This is the final part of a two-part article on the evening with Tim & Jonelle Price, held recently in Canterbury, New Zealand.
At the conclusion of the evening, the couple were presented with medals from the Society and were available (and popular) for signing autographs and posing for photos. It was a great evening, and they spoke beautifully, entertaining and charming everyone. It is well worth sharing, with their consent, some of the gems of the evening.
Tell us about managing owners
Tim: Right back to the beginning of the whole trip to England and our time in England is being very honest with people. Hopefully they may be sometimes surprised with the results we have gained with particular horses but all the while we talk through frankly with the plans with the horses and how we think they are tracking towards our goals. We make realistic goals but it is just a good thorough and realistic conversation going on the whole time. Through that the owner and the rider both understand that if it is not looking like it is going to come to fruition, that we have a really good talk about an exit strategy. If you deal with that whole situation in the right way, then the owners are on board, they understand that a good horse costs about the same as a not-so-good horse to run in every way.
We build a plan that we can either get that horse successfully sold down the road to where it should be. It is an ever evolving conversation we have with owners.
Tips on coping with the media even after you have fallen off.
I have seen a few of these occasions, as I have had a few falls. 2016 was a very un-fun year, when I had four fairly high profile falls. It was boring because it was nearly, nearly half of the time. I fell at Kentucky, that was the first one and I was planning to do very well at that. The media there didn't have time to get hold of me because I changed my flights and got out of there hoping to get back to England to compete on the Sunday. But that didn't get happen as I got stuck in Charlotte airport for three days due to a hurricane.
Then I was on Ringwood Skyboy at Badminton and he was going beautifully across country until the minute 7 which was the Vicarage Vee. He jumped and took off really nicely and I was quite happy with the approach but on the other side, the ditch, he just caught it, and he tripped up so we both hit the deck. So then I also departed pretty quickly, it was a surprisingly short walk from the Vicarage Vee to the stables, just through a couple of gates and the crowds and you were back at the stables before you knew it.
Then forward to the Olympics. That was pretty unlikely, and there was more media attention there. I was the pathfinder for the team, and coming home, I was going fairly quick but I was going the long route at this very strange fence that none of us really understood so the plan was to go long for the whole team. I nipped up and around, as quick as I would typically go, but one thing I had to learn the hard way was that Rio, as the course was on a ground that was not a typical cross country, a course that was used for cross country on a year-in-year-out basis, like these other lovely courses like Burghley and Badminton. The grass had been laid a couple of years earlier and had been watered and watered, but it was actually only this thick with turf. Up on the turn on the long route, it hadn't quite caught the sprinklers the same as the main track so it had actually died off and there was no root structure holding the ground so it just slid like a carpet. I was going at what I thought was a little bit on the edge of speed for a turn, but I was trying to be clever and keeping on the clock. The ground gave way and there I was just .... on the ground.
I had to deal with the media, I had to go back and say you are here for your team and it is one of those things that was unlucky. That is just part of the job of what you are doing. 99% of the time it is not the horse's fault.
That was fall number three. Then I thought I would get the year finished with a little bit of a nice ending so it was off to Pau with Xavier Faer. He was flying and I was about a minute and a half from home, through the final water fence, then a big corner into the water, he had a green moment, when he took off he realised there was water on the other side and he didn't finish his jump and left a leg. It was an innocent one, it wasn't 'you stupid horse' it was just a moment and both of us went down on the other side.
Jonelle: In the tack room at home, we have a Tumblers Tally. If you have a fall it gets chalked up and you have to do some baking to get it taken off. I think this year I had two, but I did my baking each time. Tim had a total of 20. On the day we left the UK last week, he made a deal with the staff that he would cook them a banquet and that would eliminate all of his 20. He can't cook for me but he managed to cook a banquet for the staff.
How do you cope with the pressure in competitions?
Jonelle: Everyone is different, everyone has their own way of coping. I remember at my very first four-star at Badminton in 2004 when we very first got to England. It was cross country morning, and I went to go to the portaloo and when I opened the door, there was Pippa Funnell vomiting. I sort of thought, gosh, if you are in there vomiting, what should I be doing? For Pippa, it had been a bit of a thing throughout her career and she had some help from a sport psychologist. I think we are lucky, we don't get too stressed about the situation, we are naturally quite laid back people, nerves haven't been too difficult for us. Come cross country morning, we probably have our game face on and that is it. We are lucky in that department.
Tim: For me it has been a lot about the preparation that has gone on so that when I get there, I trust what has gone in. There is a big difference though to your approach to a dressage test at the start when it is all about hopes and dreams as to how the competition is going to go compared to show jumping last, when the reality is the situation dawns on you a bit that you have it all to lose but a bit to gain if you can keep it all together. That has for me personally taken a little bit of time to be able to fine tune and get good at. It helps if you are on a good jumper but that is not always the case and it is a matter of remembering what work you have done and being relaxed. If you fake the fact of being relaxed, then you let the work come in. It's about being in your moment.
Jonelle: That is one time when you have to surround yourself with the environment that is going to work for you. At Badminton this year when I was in the lead at the end of the cross country day, I didn't buy into the media and stuff, where Equiratings were saying that the mare had never jumped a clear in her life basically so what on earth do you think she is going to do tomorrow? It is important not to buy into that stuff. We go back to the truck, we light the BBQ and sit down with a couple of good friends and you surround yourself with the environment that is going to aid you the best. When you go into the ring, you block out as many factors as you can. Certainly on that occasion I tried to ignore all the timber I was hitting on the way around, and every jump where I didn't hear the thud on the ground I thought I was one closer to home. I think each time is different but as a competitor you have a process in your head that works best for you.
Was there any moment in your career when you wanted to give up horse riding?
Jonelle: When I found out I was pregnant! No, I don't think so, it has been fairly straight forward for me. When I found out I was pregnant I did think my lifestyle was over and I wasn't sure how we were going to cope or how life would be moving forward in the sport with a baby. Luckily it has all been fairly smooth sailing and some would say he has made my career!
Tim: No is the answer for me.
Is there any rivalry between you when you are competing.
Tim: No, not at all. Ha, no seriously, when it is most prevalent is at the small competitions when there is not a true amount of competition going on as you might be on a six year old at a one day event in a novice class or pre-novice and we would be on a couple of young horses that have only been out once or twice. That is where we might get a little bit serious with each other, trying to take each other on. It can get quite heated but it is a bit of fun.
At the big competitions, it is just about helping each other and that is very much more the focus. There is rivalry, there is no denying it, we have a lot of competition against each other on a daily basis at home but it is just good fun, good sport.
Has your personal conditioning and training and focus on core strength helped?
Jonelle: Yes, definitely. The sport has changed a lot over the years, if you had Toddy up here telling stories, he would tell you about the copious amounts of drinks and waking up on cross country morning with a hangover. The sport has become so professional that I think everyone now is treating themselves like an athlete rather than a horse rider.
I guess for us personally, Tim is one of those infuriating natural athletes, he does less than I do in training but if we went out for a run tomorrow he would still kick my butt which is really annoying. I do have to work quite hard and I guess having had Otis and leading up to that, I knew I wanted to come back quite quickly post him so I started working with a personal trainer and that has been quite educational. I have done a lot of running over the years but working specifically with a trainer has opened my eyes to training smarter not harder and being a bit more focused on how I am training. It has definitely guided me on a different path than what I was doing five years ago.
Do you use a psych coach?
We don't personally use one a lot. We have access to one through High Performance, and through Team NZ, but I think our mental game has probably been one of our strongest aspects. It hasn't really been an area that we have focused on too much. I think we were just lucky to be gritty South Island young kids and that has probably taught us more than anything.
Has having Otis changed your confidence or given you more of a sense of self-preservation?
Jonelle: I think it is different for every woman. We all have difference experiences. For me I was really lucky that it didn't affect me at all, I was back quite quickly so maybe I didn't have time for it to resonate. Personally for me I found it business as normal. I was back at a four star after about eight or nine weeks. Maybe the fact I got on so quickly I didn't really have a chance.
Tim: The pregnancy period really helped me, the arena was very peaceful, the guys on the yard just worked for me and it was lovely!
Jonelle: Before we would have felt a bit guilty leaving the yard at 4. The worker mentality in you says to sweep the floors and help the guys finish mucking out but we have had to make ourselves not do that and try to utilise that time to go home and do an hour in the office and put a few plans down.
What is Santa bringing Otis?
This trip to New Zealand!
Has Otis showed any interest in sitting on a horse or a pony?
Tim: That is a contentious subject. He is just a little boy. He looking at his mum and dad on a horse and he smiles at us but kind of ignores the horse. We will let him carry on like that for a bit longer. I don't think there will be any pushing ponies at him and sticking him up there and dragging him around the place. He will have to want it. We are quite happy also if he goes and plays golf or tennis.
Thank you Tim and Jonelle for a wonderful evening where you shared your stories and advice so charmingly and articulately. Good luck for 2019 and onwards!