With a Great Britain coach and former 4* competitor taking a firm grip on the reins, Hartpury’s reputation for producing the future stars of the equestrian world looks to be in very safe hands.
The boots of former international eventing rider and Great Britain team member Nick Burton are never going to be easy to fill, but Hartpury’s new Equine Academy director, Lizzel Winter, boasts an impressive equine pedigree of her own and is aiming high with the college’s rising stars.
Currently responsible for the Rider and Coach Development programme for British Eventing (BE), Lizzel is also one of only 54 British Horse Society (BHS) fellows in the world – Hartpury equine lecturer, Jeremy Michaels, is also one of that elite group.
The wife of renowned course builder, Eric Winter, who designs the cross-country course for the NAF Five Star Hartpury International Horse Trials, Lizzel is also the director of Severn Vale Equestrian Centre, plus an assessor, coach educator and external verifier for BE and the BHS.
As a private coach, Lizzel has recently started working with French international rider and former Hartpury student Astier Nicolas, who recently won his first CCI4* title at Les Etoiles de Pau.
She even fits in some eventing coaching in Portugal and Botswana and supporting her children, James, 15 – a talented showjumper and eventer who has competed for Wales, and 11-year-old daughter, affiliated showjumper Phillipa, to develop their riding!
A former 4* eventer and Grand Prix dressage rider herself, Lizzel has a wealth of experience in bringing on young rider and horse partnerships. While she currently runs BE’s ‘Bridging the Gap’ programme for riders aged 21 and over making the transition from 2* to 3 and 4* competition, Lizzel has also coached youth squads at the highest level.
In her five years with Team GB’s Under-18s, they amassed 10 medals, but she also coached the Portuguese youth squads at European Championship level. Now she’s in charge of ensuring Hartpury’s most promising riders reach their potential.
She said: “Nick was here for 10 years and has built up a unique and excellent Academy programme at Hartpury alongside other fantastic coaches like Carl Hester and Corinne Bracken.
“There are 29 riders currently in the Academy – more than ever before – and my job is to make it even stronger; to develop even more elite riders that go on to compete on the international stage at Championship level.
“We’ve got lots of riders on talent ID programmes and I’m looking to work even more closely with the AASE (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) and Excel programmes and the governing bodies to ensure we’re all pulling in the same direction to support those riders to achieve what they are capable of and increasing competition support.
“I’ve been really impressed with the level of talent here and I’m really excited to be working with young riders across all the disciplines, especially now we have the fantastic new Rider Performance Centre here, which is the first of its kind in the UK.”
The Rider Performance Centre - the Margaret Giffen Centre for Performance in Equestrian Sports - enables riders from all disciplines to access facilities and professional therapists that will enhance their performance and help them to rehabilitate from injury.
It incorporates a state-of-the-art strength and conditioning suite, rider performance zone including horse simulator, 3D motion capture and electromyography equipment, alongside weightlifting platforms and sport therapy area.
“One of the most exciting things about Hartpury is the opportunity for the elite sport and equine academies to work more closely together,” added Lizzel.
“I spent three years on an elite sports coaching programme at Ashridge and I firmly believe that there is so much we can learn from other sports and sharing our knowledge.
“Historically in equine, more time commitment has been given to the horse but the new Rider Performance Centre allows us to focus more closely on the rider as athlete too. It’s a huge advantage.
“In the long-term, I’d love to build on the work I did with the Great Britain junior squads and build more biomechanics and analysis into riders’ programmes.
“One of the first things I’ve introduced though is a system where students can see at a glance when coaches are available and book in time with them, which will help them to manage the balance between their competition and coaching time and academic study. We have to be so careful not to overload them. They need to maintain mental space to prepare for big competitions to ensure they produce their optimal performance.”