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Derek & Jo

jocropped for_webJo Clark has been riding horses since the age of eight. Since her parents wouldn't allow her to have her own horse, she showed early signs of the resourcefulness for which she has become known by finding an isolated field of unbroken shire brood-mares, knotting together an old piece of rope into a makeshift halter and climbing aboard. "Fortunately, they were very docile and very kind and I only fell off a few times. Though I did get my toe trodden on once while wearing Jesus boots!", she recalls.

Eventually, of course, her parents found out what was going on and allowed her to have riding lessons instead of pocket money (though that didn't stop her riding the shires, she is keen to point out!). As a teenager, Jo spent every possible moment at the stables, riding all the ’lazies and crazies’ that her friends didn’t want to.

"I got very keen on showjumping, competing on those riding school horses", she recalls, but without her own horse found it very hard to get too far up the ranks. On leaving school she desperately wanted to get her BHSI and found herself a place as a working student. Frustratingly for her, however, ’good sense’ prevailed once again and she took up the place on offer to study Materials Science at Oxford University.

After discovering, to her utter devastation, that the university riding club was ’full’ in her first year as a student, Jo was persuaded to take up rowing instead and soon became one of Britain's most successful oarswomen of her day, winning the women’s Boat Race 3 times for Oxford, a bronze medal at the 1986 Commonwealth Games and reaching the finals of the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Jo is such a kind and caring person that it was perhaps only natural that when she was finally able to own her first horse he would turn out to be one that desperately needed a change from the lifestyle and training he'd been accustomed to before they met. Since having to learn how to deal with Perry's problems, in fact, Jo has examined and re-evaluated almost everything she ever learned about keeping, training and riding horses. Her main reason for creating The Holistic Equitation Centre is to enable other people to gain access to the knowledge and information she wishes she'd had access to many years earlier.

Jo has learned non-violent problem solving and horse handling skills from Kelly Marks and the Intelligent Horsemanship Association, is a fully qualified Applied Equine Podiatrist and is currently studying with the renowned classical author, trainer and teacher Philippe Karl. She enjoys helping horses with mental, physical or emotional problems as much as riding piaffe, passage or flying changes and completing the occasional 1-day event.


derek chloe_smallDerek Clark is an internationally respected coach and trainer who has been helping people achieve their dreams for nearly 30 years. He is a highly qualified and experienced coach, a Certified Trainer and Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and a certified hypnotherapist. After pursuing his own successful rowing career, which included wins in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race and at Henley Royal Regatta, Derek established himself as one of the UK’s top professional sports coaches and helped many of the country’s top rowers to success at national, world-championship and Olympic level.

During the 1990s he lived and worked in Switzerland, helping the Swiss national team to an unprecedented period of success which included two gold medals at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta - their first Olympic titles since 1928. Since returning to the UK he has acted as a consultant to Oxford University’s Boat Race crews, helping them turn a 7-year losing streak into 7 wins from the 10 races he was involved with.

In recent years Derek has taught leadership and communication skills to executives and facilitated workshops for directors of some of the UK’s best known companies, including Kellogg’s, Co-op Financial Services, Fujitsu Services and Rentokil-Initial. He has some real hands-on experience of the ups and downs of the commercial world, having run his own successful personal development company after spending several years as chief executive of a venture-capital backed startup software business.

Derek discovered his love of horses after becoming involved with Jo’s early challenges with Perry. "I distinctly remember the first meaningful interaction I had with a horse and I was as surprised as I was delighted to discover there was clearly ’someone’ in there!", he says. "I was soon taking riding lessons and not long after that bought my own horse and have never looked back. If only I’d known when I was growing up that horses could be this much fun. I might never have touched a rowing boat in my life!".

Having started riding as an adult, and with his considerable expertise as a coach and educator, Derek has strong feelings about the way riding and training of horses is generally taught. "Although I was having fun sitting on top of a horse, I remember my early riding lessons didn't actually seem to make a lot of sense. In fact, some of the experiences I had left me wondering whether many instructors really understood how they rode themselves or had much idea of how to help me come to their level of skill. 

Since those early days, Derek has completed extensive training as a rider, trainer and instructor with the National School of Academic Equitation in the USA. He has also trained with Kelly Marks and the Intelligent Horsemanship Association and explored the riding systems and literature of both the French and German schools.

In 2010, Derek and Jo succeeded in persuading the French classical master, Philippe Karl, to bring his world renowned School of Légèreté (French for 'Lightness') to the UK.  In 2016 Derek successfully completed the four stage final exam to become a Licenced Teacher of the School of Légèreté, authorised to teach in Philippe Karl's name. 

Derek says: "Now, as a trained (and still training!) riding instructor, I want to make use of my 30 years' experience as a professional coach to help all those people who are struggling to make sense of what is quite a complex mental, emotional and physical puzzle. There are so many people out there resigned to thinking that riding well and confidently is something only ’talented’ people will ever be able to master - but that's just an indictment of the ineffective teaching and training methods they've been exposed to. I feel really privileged to be able to make a difference, not only for the benefit of riders or owners but particularly for the horses themselves who are often the misunderstood victims caught up in a world of confusion".


Holistic Equitation Ltd is registered in England with Company No. 05644190. Holistic Equitation, The Holistic Equitation Centre and the Holistic Equitation Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Holistic Equitation Ltd. All material and images are Copyright © 2006-2019 Holistic Equitation Ltd or others and may not be copied or reproduced in any form without express written permission from the owner.



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