Amy Collinson is a 28-year-old show jumper from New Zealand who is studying under the tutelage of French Olympic gold medalist, Roger Yves Bost. While she hails from a family with no equestrian background, horses have always been a driving force in her life. After obtaining her Bachelor's degree in Management, she moved to join Kiwi rider Samantha Mcintosh in Belgium, beginning her European adventure. Amy then moved to Denmark as a working student for Bruce Goodin, and then became a working student for Miranda Harrington in the Netherlands. Now, she has joined "Bosty's" yard as a student and reflects on what she's learned so far.
When I was 22 years old, I made the bold decision to leave my home in New Zealand and move my life to Europe to follow my passion for show jumping. At the time, I didn't know how long I'd be staying, but that was six years ago, so the move seems to have stuck.
The decision took me all over, as I chased opportunities in Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands training with three top NZ riders. I was making great progress in the Netherlands when I decided it was time to push myself out of the comfort zone yet again. I moved to France, with no fellow kiwis close by, to train with Roger Yves Bost “Bosty” in Barbizon, France. So far, I've been here for 18 months, and they've been some of the most formative months of my life.
Pictured: In the beautiful forest of Fontainebleau, accessible from the stable. Bosty also rides his horses in the forest most days.
I had always dreamed of training with one of the best riders in the world. I still remember watching Bosty on the television winning the 2013 European championships. Back then, while on the couch in New Zealand, the top sport seemed like a world away - inaccessible for someone like me. I wondered how you even got into that echelon of the sport, let alone stayed there for years like Bosty had.
The fact I have my horses at his stable sounds like a fairytale, however, it actually turned out to be a very challenging time. When I first arrived, my best horse had a tendon injury, and not long after she was back competing, I had a bad fall from a young horse. The accident put me out for a few months and really knocked my confidence. Now everything has halted again with the Coronavirus lockdowns, however, I am enjoying the quiet time training at home – not a bad place to be stuck! It is nice to able to quietly re-build my confidence without any pressure. Although my time in Barbizon has not gone to plan, it has still been a great experience and I have learnt some very valuable lessons.
Related read: What It's Really Like Jumping In Your First Grand Prix
Passion Over Perfection
There is no question whether or not Bosty truly loves the horses. He builds a deep, meaningful connection with them and they truly fight for him - it's remarkable to watch. One of my theories about horsemanship is that if you take care of your horse the best you can outside of the ring, they will take care of you the best they can in the ring. Bosty and his horses are a true example of this. It is humbling to see the time he spends with the horses; to see that he is the one who puts the saddle on his horses every day and is not above helping out with normal stable jobs when needed. He always hand-walks his own horses at the shows, he really cherishes each moment spent with his horses. Bosty has a very pure and humble approach with the horses which makes me feel right at home, because it reminds me of how it is back in New Zealand.
He has great respect for his horses and you never see him get frustrated, angry, or overwork them. He tells me the horses cannot concentrate for very long so it is best to give them many short breaks while schooling. He says they only have to concentrate for two minutes in the ring - they don’t need to be drilled non-stop for an hour. This is something that keeps his horses happy and fresh in the mind, and this helps them stay motivated to work with him.
I can get stuck wanting my rides to feel perfect all the time, which creates unnecessary pressure and stress. I always want to have the same perfect rhythm and distance. In a perfect world this what you want, but in reality, it isn’t possible. The way Bosty rides is so pure and fearless, and this has been truly valuable for me to observe. He says it doesn’t need to be perfect all the time. When it is not going to plan this is when you have to let go of perfection, that's when you really learn how to make it work.
No Man Is an Island
Even though Bosty is a very talented rider and a great horseman, he could not achieve what he does without his team. His wife, Cyrille, is the team manager and she organizes everything behind the scenes. I have learnt this is very important to have and that this job is just as important as the rider. Cyrille keeps the whole team under control and is aware of what they need to achieve each day and week. A strong manger like this means Bosty can spend his energy on training his horses and focusing on the competitions.
Pictured: Amy with Bosty and her dad at a show in Bourg en Bresse.
Another important person on his team is his son, Nicolas. Nicolas has his own team of competition horses, but when Bosty is away Nicolas can ride Bosty's top horses. It is so important to have good people around at home so the top horses continue with a good system. No other rider could understand how Bosty likes his horses to work better than Nicolas. They also work together and swap horses from time to time so that they can be ready for the right shows. Having another rider that understands the system appears to be very important and is definitely a great strength.
The grooms and other home riders are also a very an important part of the team. Bosty and Cyrille only allow experienced people who are good with the horses to be part of the team. The farriers and vets also work together to share ideas of how to keep the horses strong and sound.
Another asset of Bosty's team is the fact he has all his family around – parents, brother, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephew. The whole family is evolved in the sport and a part of the stable. To have such a close strong support system is invaluable. Our sport is a very demanding one with all the travel and time away from home, so to be able to come home and have the whole family close must also add to the recipe of success.
It is a little unknown when the shows will start up again in the meantime we have been building different show like courses at the stable. I would like to be ready with my most experienced horse Upsilon D’ Austral to start off in 1.35m – 1.40m classes. Once this is consistent, I would like to build to the 2* Grand Prix level and then hopefully go further as he has all the scope. I have also been thinking of different ideas of how to make the sport more stainable for myself. During this quiet time I have applied for a few top MBA (masters in business) programs to give myself an option to expand my knowledge and network in Europe. I would like to help my father expand his business into Europe and/or create something of my own as a way to help fund my passion. My big dream is to have my own stable in Europe and to represent my country New Zealand at the Olympics.
Feature photo by Erin Gilmore for NoelleFloyd.com. Inset photos courtesy of the author.