The Comfort Zone


Sharon McCusker - Dressage Trainer and Coach

Sharon specializes in bringing horses to the FEI levels, but she is adamant about not pushing horses beyond their ‘comfort zone’.

“All horses have a place where they’re comfortable working and if you can put all the Grand Prix work on a horse, that’s nice, but maybe they shouldn’t be out campaigning at Grand Prix,” Sharon explains. “It’s too tough on them physically or mentally. I like to let the horses dictate where they’re happiest working.”

As a professional who owns her own mounts, at some point Sharon has to sell them, but her adherence to her comfort zone philosophy influences sales. “You can’t keep them all – so a nice fulfillment is that you find the right rider for that horse,” Sharon relates. “And that horse can help that rider get better. It’s a happy ending – the horses are happy because they’re sold to someone who’s going to work them at the level that they’re comfortable, and the riders are happy because they have a horse that’s really comfortable doing what the riders want to do.”


Sharon pointed out that as a young person getting into horses, she wanted things to happen fast, but after 30 years as a horsewoman she’s changed that view. “With horses, it’s a process and things just take time. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t push so much,” Sharon explains. “I bring the horses along as best I can, but I let them dictate the pace a little bit. Sometimes people get into trouble if they have too much pressure – the horses get pushed too fast and end up with soundness or attitude issues. Because I own my own horses, I don’t have owner or sponsor pressure, which I think is a good thing.”

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