Groen Equestrian is owned and run by Esther Groen, a Dutch international endurance rider. She has trained and ridden several horses at the highest level of International FEI endurance and competed at National and European Championships.
To become a successful endurance rider and achieve top results with (very) different horses in (very) different circumstances, Esther has had to learn about every aspect of horse management. Even then acquiring knowledge is not enough on its own; actively using that knowledge and management for the specific needs of each horse is the key to making sure every horse can perform to its full potential.
What makes endurance so special for Esther is the need to know as much as possible about everything that goes on within and around an equine athlete. Not only riding skills, but also training physiology, stable management, knowledge of saddles, bitting, feet care, and food requirements. Rudimentary veterinary skills, knowing which ailments need a vet or farrier and which can be managed by a competent and knowledgeable horse owner, come in handy too.
Esther is a BHS-trained instructor with over 30 years of teaching experience in Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK, with a particular interest in the rider biomechanics. Esther’s approach can benefit horses and riders of any discipline because her focus is on schooling for balance and suppleness. Everything is about not interfering with the natural way of going of the horse and to making sure all aids given are clear and precise. Esther always works with “less is more” in mind.
Esther provides coaching to help endurance riders with their training for endurance. Online training courses are available and Esther also does personal and group coaching with or without horses. The endurance-oriented coaching (both personal and online) started with training rides and seminars around 2010.
As well as being a rider and an instructor, Esther is also an experienced saddle fitter and sells some saddle brands that fit with her vision on riding.
Equestrian past +
Esther has been working with horses for decades. She acquired a good deal of riding skill in her younger years; as a child, at various riding schools, being the “handy kid” meant she got to ride some of the more difficult ponies and horses. As ponies tend to be a bit cheeky Esther came to love them for their intelligence and wit. After moving to Ireland, she was lucky to find herself in the yards of some extraordinary teachers. The first place she came to was a large BHS riding school and livery yard previously owned by international showjumper Iris Kellet.
All the instructors emphasised maintaining body awareness and good posture while giving aids, which added a deeper layer of knowledge and ability to Esther’s riding.
After the riding school and livery yard she went on to work at the private yards of several International FEI eventing riders, and even for the Chef d’Equipe of the Irish eventing squad. The high standards maintained meant a serious boost to both her riding and stable management skills.
Working in these professional yards also enabled Esther to learn from directly from her employers and also was starting young horses which further added to her skillset. Doing the BHS exams for riding, care and instructing gave Esther qualifications she would later find very useful.
The endurance-oriented coaching (both personal and online) started with training rides and seminars around 2010.
Back in the Netherlands after having lived in Ireland for a few years, Esther met Arab stallion Moreno when she was helping to train Arabs for the racetrack. Buying Moreno proved to be the vital ingredient for Esther as he was a rather injury-prone, quite opinionated and a rather competitive horse, perhaps not really an ideal combination of traits for a future endurance horse! At their first endurance outing with a big group from the racing stables Moreno managed to get himself injured. The following years were a continual challenge in balancing work, training, food, equipment and riding skills. It goes without saying that this was not an easy road, and some swearing was involved; if Moreno could talk even he might have had a rant at times.
The challenges that Moreno posed for Esther, to compete him in endurance, keep him injury-free and controllable, are the fundamental reasons why Esther has been able to learn so much. Finding a coach that had the knowledge and experience she was looking to gain in endurance was not possible in these days, but Esther had Moreno instead. To learn, we must make mistakes, and everybody’s first horse will bear a good portion of these mistakes, made out of inexperience and ignorance. But as we progress as rider and manager of our horse(s) we owe it to them to learn from, remember and act on previous lessons.
After competing in endurance with Moreno for 7 years, it was clear Moreno was not the horse to try and progress to longer distances, which was the ambition Esther had. She needed a horse that was physically strong enough to cope with the demands, with good recovery and economic gaits. But perhaps even more importantly: she needed a horse that would have the right frame of mind. A competitive spirit that could be curbed when required. Moreno’s daughter Moragh had a good recovery, great spirit, perhaps she was not as physically strong as would be ideal but good enough.
She gave Esther her first amazing 120 km finish in the spring of 2012, a tough hilly muddy ride. And not only Moragh was doing well, Esther had also purchased Shadiya in 2009. Shadiya comfortably progressed through the distances and at the end of 2012 she completed her 1st 120. In 2013 Esther managed to do the illustrious 160 km distance on both mares within 2 weeks of each other. A bronze medal with Moragh at the 2015 Dutch Championships was a victory especially in a time of a changing sport. Riding well with a home-bred and self-trained horse seemed to become a rarity, and in showing that it was possible, Esther hoped to be an example.
Esther’s young French-bred horses had started competing in 2015 and Esther with moved all horses to the UK in August 2017. She managed to bring her stallion Watt du Colombier to his 2nd 120 km ride early in 2018. And with one hiccup in the first attempt in his first 160 due to ulcers, they managed Watt’s first 160 in August that year. The European Championships were hosted in the UK in 2019, and the plan was hatched to see if Esther could qualify for them. Watt and Esther went back to the Netherlands to compete once more at the Dutch Championships in Ermelo and they made it into the Dutch squad! Competing in European Championships for the country you were born in, in the country you are currently living in was very special indeed.
Esther will keep sharing her knowledge gained in more than 6000 finished kilometres in competition, with a total of 11 horses and over 25 FEI entries.
The search for a suitable saddle for Moreno led to Esther diving into the world of saddle fitting. Books, saddle tests, impression pads, and a saddle fitters course with an extensive period of training gave Esther a sound understanding of what was going on in, under and on the saddle. She started her company Green Distance at the end of 2005, specialising in endurance saddles and later on in saddles for wide- and short-backed horses. Many horses in The Netherlands and Belgium were riding and/or competing with a saddle fitted by Green Distance.
After Esther moved to the UK in the autumn of 2017 she continued to sell the innovative BUA saddle (the saddle she uses for her endurance rides). She is currently exploring other brands.