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About upbeatequestrian

 Ruth Dickens, BHS II, Experienced Competitor in Dressage, Show Jumping and Cross Country.....
Ruth Dickens Ruth Dickens Ruth Dickens
Without having lost the real sense of FUN!
           bridle less canter                         jump for joy


Experienced at helping horses and riders to face all that life can throw at them.
Leading Ledger winner DettoriHarry Doncaster Parade
Sherlock drives them home.Sherlock stays dryRide and Lead

Student of horsemanship....

Mark Rashid

Teaching in England and America...
 Ruth Dickens and Lee HopRuth Dickens
Most of all, I am still enthused by LEARNING, and despite taking clinics and lessons I have found that the people I learn the most from are my clients and their horses. By working together on clients' goals we will both make discoveries together.

Cutting, America 2010


Yes, the above pictures show me as I am now. But how did I start?


I was born in inner London with not much chance of riding. We were not wealthy, and at first my only contact with horses was when we walked in the park and there were pony rides. One day, aged 18 months, I was lifted onto a pony for a photo, my first time ever. My mum tells me that most of the other younger toddlers were screaming to get OFF the pony, whereas I sat up straight and confident, and screamed like mad to stay ON when it was time to be lifted off.   First ever ride 


From that day on mum had to take a long detour around the park as whenever I saw the ponies I would scream to get on, and we did not often have the money for such frivolities at that time. The next time I had contact with horses was aged 3, at the Clapham Common Horse Fair and Show. I gave my mum the slip, and was found at the front leg of a HUGE dray Shire Horse, giving it a full weight hug around its knee, both arms locked around the mighty beast.

Of course, I don’t remember either occasion, the first time I remember horses in my life was at a Pony Trekking holiday I went on with mum. Apparently  we only did two days, and the fact that we were both total novices but they still had us cantering in the open scared mum that much that she would not let us ride again. I remember the canter, it was scary but also exhilarating, and also I remember crying my eyes out that we couldn’t ride any more. I also remember the smell of horse, it was intoxicating. And the grease on my hands. Black grease from stroking the horses. My first real time with horses.

Mum had a job move, we moved to Yorkshire when I was 9 years old. With the move, which was traumatic enough for a young girl, came the promise of riding lessons, it was a sweetener to me to uproot. Once a week I had a group lesson, sit up, heels down. I was schooled in diagonals, the correct leg at canter, we even started jumping, and rode out one following the other. I LONGED for a pony! I requested money for each Christmas and Birthday, and saved it all. I dreamed horses, I devised jumping courses, stable plans, feeding regimes, I got myself a whole grooming kit piece by piece.


About this time I remember going to Chatsworth Horse Trials with mum to watch. I was entranced by the big beautiful brave horses. I remember bugging the life out of one of the mounted stewards as I watched, and very quickly I decided that this is what I wanted to do. The steward sent me to the BHS stand (as it was the BHS who organised Horse Trials in those days). I explained that I had decided I wanted to event, and wanted to know how to do it. She asked if I had a pony ?- NO. Could I ride?- well, I have learned rising trot. Did my parents have a lot of money?-No, there is only my mother, and she says she doesn’t have a lot of money. The lady advised me that she didn’t think I could event. I wish I could meet her now, as she has taught me the lesson that you can’t cap someone’s ambitions just because you could not personally succeed under those circumstances, or can’t see an immediate answer. I was HUGELY disappointed at the time.


My mum’s big mistake was telling me that I couldn’t have a pony as it would cost as much as a car. Then one day she got a promotion and she got.......a company car!!! She buckled under the pressure, and I think it helped that we knew of a pony for sale that we thought would be just the ticket. And so arrived Prophet, 14.2hh, grey gelding.


Mum, not being horsey, didn’t realise I don’t think what a big change this would be to me from riding a riding school pony under constant supervision. I soon found that Prophet was not like the ponies that I had ridden, it seemed that he would either walk or gallop, not much in-between. Now aged 14 I was scared by a few near misses, one day even galloping out of control and jumping a wall onto the main A57. I did not dare to tell mum the true extent of my problems in case she sold the pony, but I did beg for more lessons.


There was a happy outcome, within three lessons we were more on an even keel. Prophet was never a dope, but we jumped, and did cross country, rode out and did what teenagers and ponies should do. We had FUN! Prophet eventually succumbed to a bone spavin, and he stayed with us or on loan in light work until he was eventually put down, at an age the vet says was well the wrong side of thirty.


After Prophet I had a few horses, but my best early horse experiences came from riding for a dealer. I had just one horse and she had LOADS! So, I rode my horse, then four or five of hers.  These were young horses just over from Ireland, and I got to have free lessons from the lady, who was also an eventer. This re-sparked up an interest in eventing. As well as the dealer horses eventually I rode her three eventers too, and loved it. Just as she was taking me seriously to train me to event her circumstances changed and the yard closed.


This was the time I left school, I took myself off for the summer and took my BHS AI. I knew then that I had a way of earning money, doing what I loved to do. I ran a lot of part time jobs together so I could ride, we did some BSJA jumping and even won a newcomers. We did Team Chasing and got round an open. We also did local dressage, and I thought we could possibly event, but at that time Pre-Novice was the lowest class, and that was higher than it is now, and without much money, or even knowing anyone who did it, it seemed a distant goal. I eventually got a well paid job, and planned to start to look at how to get there.


The plan was delayed as I settled in my new job, bought my own house, and in fact met my husband to be. Then, I was injured at work, I could no longer even lift a tin of beans over my head much less a saddle, so my horse was sold, and I did nearly 5 years, by necessity, without riding. It was survival time, to keep my job and fight back to fitness.


When I took up riding again it was as part of a large organisation, training Police Horses and riders. It was a totally new experience, the targets for the horse could be harsh and dangerous, and the training had little margin for error.

 I felt in need of updating after 5 years of no riding, and so decided to train for my BHS II. For the jumping training I turned up at a showjumper’s yard and asked to ride. This was fantastic, I was again riding young and problem horses, as well as grade A showjumpers up to Grand Prix, had fun and learned LOADS! The exam was a success.


A couple of years after I started working with the Police horses I became Head Trainer, a position I held for 15 years. I was in charge of training for the harshest conditions, with riders selected for their Policing ability, with some never having ridden before. I had 16 weeks to take a rider from never having ridden to being able to do a dressage test, ride a course of Show Jumps, Cross Country including water, ditches and banks, road riding on the busiest roads, and Public Order riding, where riders had to physically move people, whilst being pelted with fireworks, fire, smoke, bricks.....


The riders I trained were successful, and my safety record exemplary. I even wrote a series of magazine articles for "Equi Ads" magazine, bi-monthly articles for a year, on training both riders and the horses. See the "Articles" page for the articles themselves.  


With the Police Horses I was responsible for selection, purchase and training of Police Horses, including then handing them on to riders. The horses were not some "Special Breed" as some people thought, but horses purchased from dealers or from the internet. Often they were 4 years old, just imported from Ireland and very green. Often they could not canter on the school, and had little or no road riding experience.


I would have a 4 week trial period, at the end of which the horse would need to visit a Football Match, to test its reactions to crowds. It was not expected to "Work the Match" at this stage, but to attend and keep its head. One of the horses, Thorne, is particularly featured on the Article page of this site. It follows him from his arrival to being fully operational.


In this melting pot of tough and fast training targets and harsh working conditions I learned about confidence building, NLP and developed my own methods. I learned that often less is more, to trust instinct, and to trust my own methods, as often we were taking a path not documented by others. I learned to defy convention, to reach for targets, with feet on the floor.


With my track record for training I had visitors from other Forces to see how I arranged training, and also trained many Police Trainers, both from my own force area and also others who came for residential courses. As part of the National Training Committee I was able to shape national policy to keep up with changing times whilst respecting the horses who work with us. I also became one of only 12 National Mounted Assessors, travelling the country to assess new recruits, and more advanced riders as to their suitability to train horses and riders for this challenging role. I diversified my role to train college students, PCSOs and arranged training for Fire Officers in general horse handling for rescue purposes.


Meanwhile at home I fulfilled my ambition to go eventing, to do this I bought George. He had done some Pre-Novice so he obviously knew his job, and I had a few lessons (three I think) then just entered. The first one was a big thing, I still did not know anyone who did this, on the day I was a little lost but it was FANTASTIC! I had George for 2 years, he took me round my first Novice, and we never once faulted cross country!

In 1998 my husband and I bought our own stables, house, land and arena so we could have the horses at home. I did not teach at home until a few years after that. I find that teaching is the biggest way to learn, and helping people understand and progress is more pleasurable than I could have imagined.


I have had 5 eventers since 1998, and it has been every bit as fantastic as I thought. I have taken lessons and training much more seriously, and have been fortunate enough to compete at Chatsworth, the place where it all started. After that we had a ball, and completed at two CCI* International three day events, and we also competed at intermediate.  I had a series of press articles about this 30-something qualifying and living her dream.


The biggest pleasure I realised, for me, was in understanding my horses better. To this end I have also been learning with people who may be labelled more “Natural” horse trainers (although this is not how they “label” themselves!), both in England and America.


I was given the opportunity to co train clinics, comparing English riding with Western, training alongside a third generation cowboy and Horseman Lee Hop, using his working ranch horse to both demonstrate English Riding and also to learn more of Western Riding. On my travels I was also able to compete in the sport of Western Cutting, and met many wonderful people.


I have found a passion for buying what would be called "difficult" horses, and shaping them into confident and generous all rounders.


With my own horses in England I have been positively influenced by Mark Rashid, and Andrew and Manu McLean. I have also had regular lessons with Olympian Jane Bartle Wilson.

The different approaches transformed my hoses and also the Police Horses, with them having a leader to trust rather than an adversary on their backs when the chips were down. I also gained a reputation for working with private clients who had confidence issues, gaining referrals from other professionals and being invited to talk at the "Your Horse Live" exhibition.


As a finale for my time in Mounted I selected, trained and then rode a young horse at the 2012 Olympic games in London. Harry was less than a year in service at the time, and was excellent to travel the country and work in such a huge event, with flags and crowds. To my pleasure when he returned he was confident to take the least experienced and confident riders to the busiest and most violent events. Harry had had his own confidence trained in, he gained from my experience and is solid in his work.


More recently, after 20 years training for the Police, I have left to pursue other avenues. The Mounted job has become less funded, and it worried me that we seemed to be trying to do more with less. After so long riding up to 7 hours a day, in all weather conditions, usually young horses or those with issues that needed addressing, in harsh conditions of traffic and violence, my hips and back needed a lighter load.


After such a long time in such an involved job there was a period of adjustment, I had some fun acting (been on Emmerdale, DCI Banks and No Offence), written a couple of articles for "Western Horse Magazine", and am  now working part time as a teaching assistant at a school, helping children with special educational needs. I hope to learn still more about learning as a process, people, and confidence, in this role. This part time work marries well with private equestrian training for clients and my own horses.





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