In the riding hall a small lady is sitting in the corner covered in blankets. It’s a few degrees below zero and it already feels freezing cold. The lady is Mary Robins from New Zealand, she’s here on a quest to give riders near the North Pole important advice on how to succeed.
By Rill M. Rytter Fjøren. Photo Mette Sattrup
-Keep your hands low and keep them together! Thumbs up! And remember what I told you, always inside leg to the outside rein.
Mary Robins is clear. There is no way not to understand what she means. Not for a single moment she looks away. She sees everything. And she’ll let you know that she sees everything if you try to relax for just a second!
Her riders get a new understanding. They achieve amazing results in a short amount of time.
No wonder Mary is so popular and her Norwegian clinics are full weeks in advance, even though she visits the country every second week.
When Mary Robins is not in Norway, she is in Italy, France, Mauritius, Botswana, Poland, Ukraine, Iraq or other countries all over the world. Sometimes she’s even in England where her job is, her partner, her dogs, her horses and her home. Her farm is equine based and has 26 stables.
Mary Robins is a trainer, educated according to the English system. She is an international FEI Dressage as well as an Eventing- and Paradressage-judge. Mary also has considerable knowledge in dressage for Driving at international level – and she has been working with Carl Hester, the famous dressage-trainer in England, for approximately twenty years. She is an in demand judge and trainer. So, why is this resourceful lady spending her time in freezing riding halls in Norway?
-I owe a lot to Norway, Mary says. The Norwegian FEI judge, Trond Asmyr, helped me when I was an unexperienced judge of dressage. I was invited to the big shows in Norway and I got my chance to practice. He and the Norwegian dressage community made it possible for me to be an international FEI judge. This is my way of giving back.
Mary Robins is a straight forward lady. She tells you exactly what she means and she doesn’t restrain anything. Still, she has a great sense of humor and can take a joke.
She was born on the other side of the earth, in New Zealand and she was on horseback before she could even walk.
-I had to ride to get to school, Mary tells.
At eleven, she moved to Fiji where she rode horses without a saddle and only a rope bridle. The horses were tethered instead of kept in fields and her idea of fun was jumping the concrete lined gullies at full gallop!
Her first experience with dressage was studying with Robert Hall FBHS at his Fulmer Equestrian Centre whilst she was at school in England. Mrs. Jook Hall had just returned from the Olympics and Mary spent many evenings watching Mrs. Hall training her advanced horses, and as a young girl she was given the opportunity to ride them. One in particular, Conversano Caprice, Mrs. Hall’s Olympic horse, gave Mary her first experience of piaffe and passage, something she will never forget.
Robert Hall was passionate about the horse welfare in dressage and was very vocal with the fact that the wellbeing of the horse must never be compromised to get to the goal.
He coined the phrase ‘the allowing hand’ and always emphasized in his training that the classical and conscientious approach still reaped great success – but by doing so we must respect the timescales of the horse and not our own.
– I know that Robert would have been delighted to have seen the training methods of Carl and Charlotte Dujardin, says Mary.- They stay true to the principle that he engrained in his pupils all those years ago, and they are the methods that I pass on to my pupils today. Training MUST be logical as without logic the horse becomes the victim of the rider’s misunderstanding.
She then spent time in Denmark returning to train under Ferdi Eilberg and Emile Faurie, before moving to the guidance of Carl Hester. Mary competed to advanced level herself, but her first love has always been training others and passing on her knowledge to future generations.
So, how can she endure to sit in ice cold riding halls for ten to twelve hours instructing?
– Because I love what I’m doing, Mary answers. -To see the improvement of horse and rider, and that makes it all worth it.
Mary Robins has developed her methods through many years of experience. She employs special techniques to give her riders each their individual tools to achieve results.
-The experience of collaborating with Carl Hester is unique, she says. -That has given me an advantage as a trainer few others have. I have the opportunity to draw on my knowledge as a British and international judge, meaning that I don’t only help my riders train their horses. They must also know how the judges think and through this get better marks. As a result of this combination, many of my Norwegian clients are seeing their scores improve significantly and steadily.
Mary Robins welcomes Equililfe’s reporter in her home in England. She has recently returned from The Olympic Games in Rio, where she attended the Appeal Committee. Her six dogs are overjoyed, especially little Fleur, her twelve-year-old Jack Russell whom is blind on the left eye.
– I consider my invitation to the Olympic a real honor, she smiles. – There I had the opportunity to be ‘giving back’ into another element of dressage.
The trainer and judge will only stay at home for a couple of days. This weekend she’s been judging the Blenheim International Horse Trials, next weekend she’ll be back in Norway, judging the Nordic/Baltic Championship of Eventing.
Mary’s students are on all levels, from LC to GP.
How is it possible to be motivated to teach beginners after teaching GP riders?
– The level doesn’t matter to me, Mary says. – I don’t mind If they are GP riders, beginners or anyone in-between. I am happy to train them at the level they are. My focus remains on seeing improvements, success and enjoyment. I love helping people to enter this sport and to see how they improve on any level.
That’s what I find fascinating!