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Anita’s Heart and Social Calendar Filled with Standardbred Adventures

Lisa Hyville (1)

Looking for a new hobby after the birth of her daughter, Anita Gisch never imagined the decision to get into horses would mark the start of the ‘ride’ of a lifetime.

“I was seeking an identity of my own outside of motherhood and to get into an activity I would have to really concentrate on”, Anita explains.

“I was drawn to horses, but I’d only briefly taken lessons many years ago as a teenager. I really didn’t know much and had only sat on a horse a few times in my life.

“Buying a new horse was a very overwhelming experience, more so as a beginner. I started following Hero on social media and the program provided the oversight that allowed me to shop with confidence and made the process a lot easier overall.

“Alex had only been under saddle a very short amount of time when I got him and in the beginning I wasn’t even confident to tack up on my own or to walk off the lead line for more than ten metres.

“Despite being very green, I chose Alex because he could cope with my stress and didn’t freak out when I was nervous. He’s always been a really lovely horse in that sense and I think this is typical of the sensible standardbred nature”.

Right from the get-go, Anita threw herself wholeheartedly into her new passion.

“I invested heavily in Alex’s and my own education in the early stages, both individually and as a partnership”, Anita recalls.

“I booked myself in for weekly pilates lessons, which I highly recommend as this allows you to build strength and stability and to get to know your body independent of your horse.

“I also enrolled in weekly riding lessons on a schoolmaster, so I could learn key skills on a balanced horse, additional to having an experienced rider work with Alex. We then practised in our own time and came together for a weekly lesson under the watchful eye of our coach.

Photo by Part Time Snaps

“I understand that this approach may seem intense and expensive, but it really set us up for success as a partnership and made such a huge difference to our confidence.

“I’ve found that a green horse and a green rider can in fact work, if you put the work in and right supports in place. That’s where the standardbred organisations like Hero, the Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association (SPPHAV) and the Standardbred Riding Groups (HRCAV clubs) are so valuable”.

Anita joined several associations and HRCAV clubs within her locality, which allowed her to make friends and explore a range of disciplines and pursuits.

“It’s been really good to be able to tap into a horse community and to surround myself with people sharing their experiences”, Anita explains.

“Having friends spurring you along forces you out of your comfort zone, as they invite you to events and you have that element of accountability to show up for each other.  

“Even when I haven’t been able to ride, I’ve still been able go along to events for the camping and social side of things and to cheer friends on. 

“No matter what level you’re working at, or even whether you ride or are on the sidelines, being part of a club puts you in a very supportive environment. 

Taking the mantle as the President of the Central Standardbred Riding Group (SRG), based in Wandong, Anita is looking forward to continuing the SRG’s rich history championing the standardbred.

“The Central Standardbred Riding Group is such a fantastic club to be part of”, Anita explains.

“Everyone is friendly and there’s a lot of support. As standardbreds are so versatile, we have members pursuing all types of riding and we love to bring this diversity into our rallies and run lessons focusing on different disciplines.

“More broadly, that’s what I love about being a part of HRCAV; there’s always something coming up on the calendar to have a go at. Over the past few years, Alex and I have tried just about everything. It’s been such a blast!

“I didn’t know anyone when we moved to Victoria, but I’ve developed a whole network of people through standardbreds. I joke that I only know how to speak to horse people now.”

Photo by Lisa Hyville

Having recently invited another standardbred to join her family, Anita is enjoying immersing herself in retraining adventures.

“I think the main message I want to get across is the importance of patience and persistence when working with standardbreds”, Anita reflects.

“Standies are known for being quiet and easy to handle, but if you put the work in they can be so responsive and light. If you listen, you get so much from them.

“Standardbreds are great communicators. They don’t tell you in a mean way, but there will be signs if something isn’t quite right. Being so tolerant and kind, it’s easy to miss a standy’s subtle signals if you’re not tuning in.

“That said, as soon as you get it right, you get rewarded immediately. Standardbreds are such fantastic teachers, as they make you much more aware of staying independent and balanced in the saddle”.

With goals to ‘get out and do a bit more jumping’ and try some ‘extended rides, possibly in the navigation or endurance scene’, it’s clear that wherever Anita and her standies go, her horse friends won’t be far from her side.

“There’s something about having a standardbred that brings people together”, Anita explains.

“It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, when you see someone else riding a standy you just start cheering each other on. It’s an awesome community to be involved in!”