web shop, and my training stable here in the Netherlands.

“There really was a lot going on. Covid gave me a chance to sit back and analyse what I was actually doing and decide what were the really important things to me, and where did I want to go in the future with the horses and, beyond that, with my life. I came to realise that running your life in a positive way is the most important thing, and then the business sort of takes care of itself a little bit. I’d been very focused in the past on running my business and scheduling everything around the business. When you first come to Europe as an Aussie, you’re moving from place to place and you have to build up a reputation. No one knows who you are, you have to sort of prove yourself and create a clientele, build a business from scratch. It had been my drive and my number one focus,” Tristan explains.

“As I look forward to the next 12 months, I will be focusing on the things in life that I want and that bring me happiness, and one of them is spending as much time with my wife, Katja, and my kids as possible, for as long as possible,” says Tristan.  “Our first daughter Izzy is turning two on the 14th March and our second baby girl, Liva, arrived on the 19th February this year. Thinking about them growing up and all the monumental things that will happen in their life, I want to be there for them and be part of that. So I need to focus not just on my business life and my riding career and my horses, I have to also invest in ensuring I’m healthy, and scheduling days where I should rest or focus on my body, not complain that I’m getting stiff because I’m getting old, because of course that is a choice, it’s not a condition.

“The program has grown
to includeover 14,000 members
from 60 countries!”

“Covid gave me a chance
to sit backand analyse what
I was actually doing.”

“I hope later in the year that we have the chance to do more shows, but certainly in the first half of the year I will be spending a lot more time at home with my family. I want a balanced life where I look after myself, so I can ensure I can be happy – and I can be that way for my children, my family, my horses, my staff, my team, my students – basically everyone I come in contact with.

“Everything else that comes from 2021, like the ability to give clinics again and go to competitions, would just be a bonus. When it’s taken away, as it has been during the pandemic, we realise that we possibly take a lot of those things for granted. To be able to have those things back, and experience again how special it is to go to international shows and see colleagues and other people in the sport with the same passions, would be such a gift. If that happens in 2021 then I’ll be really grateful for it.”

As Tristan explains, one of the things he has identified as being most valuable and empowering to him is helping people who share his passion for horses to become the best mentor and teacher for their horses as they can possibly be. It’s one of the reasons he started the TRT Method online training program in the first place; there were only so many hours in the day to reach all the people who could benefit from his methods and knowledge. Online training was the logical way forward.

“When we launched the TRT Method, neither me nor my business partner Conny Loonstra really knew how it would go. I sort of deconstructed what I was doing with the horses. Through doing clinics and seminars you have a basic construct, so I broke it down into some more detailed modules. You put it out there and you don’t know how it’s going to be received, but people seemed to pick it up really quickly,” says Tristan. “It was quite a surprise and really rewarding to be able to help so many people across the board, to be able to reach so many people on such a grand scale.

“It’s amazing to be sharing knowledge and experiences with so many different people from so many different horse cultures from all over the world, to hear the stories of people who couldn’t even lead their horse to now being able to ride their horse and do things they never dreamt were possible,” Tristan enthuses. “We have a great community with the online training, it’s such a healthy space in which everybody is so supportive and openly sharing their experiences and nobody has any judgement. To see people posting videos and sharing them with each other, to see where people begin and where they end up, it is very rewarding.

“Of course, there’s a hell of a lot of work involved – it’s not just making a video and putting it up, you’re building a community and supporting people and there’s a lot of work behind the scenes for me and my team. But it’s also a way for me to stay incredibly motivated, it keeps me inspired to continue searching for new and interesting things, and reminds me of the old, but true cliché, that the more you think you know about horses, the more you realise you don’t know. People say that the TRT method is a gift to them, but it’s just as much a gift to me as it is to the people who are learning from it.”

“Covid gave me a chance
to sit backand analyse what
I was actually doing.”

A highlight for many Tristan Tucker fans is the opportunity to attend a TRT Worldwide event; with the pandemic rendering these impossible in 2020, Tristan chose to innovate and use technology to ensure he could stay connected with his TRT family.

“We had our first TRT Live Worldwide Virtual event in 2020, and it was a hell of an undertaking!” Tristan explains. “We usually do our TRT Worldwide events in five countries per year, and they sell out with up to 3,500 people at each show. We had some planned throughout 2020 and had to postpone them, not knowing what the outcome was going to be. At some stage I said to the team, ‘We can’t continue to just postpone these, we have to give the people something to be excited about, especially in these difficult and uncertain times’.

“Everyone was in lockdown all over the world, so we started to research what was possible. We had a huge undertaking to put together a show with new technology that we were not really familiar with. But we wanted to create an experience where people felt like we were really coming together, at a time when the places and spaces where we normally would meet were shut down. So we built these big screens covering the short side of the arena so we could project images of everybody from home, that way it was totally interactive. We had Q&As and giveaways, I was able to see people in real-time, they were able to see me in real-time. I felt really privileged to sort of be invited into people’s homes, to see their cats and dogs and photos of their own horses on their walls.”

For Tristan, it was a very new experience to deliver a show and clinic without the energy of a physically present crowd. The situation was not made any easier by the fact that the virtual event was held on an incredibly cold evening.

“We were there in the arena filming, and it was the first really cold night of the year.  There were just cameramen because we couldn’t have too many people in the arena due to the Covid restrictions,” Tristan recalls. “So it was a totally different experience for me, but it was great that we could have guest appearances from all over the world, such as Australian Warwick Schiller participating from California. It was a real privilege to bring people together; the number one goal was to give everyone the feeling that we were still one community, the horse community, and we were all in it together, and to just bring some energy and passion into what we all love. We wanted to lift people’s spirits and for it to be entertaining and educational, and I also really tried to send some personal messages about what horses mean to me, and what the industry has given me, and what I try to give back to it.”

Not all TRT members are competitive riders – some are simply seeking to improve their horsemanship and relationship with their horses. However, Tristan’s methods are highly regarded and adopted by many elite riders, including several Olympians. Tristan’s approach is empathetic to the horse and gives riders the tools to create a happier and more confident animal – one who actually wants to perform the movements more than the rider does. This involves rewarding the horse for moments that make the horse feel good, rather than rewarding it for moments that the rider has been conditioned to consider good.

“That’s only his second three-star
but it felt like he’d been doing
it for three years.”

It’s Tristan’s ability and desire to empower a horse in this manner that has enabled him to train two challenging horses to the Grand Prix level; Zephir and Jewels Sir Weibach. He describes them as his greatest teachers.

Jewels Sir Weibach, known as “Wally” in the stable, has been with Tristan since he was about five years old. “He was quite a character when he came to me, quite a spirited horse. He was an approved stallion at that time, he’d been from the approval to Ingrid Klimke. He’d been with Ingrid for a little while and he was proving to be quite difficult.  I was actually working with some horses of Ingrid’s at the time, helping her a little, and she suggested to the owners that maybe he could come here,” Tristan explains.

“We just seemed to click. He’s a very special horse with some very special breeding – he’s the first son of Isabell Werth’s Weihegold and by Sir Donnerhall. He’s highly sensitive and he has an incredible engine, initially, he really struggled to cope with the natural power of his body. So we just took it steady, in the early stages I used him in the clinics and demonstrations, to get his confidence with being in new environments and big arenas. He’s now able to do all the Grand Prix stuff fairly easily, I had quite some successful shows nationally and a couple of international shows last year, he’s a horse that’s really exciting for the future,” Tristan enthuses.

“Zephir is a horse that’s been with me for a long time, he arrived as a troubled horse. He doesn’t have a lot of natural energy, he’s super relaxed and likes to take it easy. I’ve really had to learn about how to motivate him in a way that he really wants to do the work more than me. He’s been a good teacher in that way, in that if I ever wanted to shortcut something or think on the day of a competition that I could squeeze that last bit out of him, he’d sort of give me the middle finger and I’d end up having to do all the work!” Tristan laughs.

“That only comes for the horse
if you make him aware of it.”

“He’s also a horse that had some performance anxiety. He was quite spooky about things on the ground, he’d sort of shut down in the big arenas, so I used him for some clinics and demonstrations in the beginning. Then when we progressed to our Brett Kidding idea, he became Brett Kidding’s horse. He travelled to all the big shows, he’s been to two World Cup finals, he’s been at London Olympia a number of times, and he really got to experience those big stages and huge crowds in a way where there was no pressure. If he made a mistake it didn’t matter, and he learnt what it was to really perform, which also taught me a lot about teaching a horse to be a performer.

“With Brett Kidding in the saddle he always did a good job, everybody always loved him, he got an applause, everybody at the stable afterwards was always super happy and joyful because of the comedy aspect of it, so the natural energy that generated around his performance was always super positive. I have to really think about that when I’m doing real dressage, for want of a better word, because if I start to take things too seriously and get really disciplined, he loses interest and doesn’t really shine like he does when he’s really performing. So that’s also taught me a lot about considering what the feeling and experience is going to be for the horse, which is so dependent on your mindset, and on sometimes dropping the expectations and just being grateful for that moment, of having a horse at that level and being able to perform in those arenas,” Tristan explains.

Tristan speaks with admiration when describing not only his Grand Prix horses, but also those in the wings; there’s a big chestnut gelding well on his way to FEI level named Footloose that he’s particularly excited about, and a range of youngsters from his wife Katja’s family’s breeding program sporting sires such as Toto Jnr and Hanke.

There’s no doubt that we’ll see a lot more of Tristan Tucker in the dressage arena as competitions start to return. Given his passion, dedication and genuine desire for continuous learning and improvement, it seems as though the best may still be to come for this amazing Australian horseman – both in and out of the saddle. EQ

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