The Grueling Road to Success and Teaching the Next Generation
Eventing is one of the toughest sports there is and having a role model and mentor can make the difference between success and failure. Experience counts for everything and if those with it can pass some of their knowledge on to the next generation, then the benefits are enormous.
Lauren Shannon, British 4 Star event rider knows this better than anyone, so as well as driving her own ambitions for Rio 2016, she is now devoting a significant amount of her time to teaching and advising others. Her pupils now range from those wanting to compete for fun in their spare time to the dedicated teenager who wants to follow in her footsteps and be picked for GB’s Junior or Young Riders team.
Lauren, 25, is now an established rising star in Eventing; she was long listed for London 2012, became part of Team GB’s 2012 Olympic Ambition programme, has won Best Under 25 Burghley 4* twice and was a Young Rider Gold Medalist aged 20.
But it has been a long, hard road to get here and her success was definitely helped by a decision she made at just 16. Brought up in the US, she decided to move to the UK full time and live with international eventers Mark and Tanya Kyle after they offered her a place working at their yard.
“I knew that in order to make it happen I had to leave home and throw everything I had at this chance. Moving to the Kyles’ Yard meant I could throw myself into the riding and know that I would have help whenever I needed it. They were my mentors and could show me the ropes. I had faith in their experience and knowledge and knew they would help me be the best I could be.”
A Committed Teenager Away From Home: Lauren then spent the rest of her teenage years away from her family, relentlessly working on her riding and training young event horses under the Kyles’ watchful eyes. It was really tough and she was certainly thrown in at the deep end. They helped her find the right first horse to help her achieve her dreams; a young, quirky mare called Quixotic who accompanied Lauren when she moved to their yard in 2003.
A couple of years later in 2005, Lauren was indeed selected for the Junior and Young Rider teams but she couldn’t compete because of a broken collar bone. In 2006, Lauren was selected again with Quixotic and they won Team Gold with the British Young riders. This was an amazing achievement baring in mind it was only 6 months after breaking her pelvis in a car crash.
“I know for a fact that I couldn’t have competed at all in 2006 without the Kyle’s help and guidance. To win a gold medal that year too felt like the biggest reward! Representing my country was an awesome feeling, and one I am adamant about repeating!”
Time to Go It Alone: Lauren was then ready to set up her own eventing business and she took on her own yard within the Kyles complex so she could become independent without losing sight of her mentors should she need some advice or a lift to a competition if her own lorry decided not to start (which it happened on many an occasion!).
A Big Leap Up to 4 star: A couple of years later in 2010, aged just 23, Lauren was competing in her first Burghley on two of her own, completely self produced horses; her first horse Quixotic and a gelding she had bought as a six year old from the Kyles, Zero Flight. She finished in 12th place with Zero Flight and became the highest placed British rider under 25 and highest placed rider competing at their first Burghley. She also won the HSBC FEI Classics TM Training Bursary which is awarded to the highest placed rider competing at their first four-star competition.
I was absolutely pole-axed,” said Lauren at the time “Everyone said ride to get round at your first Burghley but that is not my style – you have to want it and I had to ride to win.”
After a few more encouraging 4 star results with Zero Flight coming 9th in his second Burghley (plus a second Best U25 Award) and Quixotic 17th at Badminton, she was selected for the World Class Development Squad and then long listed for the London Olympics with Zero Flight. An injury to her horse was a disappointment but the GB selectors asked her take part in London 2012 Ambition Programme which aimed to expose the next generation to their first Olympic experience.
“ I was asked to be one of five young eventers to go to London 2012. So I saw it all first hand and went to London on my feet, but as part of a team, and I can definitely say that those few days spent at Greenwich has made me even more determined to aim for Rio 2016!”
Becoming A Role Model and New Challenges: So as well as working on her own Olympic dreams, Lauren has begun to make a name for herself teaching and advising riders in the East Midlands. Becoming a role model and mentor herself to a new generation of eventers is proving a challenge which she is relishing;
“I work closely with a number of young teenagers who are just coming out of juniors and need to step up to a more serious level. I want to help them be the best they can be, but I try and make sure they enjoy the journey too! I get a huge amount of satisfaction watching them achieve their own personal goals whether it be getting to the Pony Club National Championships or completing their first double clear over the bigger tracks.
I know how it feels to start out with just a dream! I hope someday to watch one of my gang ride their first Burghley.”
As well as her pupils who come to her for lessons, the story has come full circle as Lauren feels she is now ready to offer a working pupil place to a potential Young Rider for the 2013 Eventing season. They would bring their own horse, live and work with her (she’s a very good cook too!) and hopefully tread the same path she did when she was a pupil at the Kyles.
“The way I’ve grown up in the British Eventing scene has been hugely rewarding and eye opening. it’s a tough old world out there, and its nice to know there is someone there to help all the time. I feel very sorry for all these kids coming up without the guidance I had. I already get so much out of watching the people I teach improve, and I would love to watch someone I mentor reach their goals.”
Lauren is based in Wymeswold, Leicestershire and has access to world class facilities for teaching and training. She also takes in horses for schooling, competing and selling.
You can follow Lauren on facebook and twitter to hear all about her news and views:
And check out her website at: www.shannoneventing.com