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Stephen saddling up the great Shutterfly, for Edwina Tops-Alexander to ride during the Final 4, WEG Aachen 2006
(photo: Julie Wilson)
With the Olympics fast approaching, Horsezone is proud to be featuring various members of the Australian Equestrian Team in Five Minutes With... articles over coming weeks.
We decided to kick off with Equestrian Australia's National Performance Director for Jumping, Stephen Lamb, who has been Chef d’Equipe for jumping since 1999, when he was appointed to the role leading up to Sydney 2000. It was at the Sydney Olympic Games that Stephen met his wife, Melanie, a journalist with Fairfax who was covering the equestrian events.
Stephen is also the southern NSW Territory Manager for Horsepower, so with both these roles he's definitely got a finger on the pulse of our elite riders and their horses!
How did you first become involved with horses?
Having been born into a “horsey family”, I have been involved with horses literally all my life, first competing at Melbourne Royal when I was 15 months old.
What was your involvement with showjumping prior to becoming EA Chef d’Equipe and more recently the National Performance Director for Jumping?
I competed a lot as a junior and young rider and then started to get more involved in the administrative side of the sport. This included being the Event Director of CSI-W Sale from 1989 to 2001 as well as the 1996 Australian Championships.
What does the role of Chef d’Equipe/National Performance Director involve?
EVERYTHING (other than coaching)! Lots of logistics and organisational work. Probably best summed up by attempting to do everything possible to facilitate the riders and their horses performing at their best.
What do you enjoy most about it?
Seeing the best horses and riders from around the world not only compete, but also behind the scenes as they train and prepare, is an amazing opportunity. Also, seeing Australian riders progress through the ranks and achieve their life long goals can be inspiring. However, that is countered by seeing the disappointment of those that don’t make it. Every major campaign presents new challenges to be overcome. Despite the enormous amount of planning that goes into it, there are always unforeseen issues that arise and need to be dealt with. I actually quite enjoy that particular role.
What are some of the challenges?
The logistics of moving horses around the world is always a challenge, as is bringing together a group of elite athletes who normally compete as individuals, and forming them into a team.
What are you most looking forward to about London 2012?
I think the whole Olympic experience for our riders in London is going to be incredible. The last Olympics were different because being in Hong Kong we were at a satellite location, and it was more like a WEG than an Olympics. With such a great equestrian tradition in the UK, I just think it will be an incredible experience for everyone involved.
What can fans do to show their support for the Aussie equestrian team in the lead up to and during the Olympics?
I think the best way will be via the EA facebook page and I’m sure the AOC will have also have something similar. Of course, many of the team members also have their own facebook pages and websites where people can send them well wishes. But please, keep in mind, the stresses and pressures of competing at an Olympic Games are enormous, so by all means send you best wishes, but do so with the understanding that despite how much the riders appreciate receiving them, they may not be able to reply.
In your role with Horsepower, who are some of the high profile riders you work with?
George Sanna, Jamie Winning, Jamie Kermond, Jono Berry, Rod and Jess Brown, Tim Boland, Rachael Downes, Shane Rose and James Mooney.
What's the best way to determine an optimum feeding regime for equine athletes?
Like most things to do with horses, feeding them is a specialised area. If it's something you don’t have a lot of experience in, ask for help. Basically all the major feed companies offer free advice when it comes to nutrition. At Horsepower, we have an extremely experienced and well credentialed vet in Dr David Wood, who has literally travelled the world working with horses and their nutritional needs. At one stage, “Woody” was the personal vet to the Sultan of Brunei for over 10 years. He has a real talent for taking scientific data and research and making it understandable and relevant to horse owners of all levels. Also remember that while the internet can be a wonderful tool for sourcing information – there is also an enormous amount of misinformation out there.
What should people be looking for when purchasing a showjumper?
Suitability for what they want to do. For the majority of people, showjumping is a hobby they do for enjoyment, so make sure the horse you purchase is going to make your hobby an enjoyable pastime. If you are crawling out of bed at some ungodly hour in the morning to ride your horse in the frost and fog before going to work, then make sure it’s a pleasurable experience. Otherwise, what’s the point?
|Stephen with Chairman of Selectors, Peter Cooke, at WEG Kentucky 2010|
Top tip for someone wanting to make it the the elite level of showjumping?
There is probably always going to be someone else more talented than you, there is probably always going to be someone with more money than you – but YOU can be the person that works the hardest – so WORK, WORK, WORK!
What are some of your most memorable moments in the sport?
I’ve seen incredible horses and incredible riders – just so many things, across all disciplines. Seeing the Australian Eventers win their third successive gold medal in Sydney, watching Blue Hors Matine do his freestyle test in Aachen 2006. But for me personally, it has to be taking part in the Final 4 at the Aachen WEG with Edwina and Pialotta. The number of times I had watched videos of the horse swapping final format over the years, watching John Whitakker ride Gem Twist,. for example, and then getting to see it happen live at Jerez in 2002... and then in 2006, actually being out there in the middle and being part of the action. It was surreal.
If you weren't involved with horses what would you be doing?
I honestly, really don’t know. Maybe some form of creative art, like writing or drawing.
How do you relax?
I quite enjoy cooking.
Thanks so much for your time Stephen and we're all looking forward to cheering on the Aussies in London!
- Visit the Equestrian Australia website
- 'Like' the Equestrian Australia Facebook page
- Visit the Horsepower website for nutritional information