<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Welcome to William Micklem's Coaching

Team Silver Medal & 8th individual

Over the years most equestrian coaches work with a large number of students of all levels and with a huge variety of horses. Although the greatest triumphs are often with the lower level riders and the most ordinary of horses, there is always more external interest in elite performance and high level horses. For this reason I have selected five higher level students to talk about here, all of whom I coached as young riders and identified as being ‘most likely to succeed.’ The added value of this group as role models is that they all have one trait in common, an exceptional mental attitude.

In each case it was not difficult to identify their huge potential, even when young and working at a low level, because of their attitude of mind as well as their physical ability. In each case I also found the majority of their horses, which creates an added bond, and in each case I have the greatest admiration for them as people as well as riders.

The five are Karen O’Connor (USA), Sonya Duke (Ireland), Sarah Slazenger (Ireland), Aidan Keogh (Ireland), & Sarra Mayberry (Scotland).

Karen O’Connor

Mandiba   Biko

Karen on Mandiba winning his second international competition. His huge potential can be realised with such a special rider.
It was a strange coincidence that I should eventually go to Ireland because Karen’s famous first pony was a Connemara called Erin’s Shamrock.

I took them to their first three day event at Radnor.


I loved Biko and always knew he was unbelievably special with his physical abilities.

Karen’s huge versatility is emphasised by he ability to ride both her Gold Medal 148 cm pony, Theodore O’Connor and this giant of a horse who was 175 cm.

I worked with Karen for just three years when I was based in the USA in Massachusetts at Robert Halls Fulmer School of Equitation, when Karen was 13 to15 years old. It was apparent from the beginning that she was exceptional and I had no hesitation in telling her that the door was open to high honours with the right training and horses. This was shown by her dedication, her willingness to learn by ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, and most of all her all powerful focus on the task at hand.

In recent years she wrote about this period of her life. “ It was exciting for me to learn classical dressage from someone whose passion was eventing, and it was apparent , even then, that William’s teaching philosophies were ahead of their time. His teachings became the foundation for my riding. Later that year, William introduced me to the champion British eventer Lucinda Green. He told Lucinda to remember my name because I would win an Olympic medal one day. I never forgot that moment. William was the first person outside my family who believed in me….I learned about partnership and how sacred it is.”

Karen’s partnership skills have become excellent with both horses and people. Her ability to build a team of owners, grooms, and supporters over the years has been a vital and major part of the recipe that has made her a powerful force in International competition for thirty years. She is an Olympic and World Games medalist and this year she won the Individual Gold Medal at the Pan American Games. She has as good a team of horses as she has ever had and is riding better than ever.

Her one area of weakness has sometimes been a lack of self-belief. I believe it is only in recent years that she truly has this belief and that she could have been even more successful in her early years. The core skill of all coaches is to work from what is good rather than from what is bad. It ensures the right blend of confidence and competence and even an elite rider such as Karen is no exception to this need.

Sonya Duke

Chas   Bright Imp
Sonya on Carbrooke Charles at Badminton. Both horse and rider were 19 and he was only 15.3, but ‘Chas’ had met the right partner. He trusted Sonya and his old legs and enthusiasm were rejuvenated by Sonya’s minute attention to detail and absolute consistency as a rider.  

Sonya shows her wonderful stickability at the European Championships at Punchestown on Bright Imp.

Sonya was good before I ever met her. She was a child who enjoyed doing things well, whereas most of her age are concerned just with rosettes. It was a privilege to work with Sonya as she rode for Ireland at Junior, Young Rider and Senior level, winning a silver medal at the Senior European Championships at Punchestown in 1991 on Bright Imp, a horse she had produced herself from the very start. She did all this despite being small for a rider and not hugely athletic.

Her ability to work hard, get the basics right, and leave no stone unturned brought her great success, despite not being a natural competition rider. Her dedication, aligned with a thoughtful approach and strong tendency to be a perfectionist, made her a great schooling rider, and now make her a great coach, but perfectionism is rarely a good quality in competition when it is often a question of making the best of a less than perfect situation.

Sonya is an extraordinary person, totally trustworthy and always humble and dignified. As with Karen O’Connor she is also a great team builder and generous to all those she meets. Now she is a mother to five boys and they will find no better role model for life.

Sarah Slazenger

Glen Shira   High Dolly
At Punchestown Horse Trials in the
Show Jumping...
  Sarah on High Dolly at Blarney Castle International. At this time I had no idea about the very important role both Sarah and High Dolly were to play in breeding children and horses for me. I was blessed.

Sarah is a wonderful role model for any competitor. Despite not being blessed with great natural coordination or feel she makes the most of any situation, concentrates on achieving a personal best rather than setting unrealistic objectives and simply gets huge pleasure out of the opportunity she has to ride and gallop. As a result she consistently ‘punches above her weight’ in competition and should be very proud of producing her own horses to represent Ireland at both Junior and Young Rider level and of successfully competing at Advanced level. Making the time across country, efficiently and safely, at an average speed of 600 m/min is something very few riders have ever done.

She is yet another whose ability to work with others has increased her competition success. This, combined with a huge love of the sport, appears to be the most significant common attributes of the vast majority of high achievers.

Aidan Keogh

    Tredstep Boa
Aidan was riding this pony when I first met him and as with Karen O’Connor’s and Sarra Mayberry’s parents I remember telling his parents how talented he was.   Aidan riding Tredstep Boa, High Dolly’s first foal by Sea Crest, at Necarne International…his first three day for 20 years.

Telling parents they have a talented child is a multi-edged sword. It must always be included with a little ‘balancing sermon’ about all the talent in the world is useless without hard work and good coaching and that aiming at elite performance requires huge sacrifices. It can also put pressure on both student and coach and financial pressure on the parents. So I never do it without great thought and belief about the individual’s talent. However I also believe that coaches have a responsibility to be honest about great talent so that an athlete can make an informed decision about the route they take.

Aidan always had the talent although not always the belief in his ability. He was the winner of a Gold Saddle in the Golden Saddle scholarship scheme, so I was not alone in this opinion of his ability. He could always get a job as a professional rider, however he chose a different route initially developing the very successful Tredstep leg wear and footwear company. Now he has a couple of good horses and is making up for lost time. I believe he could still ride at the highest level successfully given the right horse.

A primary objective for any coach should be to make a student independent of them. A gradual process certainly, but an important process none the less for a competition rider. After many years with Aidan my main role is now to be the man who keeps ‘the maggot in the mind’ from appearing. I am the positive influence that his own mind fails to produce at times. Having said this he has everything else ….he is a determined, courageous, spirited rider who is good in all three sections of his sport. He will achieve success given a sound horse.

Aidan Keogh's experience as a rider and expertise as a designer have come together to produce some exceptional TREDSTEP products - www.tredstep.com - that I believe have made an important contribution to rider comfort and athleticism and therefore safety. I thoroughly recommend his leg wear and boots.

Sarra Mayberry

Tommy Pink   Moores Stream

Sarra with Tommy Pink.  Representing your country is a huge achievement.

Winning a Gold Medal deserves the greatest praise.

Sarra won a team Gold Medal at the Young Rider Euro-pean Championships…a huge achievement.

Sarra Mayberry has very supportive and sensible parents so telling them that Sarra was very talented physically and mentally when she was seven was not a huge risk. Even at that age she was quietly determined and a deep thinker. You never had to tell her anything twice and she always did things for a reason. She was also committed and able to plan in the long term.

Her first proper horse didn’t work our very well because of soundness problems but she persevered and built a great relationship with her next horse Tell Taragon, before doing the same with Tommy Pink with whom she made the British Young Rider Team and won a Gold medal in the European Championships. She is now bringing on a team of youngsters and I believe she will succeed at the highest level.

Her ability to prioritise and make decisions is exceptional and she has always had a mature attitude when responding to the ups and downs of competition life. From the beginning, like all the other five riders, she was also concerned with doing things well, rather than just winning the competition. This understanding of the need to do things well and to do good quality practice is fundamental to producing a quality performance at a high level. I remember telling her that it wasn’t true that practice makes perfect, as practice with faults or a poor way of going in the horse would only establish the faults. Instead it was good practice that made a good performance. She has never forgotten this because, just as with all these five riders, at the end of the day she is an excellent student.



I like working with the different disciplines, dressage, show jumping and cross-country, and would not like to restrict myself to just one speciality. This goes against the modern trend of using a group of specialist trainers working with the same horse and rider. However, with equestrian sports, the role of the horse is such that a holistic and complementary training programme is vital if we are to avoid treating our horses as machines.

If more than one coach is used they have to work truly as a team and be in harmony, with one core set of priorities and one common language to communicate with the horse. I am saddened by the narrow minded mechanical approach of many specialist dressage and jumping coaches, who often fail to do this, which at worst is cruelty and at best reduces equestrian sport to something more akin to car racing or robotics. A Horse Trials coach that is an all rounder, with expertise in depth and breadth across all the disciplines, will be able to achieve greater success in a more humane and cooperative way.

I now have very limited time for coaching, but one of my brothers may well be able to fulfil your requirements:

John Micklem

John Micklem
Co. Meath - Ireland
Experienced international coach. Dressage, Show Jumping & Horse Trials. Competition & pleasure riders, adults & teenagers. Travel anywhere.

Cloran, Athboy, Co. Meath, Ireland.

t: ( 00353 ) 46 9433359
m: 086 8198292

John jumping at Wembley at the Horse of the Year Show in the
Foxhunter Final, the most prestigious show jumping competition for young horses in the UK.
Charlie Micklem
Charlie Micklem
Wiltshire - England
Experienced International coach.Competition horse trials riders, Riding Club & Pony Club. Specialising in young riders. Travel anywhere.
Chitterne Lodge Cottage, Chitterne, Warminster, Wiltshire, England. BA12 OLQ
t: ( 0044 )1985 850048
Charlie was always a brilliant rider and ahead of his time with his balanced position. Here he is on Village Gossip at Badminton who he rode for Lucinda Green. It was only the third three day event of Charlie had ridden in but he and Mark Phillips were the only two riders to go clear inside the time. Now he is a brilliant coach.
David Micklem
David Micklem
Cornwall – England
Experienced senior coach. Horse Trials, Riding Club & Pony Club. Fox hunting guide. Cornwall & Devon only.
Lower Carwythenack, onstantine,
Falmouth, Cornwall, England.
TR11 5RR
t: (0044)1326 340365
m: 077 89893634