Home' Smart Farmer : June 2011 Contents June 2011
By JULIE PAUL
AST month, smartfarmer
looked at the benefits of the
pony club experience for the
young rider in your family, learning
to ride in a relaxed and supportive
environment and developing confi-
dence and skills as he/she progresses
through the grades.
The same principle applies for rid-
ers of more mature years -- perhaps
those who rode as children but have
been unable to continue over the
years because of career or family
commitments, or those who have
never ridden before and would like
to give it a try in middle/later life.
The starting point must be having
a sympathetic instructor, a suitable
horse and, particularly, developing
the all-important confidence.
That's where someone like Geoff
Pannell comes in.
Geoff is an accredited Equestrian
Federation coach with more than 25
years experience in training horses
and riders, from beginners through
to advanced competition.
However, many would
argue that one of his great-
est skills is in developing
the confidence of riders
who may be starting up
again after many years out
of the saddle, or may be
starting from scratch with
the associated nervousness
of beginning a new and
fairly demanding sport.
"I know what it's like,"
Geoff said. "I competed
extensively when I was
younger and then had a break from
riding for a while, so I understand
what a big step it can be to start up
again, and how fear can creep into
the mind. It's further down to the
ground as we get older, and we don't
bounce so easily.
"A confident approach is essen-
Geoff runs weekend 'confidence
courses' about five times a year at his
Lanyon Riding Centre, located at
Inman Valley on the Fleurieu
"There are some classes for chil-
dren or young riders," Geoff said.
"But the majority would be people
wanting to ride again after a lay-off
of some years."
Geoff has about six 'school horses'
of varying sizes and types for use by
his pupils, or riders are welcome to
take their own horse if they prefer.
Private lessons are available if riders
like to make their first efforts with
only Geoff in attendance, until they
feel happy in a small group.
The idea is to make the classes just
challenging enough without being
When the day's lessons are over,
riders relax and discuss the chal-
lenges of riding while enjoying a
glass of wine, and have the opportu-
nity to take part in some gentle yoga
and pilates exercises to increase flex-
ibility and develop their riding mus-
cles - an essential for feeling secure
in the saddle.
"Once the muscles are working
well, we're half way there," Geoff
said. "Then the physical side is
under control, and the mind has
something positive to work on. A
small amount of fear is natural, but
it can easily be overcome with the
"I take young horses for training
and ambitious riders for develop-
ment to advanced competition level,
but an increasing number of my
clients are mature age riders on the
confidence courses -- mostly people
from their thirties up to mid-sixties
or even older.
"Building confidence in riders is
proving to be my bread-
and-butter skill, and the
courses are becoming more
popular every year with
mature people who realise
they can still enjoy many
years of riding. All they
need is a brush-up of skills
and a renewal of confidence
-- and I can help with that."
It's easy to see why the
courses are so successful.
• Need to know more?
Geoff Pannell 08 8558 8363
Riding: confidence is key
KERRY Heysen-Hicks (pictured) made
the decision to attend Geoff Pannell's
'confidence classes' after having a
bad accident which left her with a
broken pelvis and a total loss of con-
fidence as a rider. As she was aged in
her sixties, it was a significant resolu-
tion to make.
"I set myself a goal of riding the
Kidman Trail, and someone suggested
that a course of lessons with Geoff
would get me back on track again."
Kerry said. "It made all the differ-
Kerry went to Geoff and explained
"He thought for a few moments,
and then said 'Alright, I'll take you
and your horse on for four weeks, but
if I don't think you're safe to ride the
Kidman Trail after that time, you're
not going -- okay?'
"He is a great instructor. The horse
I had at the time was probably not
really suitable for me, but Geoff
worked on us both, his instruction
was very clear, just challenging
enough without frightening me, but
most of all -- it was fun!
"When my four weeks came to an
end, Geoff said 'Well, you're probably
okay to go on the ride, but I'm com-
ing with you for the first day or so,
just in case you need a bit of help.'
"I had a ball, and so did the other
riders on the trail. So many of them
said they had forgotten just how
much fun riding could be."
Kerry still rides with Geoff to main-
tain her skills and confidence levels,
as do quite a few of his pupils.
"There's quite a group of us, all dif-
ferent ages," Kerry said.
"Geoff pushes us all a bit, but he's
never intimidating -- he gets the best
out of us by encouragement.
"We have had so much pleasure
from discovering riding again -- from
mildly challenging lessons to quiet
rides through the forest.
"All of us had a few doubts and
fears to begin with, but look at us
"We're back in the saddle and lov-
Positive attitude for success
pictured with Geoff
on Jodie at the
Geoff Pannell offers advice to Abie Endean, riding
Paddlepop and Belinda Binney on Covers.
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