EQUESTRIAN CONVERSATIONS: Louise Robson (Thoroughbred Dressage)
We are proud to welcome Louise Robson, of Thoroughbred Dressage, as a G&G Brand Ambassador. Louise has gone from strength to strength in the retraining of racehorses for dressage, the passion she has for her horses is just something else and is talented enough to retrain horses owned by Her Late Majesty The Queen, and now HM The King. Louise has recently launched a brand new 'Bridging the Gap' training series to aid those on their own RoR journey.
We met Louise at Badminton 2022, where we were introduce by Faye from Kilchurn Marketing. Louise was looking for some style advice for upcoming TV pieces that she was doing for Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee and Becs was only too happy to help! After following some of her journey, we were delighted when Louise agreed to become part of our team of Brand Ambassadors.
If you love thoroughbreds and want to feel all gooey inside about them, please read on - make us so proud to be former racehorse owners ourselves!
How did it all start? Did you always know that dressage was your calling?
A lack of money growing up meant never having a 'ready-made' horse, they always needed work! From my first pony, who was wild of the New Forest (Dad thought she was a bargain!), to the next who was Arab that had been mistreated and then onto my first racehorse. We had an agreement through childhood that I had to sell my current horse to be able to get a new one but when I couldn’t bring myself to sell them they had to go out on loan meaning my next one had to be on loan too.
My first thoroughbred had raced in Singapore & Hong Kong, we did not know at the time, but he had lost his brain due to racing. It soon came out, and despite trying to persevere with him for a year he had to go back to his owner. I lost a lot of confidence in that year, but never confessed to anything he did because I didn’t want to lose my horse! It all became too much when I was so afraid of being near horses that I began to have panic attacks.
With the aim of falling back in love with riding and generally spending time with horses again I obtained Glum, my next racehorse and the very first from HM The Queen (through a friend of a friend who heard about him looking for a home), who I had on loan for 9 years without ever telling anyone he was owned by HM The Queen! Glum was only ever supposed to be a happy hack, I had no expectations from him (or me!), but I then fell in love with dressage with him because that’s what he was good at.
After university, I packed our bags and Glum and I went to Germany and worked for Monica Theodorescu, who is now the dressage coach for the German National team, and stayed there for 18 months. I then began to work as her travelling groom, travelling to some of the biggest shows in the World, and 'warm up rider' at home, warming up the horse before she got on to do the training and then warming them down again.
Monica, being the last person to have a former racehorse at Grand Prix level, told me that I was good at the different, difficult horses and that it should be something I consider doing more long term. When Monica retired in 2012, I hung up my international grooming boots and set up Thoroughbred Dressage.
We are HUGE fans of thoroughbreds, but what made you decide that they were the way forward for your dressage career? How do you pick out your horses, and when do you know that you have one with that extra special quality?
Thoroughbreds found me rather than me finding them, and I can definitely say that I do NOT pick out my horses, which I think makes it more amazing that the universe put us together rather than me searching for them – I just love them, and love everything about them and never imagined for one moment that this would become what it is today. All the horses I have now are from people approaching me, not me going looking for them.
Thoroughbreds have always been readily available and cheaply, and because I am not worried about difficult horses they were a natural progression for me. Even after childhood and when I arrived back from Germany after working with Monica for 4 years, I still had student debt and not much money but was still able to get hold of the thoroughbreds especially the ones that weren’t quite so straight forward!
There have only been two horses that I’ve intentionally gone looking for – Tinchy Ryder (from Bryan & Vicky Smart), when I was looking for a horse to go to the US to do the 2015 Makeover Project in 2015, then the next was Mission Impossible again for the 2016 Makeover Project but sadly funds fell through so we didn’t go but luckily Mission Impossible has stayed with us ever since.
Even with my Godolphin rehoming horse, Saint Gregoire (Greg) was an accident. I had bumped into Jo Brisland who dealt with the rehoming of Godolphin racehorses at a RoR show, so off I went to have a look at what was available. From there I took away Dubai Prince (aka Neville) through their rehoming scheme, but he sadly passed away in 2019.I was then asked to take on another one, which was Greg - so again he found me! At that point I was helping Jo and Alli with their pointers, and then when Godolphin Lifetime Care moved to a separate entity I was asked to go back and start teaching some of their riders earlier this year.
We know you train all types of horses, what do you find the main difference between thoroughbreds & warmbloods? Is one breed more trainable that the other?
The difference between the thoroughbreds and the warmbloods is all in the character and they way their brain works, a thoroughbred's brain just cannot be rivalled, it’s incredible and their hearts are just brilliant. No other breed (in my opinion!) can come close.
The difficulty comes when their body and previous training tells them to do something different to what you're asking them to do as a potential riding or dressage horse but that is where their heart and thrive and thirst for knowledge really helps them. I almost become frustrated for them sometimes, especially in dressage, because they are not using their adrenaline to enhance their performance and sometimes even though they are doing everything they can in competition it is still not seen as enough, which isn’t fair but is the truth and reality of what we do. We don’t want their adrenaline to kick in during dressage which is frustrating for them as horses, and us as riders and trainers as it can feel as though we are letting them down. I think that is the main 'negative' difference; their bodies are not naturally built to do the job you are asking of them whereas the warmblood is easily put together, and creates expression and flow without tension. However, I would take the thoroughbred's mentality, workmanship, attitude and big hearts over the flashness of a warmblood any day of the week!
With the Platinum Jubilee this year, and obviously the sad passing, did it feel even more exceptional to be a retrainer for HM the Queen? How did you celebrate the Jubilee with the horses?
The Platinum Jubilee gives such a great sense of pride and honour, but to be honest anytime I say I trained for HM The Queen, and now The King it still kicks me slightly, makes me pause, makes me smile and makes me question whether or not it is really true!! We did The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee too and her 90th Birthday celebrations so it’s all exceedingly special. What the Queen managed is nothing short of extraordinary, and to be a very small part of that is a huge honour and something I will treasure forever. Still feels blinkin' crazy that I do the job I do, whether it is a Monday or a Platinum Jubilee!!
Three horses, Quadrille, Princes Trust and Forthbridge paraded at the Derby, which was an incredible honour, and something close to The Queen’s heart making it more special. We also got invited to Royal Ascot to parade for The King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. We also did some media pieces too, which have also been incredibly humbling – it has been a rollercoaster year!
I owe Her Late Majesty more than I could ever express, she has given me opportunities that I could only ever dream of by not only allowing me some of her horses to retrain but also the ability to say I retrain for HM The Queen. The only way I can fully thank her for this is by continuing to retrain her horses to the best of my ability, produce them to show off her incredible breeding legacy, racing legacy and her priority of the welfare for the animals.
What has been the highlight of your career so far, and which horse/s have brought you those highlights? Do you have a next aim in mind for the coming year? How big an influence has social media had on your career?
2019 was a very special year for me and my horses. Quadrille won the Elite Dressage RoR Award and then went on to win the RoR Horse of the Year, which was nothing short of incredible and amazing. Such an honour for the horse who is a wonderful example of a retrained racehorse and only gets better with age. Also in 2019 one of my warmbloods, Kevin, took me to BD Nationals for the first time and won the Novice Silver whilst beating some amazing competition. Two national awards in one year!
Other highlights including having Quadrille at Winter Championships. Being able to travel the world with my horses doing different shows has been awesome. Kevin was also on the longlist for the Tokyo Paralympics and we’ve taken him to Doha to compete which was also incredible. There are big, obvious career highlights and less obvious highlights of having moments on social media, being recognised for things, and tricky horses coming right – and being able to get on them without being bucked back off! Career highlights also include things that’s are not so horse related, such as running my first half marathon was pretty cool.
Being able to meet Her Late Majesty The Queen was such an honour, and to be involved with something that was so close to her heart. I don’t think of them as career highlights because they all just seem so mental, and this is what I do for a job?! I just love what I do and I don’t really consider it a ‘job’ (although it has to pay the bills!) so they are more highlights of life!
Social media has definitely had more of a prevalence on my life over the last two years. I have always slightly shied away from it, celebrating the horses and competitions but have not been using social media as a ‘gain’ or a ‘purpose’. I wanted to do more educational stuff, and help ex racehorses and the people that own them – I want to help as many people and horses as possible to make sure they know they are not alone. So I have set up a more online presence with online training videos/support which is important. There has always been a fear of putting myself out there on social media with the negative connotations and comments that can come with it, so turning that around and making sure it is all about positivity has been great. It has also connected me with so many people that I never thought I would be able to connect with, and help ex racehorses all over the world which is my huge passion and dream. I do actually really enjoy the social media side of it now, I don’t desire to be an influencer but more to help people through my own experiences with my horses and my understanding of them.
You had some G&G goodies for some filming you did with your Royal boys ahead of the Jubilee, including some Kerrits Gripteks- what is your opinion on the breeches? Are there any more Glaze & Gordon goodies you have your eye on?
I absolutely love the G&G items I have been wearing. I was finding that previous brands of jodhpurs were giving me lumps and bumps in all the wrong places, just were not looking as smart and as nice I was hoping. I loooove the Kerrits Griptek breeches because they are so flattering, amazingly comfortable without the tightness or restriction (and awkwardness of sucking in your stomach as you ride!) and the right amount of grip without sticking you to the saddle (which isn’t nice either)! They help you sit on the horse without restricting your movement with the horse which is really important to me. When filming, the range of great colours go with so much but stay simple, plain and elegant. In all the hot weather over the summer they stayed comfortable and I didn’t have to peel them off my legs which I have done with other brands! Regardless of what underwear you wear you don’t get VPLs either!!
The Goode Rider tops are wonderful too, I love the Long Sleeve Ideal Training Top. I filmed in that in 24 degree heat, despite only wearing for vanity reasons, I thought I was going to sweat but didn’t at all and was so comfortable and very flattering! Such a nice cut and breathable too. The Goode Rider Long Sleeve Compression Shirt is again so flattering, and neither of the tops rode up which is so important especially when filming as no one needs to feel self-conscious of rolls!
We are so excited to follow Louise's journey, as well as all the horses, to find out what comes next and really looking forward to working with her. As you can probably tell, it's very hard to meet someone with as much passion and respect for not only their horses, but for everyone else's too with such a drive to help as many partnerships with former racehorses as she can.