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  • Paige Hazell

My time with Heather Moffett - part 1

I'm actually incredibly nervous to post this. The main thing I gained from training with Heather is personal growth (as well as more knowledge!) but the time with her really kicked started me into what I do now, and I'll be forever grateful. These are just a few times that stick out for me, and I could write so much more - so I'm afraid my time with Heather will be in a few more parts than anticipated!


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Life changing, is how I describe the months I spent riding and training under classical seat master Heather Moffett.

Prior to going to Heather, it’s safe to say I was unconfident, anxious and lacking direction. I didn’t think I was worthy of travelling to Heathers base and riding her horses. It almost didn’t happen, when in 2018 Devon was battered with the “Beast from the East” 2 weeks prior to my due arrival and I received a call from Heather; “I don’t know if you should come – my indoor schools collapsed.”

I look back now and realise that actually, that started a quiet steely determination in me. “Don’t be silly. I’ll come down and I’ll learn more in a conversation everyday with you than I will anyone else, even if I don’t ride. See you in a couple of weeks.” ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The first time I walked through Heathers gates stays so strong in my mind. Her yard overlooks a beautiful valley, stables over two levels, and (although collapsed at this point) an equally impressive indoor school. And as poignant this memory is, I never ever forget Heathers face when she saw me. “I didn’t realise you where this small (!!)” And friend and instructor Kathy laughed too- No one had thought to mention I was barely 5ft1! I was set up to have my work cut out, on hot headed 16.1 Sudi – Heathers school master Luso who I was set to ride for my time there. Luckily, Heather had a outdoor school but with the wind from the valley and Devon’s unpredictable weather, we where to have to work for it.

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Anyone that’s had the pleasure of meeting Heather would know that she is the kindest, but fiercest lady. She doesn’t mince her words, but delivers them with a complete honesty that you trust. She had a way of saying what I needed to hear (whether I wanted it or not!) that always resonated and stuck with me, and 2 years on I still hear her at the back of my mind.

My first official lesson with Heather was held in her simulator room, so she could evaluate my riding. We were talking through my strengths and weaknesses, when she had kindly complimented me on my skill set. She wanted to know what I had to work on to so desperately need to come down to her, even amid the worst snow storm. “I just want to be a confident rider” and promptly burst into tears. Now Heather is the definition of tough love, and I absolutely adore her for it. Instead of hampering to my blubbering mess, she simply said “Well you’re not going to get far on my horses if you keep doing that – do you want to be here?” And yes. Yes I bloody did. So every day I rode Sudi, I fought with that stupid little voice in my head and again, built up that steely determination that had started to fuel me. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The first month was spent building my fragile confidence and partnership with Sudi. On the ground, we got on well. He wasn’t too different to my Dales (Just bigger and the dirt noticed more!) He had the same cheeky chappy attitude, and we ‘hung out’ well. We safely established good scratchy places, and he soon accepted he was getting smootches. We had little plays, and that big luso nose being shoved in my face made me infinitely better about the move down!

Heather, her then yard manager Kay, and volunteer Tallulah spent ages building me up. Both on the lunge and on the yard. I admit I spent the first 2 weeks on a line or with Kay quietly guiding and/or leading me, and Heather talking me through. I was softly shown how to ask for more lift through the shoulders, through exercises like Spanish walk and passage. I worked on my leg yields, my shoulder fore, and travers and renvers were slowly added. Heather would lunge Sudi before me riding so we could suss his mood. And only once did he show any of his true hot headed self so much I couldn’t get on. (In his defense, it had snowed and that was VERY exciting!)

After a particularly good ride, I remember asking Heather how she thought I was doing. “Quite frankly Paige, you’re boring to teach”

My heart fell through my stomach. I had traveled all this way and worked my backside off, and Heather, my hero and inspiration, thought I was boring!!

“There’s nothing to correct. You get on and do it, and there’s nothing for me to do”

I think I floated through the rest of the day. I was so self critical and there was so much I picked apart for myself, I couldn’t have been given a bigger compliment! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Now this story is the one that echoes with me the most. A few months in, Heather had a second module level 1 group of instructors in. During my morning ride, they congregated round the outdoor school gate as I was about to get on. I remember going light headed, and turned to Heather and asked if they were going to be watching me ride. “Yes, and I’ve told them how good you are, so they’re all excited” – “Oh Heather, could you not have told them I’m crap and lowered their expectations?!”

Heather promptly smacked me (with a helmet on) around the head with the handle end of the lunge whip. “Don’t be so daft and get on with it girl!” and that is what goes through my head every time I question if I could do something ridden wise! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kay Sparrow (Heathers yard manager at the time) was a brilliant influence. Kay is easily the most amazing horse woman I had the pleasure to work with. I could easily have stood for hours asking Kay the most random questions. And she had an answer, and time, for each of them. Kay taught me how to adapt the way I carry myself on the ground. I was either too passive, or unintentionally confrontational. It certainly helped with future work saddle fitting a total range of horses (Exmoors to Warmbloods and Friesians is certainly a mix!) She’s also an incredibly talented and knowledgeable long lining instructor. Between her and her gorgeous TB Monty, I soon picked up the positioning and skill needed for classical lining. This has been such a transferable skill, that I so enjoy doing. I’m so incredibly lucky that she’s started taking Zoom lessons, so am learning the art of Danish long lining with my Reggie.


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