Exceeding Expectations with Patrick Seaton
Exceeding Expectations with Patrick Seaton
Patrick Seaton’s equestrian career started with a runaway racehorse when he was four-years old. His mom was an exercise rider, and he was sitting in the saddle in front of her after a ride. The Thoroughbred spooked and took off at a gallop. His mom fell off. Patrick stayed on and loved the ride.
After that, he took riding lessons on the weekends. He and his older sister got a pony when Patrick was nine-years old. After a year of proving they were willing to care for the pony, he got his own, and started competing locally.
“We grew up in an English village,” Patrick recalls. “We walked to the stables and came home when it was dark. It was a great lifestyle.”
Today, Patrick is a well-respected jumper and hunter rider, trainer and instructor in Northern California. He opened Patrick Seaton Stables in California in 2002. Patrick’s personality and experiences have shaped the rider and trainer he is today. Despite the many Dubsmash videos that Patrick made while in a battle with fellow trainer Kristin Hardin, he is actually quite shy. Justine Moody, one of his assistant trainers mentions that he’s an incredibly kind person, and most people don’t realize the depth of his kindness.
Patrick’s positive outlook, simple approach to riding and training, along with his inherent kindness, set him up for success. His horses and riders are all unique, yet Patrick adapts his style to meet their needs and ensure success.
The Early Years
Timing is a critical piece of riding a jumper course, and it also worked out well for Patrick as a young, aspiring equestrian. He left school and had his first professional equestrian job when he was 16-years old, then moved to Switzerland at 18 and competed across Europe. Through those years Patrick was very lucky to ride and train with some of the greats including Lesley McNaught, Franke Sloothaak, Willi Melliger, Markus Mandli, and Thomas Fuchs.
One of Patrick’s first memorable wins was the Grand Prix in Dobrock Germany in 1991 while training with Franke Sloothaak at Paul Schockemohle’s famous stable. The following year, 1992, Patrick qualified to ride in CSI Zurick, which was the biggest indoor show in Europe and featured the prestigious Bank Verein European Classic on Sunday afternoon. Sunday’s class was, at the time, the most prominent and highest paid indoor Grand Prix in Europe.
“I was very nervous heading into that competition,” Patrick says. “I went off course in the first class and fell off in the second. By the end of the week, I pulled myself together and jumped clean in the first round of the Grand Prix, then jumped off alongside some of my heroes. I also received my first international placing and I still use the cooler in the barn today. That win meant so much to me because of who I was competing against – equestrians I looked up to and respected.”
Good horses and solid performances that exceeded expectations led to other opportunities. “I’ve had a lot of good horses and some were characters. I’ve been really lucky to jump them,” Patrick says.
GOOD GUINNESS (Cavalier)
Good Guinness, a well-known mount of Patrick’s could be quite difficult because he has a lot of blood and opinions. “He was a very unorthodox horse and I realized the only way to be successful was to adapt to him and his way of going and finding his unique balance. We have to learn how to adapt to the horses, that’s what makes a great rider.”
Patrick firmly believes that it has to be fun for the horses too. They have to want to go into the ring and fight for you. On a 12-fence course, no rider will meet every jump from the perfect location, so you want a horse that will fight for the rider to make that jump and stay clear. Patrick uses a variety of methods to keep his horses happy, including hand walks, hand grazing, and hacks on the trail. His methods have proved that happy horses are winning horses.
“It’s also very important for my horses to be able to express themselves,” he says. “If Veronica, one of my horses with a lot of blood, has a good jump in the warm up ring, she’ll buck. I never get after her, or any of the others, for that. It feels like they are getting ready to show off in the ring.”
Skipio K and Patrick Seaton art Sonoma Horse Park. PC - Grand Prix
Skipio K is another well-known horse of Patrick’s that has won over 10 Grand Prix events in their four years together. Patrick’s good friend and broker, Alan Waldman, paired these two together knowing that Patrick would successfully be able to manage Skipio’s quirky behavior. Skipio’s routine at home includes lots of flat work, small jumps, and a lot of individual attention. “I feel like Skipio would jump through fire for me,” Patrick says. “He’s like family or a close friend. He’s more like a family pet than a horse and he nickers when he sees me.”
His Winning Philosophy
Patrick’s philosophy as a rider, trainer and coach is to keep it simple. He only asks his riders to concentrate on a couple of things. This philosophy is successful with beginning horses and riders and those at the top of the game.
“It’s all about rhythm, balance, and timing,” he says. “As we get more experienced it gets more technical, but there is still only so much you can be thinking of. I tell my riders, ‘If you make a mistake, it’s done, move on and don’t keep thinking about it.’”
Patrick also tells his riders to make new mistakes instead of repeating the same mistakes. This positive outlook helps his riders move on and progress, rather than stagnating. Horses and riders that are asked too many questions become confused.
By keeping it simple, the trainer and rider can prevent over-thinking and become more successful at home and in the ring.
A love of learning is also a key principle in Patrick’s training philosophy. “People make mistakes if they think they have nothing to learn,” Patrick explains. “The beauty of this sport is you never stop learning. I’m a visual person so I go and watch people ride and see what they do. I sit at the ring and study and then put it into the simplest execution possible.”
Carson and Patrick Seaton. PC - Grand Prix
Patrick’s training philosophy has proven successful in the hunter ring as well. He started riding hunters ten years ago with a horse that was struggling in the jumper division. That horse went on to become a beautiful hunter and won a couple derbies. “It’s great to learn the hunter ring,” Patrick says. “You have to be absolutely perfect, it’s a very unforgiving ring. It was a great learning experience for me. Hunters is a hard ring to ride, but it gave me a different level of respect for those riders – you don’t realize how much they’re doing – that’s a huge skill.”
Inevitably, many horses and riders hit a plateau, or seem to get stuck. Patrick has seen this many times and states that riders need to stop, take a deep breath, and start again. He recommends going back to what you were doing before you were in a rut; go back to something easy and then try again. It may take a year. He emphasizes that there are no quick fixes or short cuts with horses.
“There are many ways to do things,” he continues. “But you need results at the right level. If you move up too quickly you get in a rut because you haven’t covered all of your bases. Keep it simple again. Then move up when the horse and rider are ready.” The strong foundation helps Patrick’s riders reach their full potential and exceed their individual expectations.
ASCOT DU TEMPLE
“I’m very passionate about what I do,” Patrick concludes. “If I have a problem with a horse, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a solution, and I can’t wait to go to the barn in the morning and see if that tiny tack change or whatever the solution is will work for the horse. Going to work isn’t really going to work for me. I’ve turned my passion into my career.”
Visit Patrick Seaton Stables at ProEquest.com!