This month TSB caught up with Vanessa Bee, founder of the International Horse Agility Club (www.thehorseagilityclub.com), and asked her about the inspiration behind the sport and its future. You may have seen the excerpt from Vanessa’s brand new book THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK in the January issue of EQUUS Magazine. It seems everyone is talking about this exciting new horse sport and where it could lead–Vanessa is thinking big! She dreams of international Horse Agility competition and one day, the Olympics!
THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK is the official book of the International Horse Agility Club, and it is available for PREORDER this month from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.
TSB: Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea for the International Horse Agility Club?
VB: I was teaching a frightened young girl and her big frightened horse and suddenly realized all they had to focus on was their fear. So I set up a little obstacle course and gave them a job to do. Very quickly not only were they too busy negotiating the obstacles to be afraid but ALSO they had gathered an audience!
A thought popped in to my head: “I wonder if there’s a competitive sport like dog agility for horses?” I asked myself. I came home, searched on the Internet and there was NOTHING! That was on the 13th of December, 2009, and the rest is history!
TSB: You have a fabulous website featuring an international online video competition. Can you tell us a little about the OLHA Video League, how it works, and how popular it is proving?
VB: I had the idea for online competitions because we were getting a lot of interest from some quite remote places in the world. These people would never be able to ship their horses thousands of miles to the competitions that were currently available, so I decided we’d run an online video competition. I have been staggered by the popularity!
Every month I design a course for each of the four levels of Horse Agility. People build the simple courses in their garden, backyard, field, or arena and practice until they are the best they can be.
Then they get someone to video them going round the course. That video is then posted online for me to judge at the end of the month. It’s very simple and it means that anyone, anywhere can join in the fun and be part of this wonderful global community.
I judge entries from the Outback deserts of Australia, the paddy fields of Taiwan, the grandeur of North America, and the snows of Scandinavia. It’s a great way to “see the world”!
TSB: You explain in your new book THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK the idea of “Wild Agility,” which takes you out of the arena and cross-country. Do you see Wild Agility becoming competitive, much like the cross-country leg of eventing?
VB: Yes I do! I would like to have a three phase event with “dressage” on the ground (perhaps to music!), an obstacle course in an enclosed space, then the “cross-country” phase or “Wild Agility,”—although I might have to get a bit fitter to do that bit!
TSB: What do you see in the future for the sport of Horse Agility and the International Horse Agility Club?
VB: In the far future I see Horse Agility becoming as popular as dog agility. I see Horse Agility as valid as any equestrian sport with the added bonus that it’s affordable and anyone can do it. That is how I would like it to be.
Consider the sport of football/soccer (the most popular sport in the world): Kids of any financial and cultural background can play it. It’s cheap, it’s easy for them to set up a couple of goal posts and kick a ball around. Now consider most horse sports: They are expensive, you need to be physically fit, and you need to have the means to move your horse around via horsebox or trailer.
I want Horse Agility to become a “street sport”—something anyone who loves horses can become involved in. You don’t even need to own a horse to compete and participate…just borrow one and get involved!
TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?
VB: I like all horses—I am not breed-specific, but I do love my Exmoor ponies…so it would have to be an Exmoor. They are so hardy they can live anywhere…so they’d be fine on a desert island.
You will think I’m making this up but the book I would take is My Friend Flicka. I first read it when I was 10 years old and I still read it at least once a year. I get totally lost in it and always cry at the end, even though I know what’s going to happen!
TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?
VB: Champagne, I’m always celebrating!
TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
VB: Lying in my horses’ field on a hot summer’s day listening to the horses grazing round me.
TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.
VB: I was two-and-half. The horse was called Silver, and he was 16.2hh and dark gray. The owner made him trot—I was completely terrified but immediately hooked!
TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.
VB: I must have fallen off before this first memory, but I remember being 10 and on my cousin’s farm in the Blue Mountains in Australia. We were trying to get her pony to canter so broke a stick off a bush and gave her a tap on the shoulder. She bucked me off and I learned a valuable lesson!
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?
VB: Honesty. The feedback given by a horse has no agenda…and sometimes that’s hard to take! Horses always tell you the absolute truth.
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback or with a horse that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?
VB: I would love to fly! A horse with huge wings would be just so fabulous! Can you imagine the sound of those wings moving through the air?
Okay, dream over!
I would like to enter the Olympic stadium with a horse freely moving beside me as I lead the Horse Agility Teams from every country in the world to the competition arena. No bits, no saddles, no whips—just horses and humans in harmony.
TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?
VB: Good bread, good cheese, fine wine, good company.
TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?
VB: Riding through African Savannah looking for cheetah!
TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?
VB: Gandhi. He didn’t say much but what he said was worth hearing.
TSB: What is your motto?