byNina Fedrizzi| Aug 14, 2017
It was a big Saturday for two of the world’s most decorated five-star riders this weekend: Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca, who won the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Valkenswaard CSI5* aboard the 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Ensor de Litrange LXII; and Ireland’s Denis Lynch, who took the 24,600 JLT Dublin Stakes CSIO5* with RMF Zecile, Rushy Marsh Farm’s 10-year-old Holsteiner mare.
The Royal Dublin Horse Show proved to be fertile ground for the home team, and despite a loss to Team USA in Friday’s FEI Nations Cup Aga Khan Trophy, six Irish riders—including Cian O’Connor and Greg Broderic—picked up wins in a number of the week’s big classes. On Saturday, the ever-cool-under-pressure Lynch joined their ranks in a 13-horse jump-off, shaving three hundreths of a second from the 2nd-placed time of Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat & Cayetana.
In Valkenswaard, Netherlands, Lorenzo de Luca—currently ranked #4 in Longines World Rankings—took advantage of “Ensor’s” ample stride and affinity for big rings, finishing on a time of 39.20 ahead of Germany’s Christian Ahlmann & Codex, who stopped the clock at 39.93. “My horses are jumping really consistently, and I know them and they try their best for me,” de Luca said after the class.
In addition to their reputation as consummate horsemen, both Lynch and de Luca are known for their steely nerves, most especially—as this weekend proved—in the jump-off rounds of the world’s biggest classes. Here are eight lessons they shared with NF Style about how to ride the class of your life, no matter how high the stakes.
1. Transform nervous energy into focus.
“During the course walk…don’t let too many people distract you. I tend to keep to myself during the course walk, which allows me to stay focused on the task at hand. Make sure you are organized and on time. Your horse is tacked up early, and your team, if you have one, understands what they need to do.” -Denis Lynch
2. Anticipate your emotions in the jump-off round.
“You can ride a big first round with confidence and feeling relaxed, but then in the jump-off, you feel the pressure, and you get more tense. These small differences really impact the horse and can change the jump. But you can only change something once you realize you are tense.” -Lorenzo de Luca
3. Focus on the things you can control—not the things you can’t.
“You can control your warm up, your course walk, and your time management, but you can’t control your result. Some riders like to spend a long time warming up; others don’t need as long. I tend to take the approach that the sooner you are on your horse, the better. You can’t control other competitors or the weather conditions, so don’t focus on those things.” -Denis Lynch
4. Take a time out for deep breathing.
“When I realize I’m a little tense, I will stop for a few moments and feel the tension in my shoulders or other parts of my body. I will use deep breathing for a few moments, and then focus back 100 percent on my horse.” -Lorenzo de Luca
5. Calculate your breaths on course.
“Your horse will perform better with a calm jockey, so take the time to keep your breathing steady. You must take two or three points on a course to take a deep breath—that is essential! It’s easy to say, but it is absolutely worth working towards achieving a level of calm during competition.” -Denis Lynch
6. No matter how big the class, make sure to respect your horse’s limits.
“I learned never to ask more of my horses than they could handle…if you go over the limits of what you and your horses can do, you can destroy everything you worked so hard for.” -Lorenzo de Luca
7. Map your ride in advance using visualization.
“Walk a line and then visualize how you want to ride that line. Take the opportunity to talk yourself through each segment of the course. This is [also] a great way to think about how you want your body to remain controlled on course.” -Denis Lynch
8. Make your plan—and then trust yourself to stick to it.
“[Working with Henk Nooren] gave me the trust I needed to make my own decisions in the ring and the confidence to know I could do it…In the end, when you ride a three-, four-, or five-star grand prix, being able to trust your own judgment [on course] makes all the difference.” -Lorenzo de Luca
- Six Qualities Denis Lynch Always Looks for in a Horse [NF Style]
- Six Things Denis Lynch Has Learned From John Whitaker [NF Style]
- All Master Class posts [NF Style]