Natasha Baker MBE was catapulted into the limelight following her double Olympic gold medal win at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Aged just 23, Natasha has become the poster-girl for equestrian Paralympic sports and a sought after celebrity in her own right. Her vibrant personailty has won her hordes of fans and her skill as a horsewoman is bound to bag her future championship medals.
We caught up with Natasha – who’s sponsored by Golly Galoshes – as she prepares to defend her European title this summer, and found out a little about how she gets herself and her horses ready for big events…
H&R: How do you prepare mentally before a competition? Do you have a ritual or routine you stick to?
Natasha: “I try to keep everything normal. My horses like their routine and if I don’t stick to it, that’s when things go wrong. Before London 2012, I kept my same training regime, making sure I hacked a lot and I only schooled 3 or 4 times a week. I don’t over-practice my tests otherwise the horses will anticipate, so I pick movements from the test to practice on their own.”
“For myself, I make sure I keep to my routine, too. I eat the right food to give me the right amount of energy, I work with my sports psychologist, Joce Brooks, on imagery, coping strategies and how I think about my test. The attitude I have to go into a competition with is – if I do my best, and my horse does his best, then we have nothing to worry about. Also, it’s the same thing we do at home, just in a different arena. That helps me a lot!”
H&R: If you have a day when you’re ‘not really feeling it’, how do you get yourself pumped up?
Natasha: “I actually can’t get too ‘pumped up’. I try to be as relaxed as possible, as that’s when I find I do my best test. I listen to music when I’m getting my hat, jacket and boots on and I think of everything but my horse and test. I tend to over think things, so I talk to whoever is around about anything from the weather, to what they ate for dinner. If nobody is about, I sing (not very well!) – it really works for me and gets me in my ‘zone’ for when I am about to compete.”
H&R: Do you get nervous before a big occasion? How do you deal with the nerves?
Natasha: “I actually get more excited! I think it’s unnatural not to feel nervous, and you can use those nerves to your advantage. When I was starting out, I was incredibly nervous and used to forget my tests. I realised I wasn’t actually enjoying it. I gave myself a talking to and realised there is nothing to be nervous about, I’m entering competitions to enjoy myself, enjoy riding my horse and have fun! That’s when I realised that I do exactly the same at home every schooling day and thought, ‘Well if I do that, what can go wrong?!’ My horses started going a lot better, as I was totally relaxed and therefore my results were a lot better. I haven’t looked back since!”
H&R: Do you have a person you typically rely on for support at shows? If so, who and why are they the person you turn to?
Natasha: “My mum. I couldn’t do it without her. She grooms for me, she’s my psychologist when Joce isn’t about. She stays calm, therefore the horses are feeling good when I get on. She tells me to breathe when I’m not. She’s a brilliant calming influence if I do get my knickers in a twist!”