While it may seem like riding coaches spend most of their time yelling things like “heels down” and “eyes up”, in reality their role is as broad as it is crucial in every rider’s journey. In short, if you find a good coach, never let them go!
Danaë O’Keeffe is one of these super Equestrians, and after being named EA Coach of the Month earlier this year, has again cemented her position as one of Australia’s most talented coaches, steering the Queensland Pony Club Eventing Team, to a junior squad victory and senior squad second place at the recent Australian Pony Club Championships in Toowoomba.
“It was a great event, and a fantastic group of young people. I loved seeing them develop over the week from starting out a little nervous and under pressure, to feeling bullet-proof and working together as a team. It was really rewarding to have been able to contribute to that.”
An elite Eventer herself, Danaë agrees she is somewhat of a rarity in that she’s just as passionate about coaching as she is about riding. In addition to travelling across Queensland and New South Wales for regular clinics, she’s also made three trips to China in the past eighteen months where she’s training up coaches as part of the implementation of the Australian Pony Club model into that market.
“To say my life is hectic is an understatement, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Coaching makes me a better rider and riding makes me a better coach. I also work at the University of Canberra and have a background in science and biotechnology, so my love of coaching is not just about seeing riders improve, but about helping them get the best performance out of their horse through nutritional management.”
Danaë, who grew up in a horsey family, is sponsored by Kelato Animal Health and says it’s the perfect partnership. “That ethos of a horse that’s feeling well being able to perform well has driven my entire career! If I have horses that are healthy, happy and want to work well for me, there’s no better place to be. What more could I want?”
It’s a message she shares with the many riders she coaches. “Sweat-loss can be debilitating for horses so I’m a big believer in electrolytes and often recommend the benefits of KelatoLYTE to the Eventers I coach. In Toowoomba at the Pony Club Champs the horses had a pretty intense workload, the ground was hard and they were boxed so we spoke about the importance of cooling down their legs with products like SwellDOWN Clay Poultice and CoolingGEL to relieve any inflammation or soreness. It was great to see all of the riders keen for information, not only on how to achieve their best in the competition arena, but about taking care of their horses and ensuring they were given the best opportunity to recover for the next day.”
With two of her own horses in preparation for the Wallaby Hill 3DE in December, Danaë will switch focus, at least for a little while, back to her own ambition to ride 4* in Australia and eventually overseas. It’s a balancing act. The closer I get to where I want to be, the more motivated I am to help riders achieve their goals. For me it’s about inspiring passion, the desire to keep getting better, and an understanding of the value of the horse as our partner and ensuring he or she is healthy, happy and willing to perform. If I can instill those things in the riders I coach, then I couldn’t be happier.”