In-house rider, an unpopular job?

11 April 2020

Behind each rider is a team that is paramount to any success. Studforlife has decided to reveal the high-level backstage by bringing these actors who are essential to a high-level stable out of the shadows. This month, in our Question of the Month section, we are focusing on the in-house rider, a job analyzed by Fanny Berger, shadow worker for Niels Bruynseels, and show jumping World No. 3 Daniel Deusser.

What is the role of the in-house rider in a great sportsman's team?

Fanny Berger, in-house rider of Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels: "At Niels’, I ride three types of horses: high-level horses, which he rides in competitions, when they are at home; young horses; and horses aimed at trade. In total, there are about thirty horses in the stable and I am assisted by another rider who comes to ride some young horses in the morning and takes them out to competitions.

You must first and foremost be passionate and committed. You must also know how to adapt as quickly as possible and be very observant because it's a very demanding job that requires a lot of independence. You have to be able to adapt to all types of horses, to communicate with the whole team in order to discuss the health and behavior of the entire stable. Any change in behavior or any discomfort must be immediately brought to our attention. It’s essential that we work together as a team. We communicate a lot so that we don't miss anything. We also have to be good at working on the flat because it is about 80% of our daily work.

For all this to work well, we must have a very strong bond of trust with the rider because in-house riders are often the only riders at the stables most of the week and therefore bear great responsibility with horses of great value. The quality of the work that we produce can be assessed through a variety of parameters, although in the end, the work on a horse is a collective effort, from the in-house rider to the osteopath... Feedback from the rider on the behavior of the horses in competition but also the evolution of the young horses or the horses’ well-being at the stable allow us to evaluate the work done and adapt accordingly. The role of the home rider is therefore key because today's riders are in competition most of the year and do not have the time to work their horses at home very much. It is our responsibility to make the horse as ready as possible when jumping the biggest global events.

Most in-house riders start at the bottom of the ladder in small stables. To succeed, you have to prove yourself, make the right choices and surround yourself with the right people. It is important to take the time to train and not skip the steps. This helps you build a solid background and thus evolve to high-level stables where experience is essential.

To be honest the in-house rider lives in a world apart. We must therefore accept working in the shadows. Some people can sometimes suffer from a lack of recognition because they cannot really accept the fact of working behind the scenes. Personally, the most important recognition in my eyes comes from the rider and the owners. They are the best judge of the quality of my work."

Daniel DEUSSER: "When people talk about my in-house rider, Benjamin Plantade (whom we interviewed a short while ago, editor's note ), two words come to mind: trust and communication. The in-house rider plays a key role in my team because he spends twice as much time with the horses as I do. So I need to be able to trust him but also to communicate easily so that I have all the information I need about the shape, health and well-being of my horses. I rely on this relationship of trust because it is essential between a rider and his home rider.

I have a small team of four people (in-house rider, competition groom and in-house groom) and about ten competition horses in my stable which is an integral part of Stephex Stables. I do not have any young horses or trade horses in my stable at the moment. This allows me to focus on top level sport which is an incredible opportunity.

I manage the team in an almost family atmosphere and I have an excellent relationship with each member of my team. Everyone plays a key role for me, each in his or her own field. My in-house rider is responsible for maintaining the physical condition and spirit of my horses when they are at home. His job is to keep my horses happy. Their well-being is paramount, so he varies the exercises, works on relaxation, flexibility and endurance. It's the work on the flat that is the core of an in-house rider's job. It's all about working the fundamentals so that the horses are ready for competition. The quality of the home work is essential, knowing that we are in competition almost every weekend.

I would say that it is not an easy task recruiting in-house riders. In general, I trust my instinct, giving more importance to the feeling the person gives me rather than their CV. I always give the person a chance if the feeling’s good. However, I never recruit totally blind. I always try to get feedback before I meet someone because it's so difficult to judge someone over a few days. You need to trust them very quickly because I'm only at home two to three days a week maximum. I'm very lucky right now because Benjamin has been working with me for a while not and we are a good team, so I can go to competitions with peace of mind. The fact that he is a pillar of my team allows me to focus on my work. I think that reflects the essential role he plays in the team. This importance is also valid for the two other members of my team (in-house groom and competition groom). Without their work and skills, I wouldn’t be able to devote myself to the high level nor work efficiently."

Interview by Manon Le Coroller. Featured photo: Sportfot.com