Take a close look at the best riders in the business and you’ll realize one commonality: most got to where they are by standing on the shoulders of great mentors. Irish show jumper Denis Lynch is no exception. A fixture in the top 40 on the Longines World Ranking List, Denis is a regular winner at the CSI5* level and has competed in a number of major events—including three FEI World Cup Finals, the European Championships, and two World Championships—in the last seven years.

One person Denis credits with the development of his business foundation, including his life’s motto, is one of the sport’s all-time greats: Great Britain’s John Whitaker. From kindness and determination to a respect for the basics, we caught up with Denis to find out what John has taught him that’s made a difference in his own career.

1. Don’t over-complicate. 

I asked John once about how I should approach a certain jump off, and he said, “Leave the jumps up.”

2. Keep a level head.

Whether he wins or loses, John always stays level. He doesn’t lose his cool and he approaches the end result, be it positive or negative, in the same way.

3. Be kind. 

John is very kind to his horses. You never see him lose his temper. He has compassion, and I think that goes a long way in this industry.

4. Preservation. 

John taught me a lot about preserving a horse for as long as possible. The way he manages a horse’s career is amazing. You see how long horses can successfully compete with John, and it shows that he never pushes them past what is reasonable. John never treats his horses like machines.

5. Take care of your gear.

In a similar way, John has bridles he’s been using for 25 years! John takes care of his tack and gear, and he stands by the belief that you don’t need to have the latest and greatest to do well in the sport.

6. Never give up.

John has a career that spans decades, and he comes out each year and rides consistently. He doesn’t let tough patches get to him, he just carries on.