In 2009, after 17 years of work under Robert Dover, Katherine Bateson-Chandler was pushed to leave the nest.
Bateson-Chandler, 44, was a teenager when she became a working student at Dover’s farm, mucking stalls in exchange for dressage lessons on a friend’s off-the-track Thoroughbred. She worked to become a full-time hire and took on more responsibility as a rider. As a groom, she accompanied Dover to three Olympics, two World Championships and two FEI World Cup Finals.
“I’m one of those people, if I’m with somebody in a situation, I’ll stay there forever. I’ve never quit a job in my life,” said Bateson-Chandler, who is based in Wellington, Florida. “Finally, [Dover] was like, ‘Look, you really need to go out on your own and do your own thing. You’re good at this now; you can make your own business.’ And he was right. It was very hard for me. But I did.”
Bateson-Chandler had an immediate benefactor in Dover’s longtime sponsor Jane Clark, who owns her partner Alcazar, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Contango—Polina, Ferro). It was through Clark that Bateson-Chandler met Carl Hester on a buying trip in 2007.
“We just met, and we just got along like a house on fire. We got along great,” Bateson-Chandler said. “I understand, from being born in England, the sense of humor. I understand the lifestyle.
“At that point in time, Carl was very well known in Europe and in England, but he wasn’t as internationally known until after they had [the Olympics in] London,” she added.
“So, we got to be friends, and then when I left Robert, I called him, and I said, ‘Would you take me on? Can I come to you in the summer?’ That’s when it started, and that just expanded everything I’d learned from Robert.”
Bateson-Chandler shared what she’d learned during her time with Hester:
Stick To The Program, And Trust It
“[The horses] work four days a week in the arena, and they have two days where they’re out hacking or doing something outside of the arena, and then they have a day off. Carl is very strict about that. There is no going in the ring six days a week—that’s just not an option. That was a little bit different for me in some ways, but I think that’s sort of the modern-day way of doing it because of Carl, and I really stick to that.”
“The word he taught me that was different, and I hadn’t necessarily heard or resonated with me was ‘push’ in a horse, which means that they’re really pushing from their hind legs. That had not been something that was ingrained in me in the beginning. I’m sure it was in different verbiage, but Carl talks about the horse really pushing from your hand and pushing into the hind legs and pushing up into the bit. That was a big thing for me that I use a lot.”
A Good Horse Is A Balanced Horse
“His first thing is the balance. If they’re balanced, then you can push hard; you can bring them back. But if they’re not balanced, and you try to move more forward, you just push them more and more out of balance. Carl is very simple that way. It’s not magic pills; it’s not things that are mystical and magical. When you listen to him teach, it’s all very logical and makes sense.”
Befriend The Leg Yield
“Carl uses a lot of leg yields, and that was sort of new for me. Leg yielding a lot at the canter, leg yielding a lot at the trot, and he uses it very much as a suppling exercise, and so now I use that in my own riding as well.”
It’s OK To Laugh
“He really keeps a sense of humor about everything, which for me is very important because I can start to take all of this way too seriously. I like to laugh, and I think that helps me relax and ride better; it’s a constant thing. He’s very serious when he needs to be, but then there is always a joke on the other side of it, which is exactly how I operate in life as well, so that’s why we mesh really well. You cannot take yourself too seriously when you’re doing what we’re doing. We are, at the end of the day, just riding horses, so if you start to take it more seriously than it is, it makes you more tense and not ride as well. He’s got an amazing sense of integrity about him, both when it comes to the horses and when it comes to the clients. Robert did, as well. I’ve been very lucky to have people of high moral standards. I aspire to both of them, to be honest. They’re incredible both in life and in business.”
Enjoy The Ride
“I think Carl teaches me to let go in my riding a little bit. I’m a little bit conservative sometimes, and Carl likes to push me out of my box, like, ‘Let go. Kick on. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.’ Even when we’re out hacking—you’ll be hacking along, and all of a sudden, you’re galloping off, and he’s like, ‘Come on, let’s go!’ Just to let go a little bit and not live too much in a small box—both when you’re in the arena and out of the arena—which was eye-opening for me in a lot of ways.”