Thoughts from a Future BHSI

The BHS F&I Association’s Annual Course Addington Manor EC 2017
By Kirsty Fontaine-Henley BHSSC and BHSISM

The F&I Annual Course has always been a date to look forward to in our calendar at Millfield, and particularly this year, as we were also able to bring one of our project horses along for Danny Anholt to ride with Chris Bartle.
Christoph Hess and Christopher Bartle were perfectly matched, having worked together before with their similar training philosophies.
Addington had ‘traditional weather conditions’ and plenty of familiar faces to talk to.
Thanks to Carole Broad who was generous with her time, observing Chris Bartle’s sessions with us, even though she wasn’t actually running a study group.
In addition, apologies to Eric Smiley for my impromptu interrogation/interview whilst watching Chris Bartle, but all joking aside, Eric was so interesting and generous with his time, sharing his knowledge and experience, even though he was also running a study group later on. All the study groups were over-subscribed, yet coaches are always generous with their time and expertise.
Chris Bartle was keen to get riders to demonstrate equal control and skill used in the dressage arena into the show jumping ring, hence removal of most of the rider’s martingales, particularly on the first day. There was discussion on Chris’s favored open inside rein, as opposed to that well-honed skill of inside rein using indirect bend into the withers.
Many sessions started with canter poles on a curve, establishing control of the horse’s shoulders and rider accuracy, with focus to the outside contact.
Often we can be reminded of the benefits of an exercise, one of which was a placing pole in front of most fences around an entire course, giving confidence to both horse and rider and helping to maintain the canter rhythm.
Chris frequently introduced useful phrases such as “Raise Your Gaze”, “Look to the Moon”, and “Don’t look for the distance, be aware of the distance”. On landing from each fence Chris wanted riders to be diligent about schooling, riding the dressage canter, with the ‘clock face’ in mind, to look ahead to 3, 6, 9 o’clock.
Having observed the young horse group, there was discussion of the pros and cons of a rider who entertains cheeky or naughty behaviour, relishing that kind of personality. Should they discipline this behaviour? Chris pointed out that often the horse will display the erratic behaviour when you least expect it or when it can be counterproductive it in competition. He suggested keeping the exercises simple to nurture confidence and understanding. There was some discussion on how to introduce a water tray.
In the gallery, Carole Broad helped us to discuss the control of the canter and who was in charge of the Energy Output – horse or rider? When schooling the canter for jumping, we should think of the requirements of the canter in dressage.

Chris also explained the 5 jump positions:
1 – The Racing Position – often mistakenly used.
2 – Light/Standing Position
3 – Landing Position – Best demonstrated by Michael Jung
4 – Sitting and Engaging Position
5 – And the ‘Oh Shit’ Position!

Christoph Hess was as ever enthusiastic from the first session to the very last, in which Pammy Hutton was running though her Grand Prix Test in preparation for the following weekend.
It was clear that on the first day, the focus was on the quality of the work, paces and forward balanced feel of all the horses. Many riders were encouraged to ride in light seat, and an open stride, long and low. Christoph was very insistent about the inside leg, both on position at the girth, and the understanding of ‘leg away’ to create forward feeling.

He explained that the young horse must initially train with both legs to go forward, then understand the inside leg aid, and then the outside leg aid. Jump saddles and short whips on the shoulders were also discussed when working with green horses.

He explained the use of the short whip on the shoulder to prevent the horse falling in, as an alternative to the long schooling whip onto the ribs to encourage the horse forward. Christoph literally poked Mark Cunliffe on his ribs and shoulder blade to demonstrate feel and the horse’s sensitivity to the whip!
Once again, those old exercises that we forget to use such as canter leg yield to trot to encourage the forward feel in the downwards transition.

To use Christoph’s phrase, the Convention was “Top Class” and a real privilege for Intermediate Instructors to attend as guests.

I’m looking forward to becoming a member of the F&I Association to benefit from all the training days on offer. I’m currently working towards the Senior Equitation Certificate to complete my BHSI.

F&I Annual Course January 2017 – An overview

Written by Alison Craig BHSI

What an outstanding Annual Course we were all treated to. It is our flagship event of the year, held at Addington Equestrian Centre, Bucks, in January, and organised with incredible efficiency by Ann Bostock.

The detailed training activity in each of the two arenas, Dressage and Jumping, is described separately, but the shared facilities are worth describing for those who couldn’t be there – we have the complete run of Addington, with 2 indoor schools, stabling, central warm catering running all day overlooking the jumping, and a private evening dinner venue upstairs with room to hold our AGM and dinner, hear some interesting speeches, and as the evening progresses, also dance and let rip… and oh yes we may all be Fs and Is but we do know how to have fun!

For this year and next year, we have Christoph Hess and Chris Bartle, both top names in their echelons and we are so lucky to have them. Their unique experiences and yet utterly consistent views of training methods and priorities were fascinating to engage with – and engage we did, with Christoph in particular always asking the coaches watching to work with him assessing horse and rider. Riding places with both were sold out well in advance and the feedback from the riders was outstanding. We also offered study groups alongside, led by senior and experienced coaches including Sue Payne, Jenny Ward, Lizzel Winter, Carol Bennett, Sam York, Nick Turner, Danny Anholt, David Sheerin. What more could you want – watching top class coaching taking place and able to discuss and dissect the process with the trainers themselves and with one’s peers.

A big thank you is due to the BHS. They support us with this flagship venture – surely the jewel in the crown of training available through the BHS – by providing F&I badges and name tags for all participants, the BHS enquiries stand (many a detailed discussion took place over the 2 days), and Lynn Peterson the CEO attended our AGM and dinner as our honoured guest. The BHS will also be buying microphones during this year, which can be loaned to us for the next year’s course, to make the delivery even slicker and more accessible in both arenas.

We were able to present our prestigious awards. The Achievement Award went to Chris Bartle – coaching Germany into its current dominant position in the eventing world surely put the icing on the cake for achievement as a coach. And our Pat Smallwood Trophy went to Jenny Ward, who has done so much to support the Association from its early days.

The AGM is always interesting – a who’s who of the industry in attendees alone, and a chance to elect from the membership for the committee, and to discuss ideas for the coming year’s events. The dinner is always great – 3 courses including a full roast and serious puds leaves no one hungry – and the evening entertainment is different each year but this year featured The Irish Duo who played brilliantly throughout the evening – quietly during dinner, then they upped the tempo for the final section of the evening, which included balloon games, drunken dancing and a huge amount of fun. No one complained about it dropping to -7 overnight – maybe no one really noticed!

It’s a privilege to be part of an extraordinarily committed and passionate group of thoroughly nice people, all intensely proud to be BHSIs (or more) and dedicating 2 full days to learning from each other and from the inspirational trainers.

Dates for 2018: 3rd and 4th January. Don’t miss it!

F & I Association Annual Course Dressage Training with Christoph Hess

Over the last few days we have all been privileged spending time gleaning the experience of world class coach, Christoph Hess at our F&I Association annual course.

Christoph’s charismatic and friendly personality instantly put riders at ease on the first day. He asked to watch the riders work their horses alone as though they would do at home or just before they were to do a competition.

Whilst the riders worked their horses Christoph engaged with his audience, discussing the way the horse was going and what a judge may be looking for at the level the horse may be competing, he actively relished our thoughts in the feedback.

Discussions between Christoph carried on throughout all sessions, where he would engage us all again and actively involved the rider, asking them to express what they were feeling, their horses level of training and what they wanted to gain from working with Christoph.

The training then begins……Christoph had already quickly and accurately assessed both strengths and weaknesses in horses and riders (and within their training). Precision and attention to detail and the basics then hold center stage.

It became quite evident that Christoph takes every opportunity to promote a horse friendly system of training and emphasizes over and over again that we should work with the horse.

“Dressage is used to promote the mental and physical well-being of the horse and should be logical. Dressage should promote a happy horse: This is our highest goal — a happy horse, a happy athlete.”

Emphasis over the two days was the same for every horse and rider. This being the horse had to move freely forwards, with rhythm, relaxation and balance, with particular attention to the tempo. The rider had to be in a balanced position with a soft and absorbing seat and correct application of their aids.

“Rhythm has to include ‘tempo’ – you can ride the whole time too fast or too slow. The paces have to be active but not hurried and show enough swing in the back, the back is the bridge between the hind legs and the front legs. The better the tempo, the more elasticity the horse will show in the paces”.

Correct use of the riders inside leg to outside hand was extremely important and most of the work was based on shoulder in position. This was very evident when working on pirouettes in walk and canter where most riders felt the need to put the horse into a travers position first, instead, Christoph wanted shoulder in position, meaning the horses inside hind leg took the weight and particularly kept the rhythm, which could not happen if the quarters were pushed into the pirouette rather than the shoulders leading the movement. This theme was taken through to the half pass and used for straightening the horse.

“One of the first things in riding is to get the horse to accept the inside leg. The rider’s inside leg makes the horse, it governs speed and straightness, but it only works in conjunction with a proper outside rein, and in conjunction with the rider’s outside leg, that leg should be five to ten centimeters back- no more.”

Virtually every horse and rider at all levels Christoph took back to basics…. trot, canter, trot transitions on a circle, correct use of the riders inside leg

“Riders use the spur instead of the calf of the leg. This is wrong. As trainers and judges, we need to encourage putting the horse in front of the leg, NOT the spur.”

To promote free forward movement from the horse and encouraging the horse to use its own inside hind leg more effectively, relaxing and stretching onto the contact.

“Contact is about stretching through the whole body. Is the movement starting behind, swinging over the back and to the horse’s mouth? The rider has to feel the horse’s hind legs in his little finger”

Over the two days, Christoph underpinned (brilliantly) the scales of training below.

Illustration of the scales of training
The scales of training

“The goal of dressage is to have a horse in harmony and in front of you. This is wonderful communication, the horse trusts the rider, both horse and rider are relaxed, positive and forward. Dressage is not doing movement, movement, movement because they are in the Rule Book, it is making the horse obedient, making the horse supple, making the horse in front of you. The happy athlete.”

I was privileged to have been asked to write this report. The highlighted, italic areas are quotes that Christoph frequently said in his training sessions.

I had a wonderful two days and cannot wait for next year.

A big thank you to Christoph for sharing his experience and wisdom with us all.

Report written by Debbie Follett BHSI

F & I Annual Conference, Jumping training with Christopher Bartle FBHS

There are few things in which it is a definite pleasure to do; taking a talented horse to a training session at Addington with Christopher Bartle amongst good friends and a knowledgeable and understanding audience, is certainly one. Chris himself needs no introduction but as an event rider who has never trained with him I was anxious to hear his pearls of wisdom and there were many. It is very apparent that Chris has a clear a system that he uses for training his riders and subsequently horses. There were very clear themes that Chris imparted during both days of training sessions. All work centred around rider influence, from where the rider looked, to how they used their seat and their balance to affect how the horse jumped the fence. There was little if any focus on the horse, and it is the first time that I have witnessed a coach conduct sessions and not ask about the horse or comment directly on how the horse was going. Instead throughout both days all feedback was concentrated on the rider.

From warming up on day 1 Chris made it apparent that he wanted riders to think about incorporating the horse’s dressage training into the jumping schooling and performance. This was demonstrated through the use of pole work, counter flexion and small circles between fences or after landing, especially where the horse had been strong or resistant during the exercise. On both days’ sessions commenced with pole work. On day 1 it was poles on a circle that could be trotted over on the inside line and cantered over on the mid line. The intention was that the rider maintained the same rhythm before, over and in landing over the poles, especially when in canter. If the rhythm was not maintained, then the rider was made to circle on landing to instil better balance and less resistance in the horse. Once the horses settled cantering over the poles, the middle pole was raised without altering the distance. When the riders were going over the poles riders were asked to look at Chris who was standing in the middle of the circle. This was so riders could use their peripheral vision and feel to guide the horses over the poles. I for one found this very challenging, and was very interested how much I rely on vision. Whilst working over the poles riders were instructed to really think about how they were using their seat and particularly that their seat bones were tucked underneath them so that the riders core and abdominal muscles were engaged. The idea being that the riders seat must be controlling the horse and sending it forward or collecting it, and not the leg or hand aids. This really emphasised Chris’ robust belief that the seat must create and control the energy and the leg is for engaging the horse. When discussing seat in this context Chris was very clear that he meant the riders core muscles; I.e. engaging a riders’ abs.

Following pole work riders were asked to work in a figure of eight over an upright fence to explore Chris’ next rule: weight in the inside stirrup. Conducting this exercise did clearly show riders, how although we expect the horse to land on the correct leg, we don’t necessarily use our seat and weight aids as effectively as we should. Some riders were found to be throwing their weight over the inside to get the correct canter lead, but it was very clear that merely balancing the horse properly and then shifting the weight to the inside stirrup was merely enough to gain the desired effect.

The third take home message from day 1 was to use counter flexion, as a means to balance and engage the horse. The idea being that the rider used the outside rein and the inside leg to engage and balance the horse. Where horses were too speedy between fences, even in related distances or combinations, or where horses were too quick around turns, riders made to turn circles in counter flexion as a means to engage the horse and to counteract any resistance that was displayed. My horse can be resistant to flexion and so I was made to circle in counter flexion whilst doing the figure of eight exercise, which I found very helpful.

Riders’ vision and eye level was the next take home message. Chris insisted that even when the fences are small that riders look up as if they were jumping a 1m50 fence. This way a rider can be assured of keeping their balance and head up on approach to a fence and of not collapsing over it. Time and again over the two days Chris repeatedly asked riders when using mobile phones and iPads to bring them up to eye level and hold them out in front, rather than crouching over the screen and collapsing their core as is all to commonplace. To reiterate this message Chris asked riders to jump down a related distance of a spread to an upright. Before doing so Chris put the upright up to 1m50 height and instilled in riders that this is where they should be looking when jumping the spread.

The final message from day 1 was to use the medium canter. Whilst jumping a sequence of fences Chris insisted that riders begin in medium canter and make the turns in medium canter. He was very insistent that riders with horses working at 1m10 level or higher should be able to go from walk straight into medium canter and be able to turn a 10m circle in medium canter. He also made the point that riders should be in medium canter before the bell goes. This way the canter has enough impulsion to permit adjustment and balancing whilst leaving sufficient energy to jump the fence.

A rule of Chris’ that was mentioned on the first day but further explored on the second was; to always be inside the mid line. Thereby if the horse drifts on the turn or in the distance the rider can move out to make the distance rather than moving in shorten it. This was of particular importance for event riders and horses trying to jump combinations on turning lines particularly on the cross-country phase. Chris was very insistent that riders really focus on being on the inside line to fences thereby giving the horse the chance to see the fence at the earliest opportunity. I find it resulted in far better balance around the turns by doing this.

Whilst jumping a whole course of fences Chris also enlightened riders to two other significant rules of his: eyes level with hands, never in front and landing position. By landing position Chris means that the riders low leg position must mirror that of the horse’s front leg on landing over the fence and that the riders lower leg must always be the first part of their anatomy to lower towards the ground.

There were many take home messages from a fabulous two days training, in which it was a pleasure to both feel and watch riders and horses improving. I am so grateful to watch and experience such a master coaching and to witness the calm, consistent and quiet manner in which all sessions were conducted. The approach was clear, concise and highly systematic one which left everyone feeling motivated and inspired.

Report written by Clare Chamberlayne BHSI

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2017

Having re read my Report for 2016 I noted the last paragraph stated that the 30th Anniversary Year had started with a ‘BANG’ and so it progressed throughout the year with a plethora of days offered across the UK and Ireland. Even though all did not take place the list of those which were held are around for you to review at your leisure. My apologies to Sue Ricketts for leaving off her two days of Jump/XC training given by Richard Carruthers BHSI.

Once again, this Association continues to offer training and social gatherings to the members and guests. The Survey Monkey put into place by Jo Winfield in association with the Education and Membership departments of the BHS makes very interesting reading. However, I feel we do need to take on board some of the comments regarding membership of the F&I Association in order to continue the development of this elite professional group of people. Approximately 300 people were invited to do the survey and 21% (63) responded, which I understand is a good ratio. As an example of the replies: “There’s nothing in my area. I didn’t know it still existed. It’s cliquey and unfriendly. There should be more days dedicated to CPD updating”, gives an initial negative feeling. But whilst of the 63 replies there were these negative ones there were even more who feel comfortable and positive about how their £20 membership fee is spent and about the events which are organised. There are 74 of us here at dinner this evening the highest number ever, so now is our chance to embrace new members and go back to those who have lapsed to encourage them to re-join. May I make a plea at this point to ask all of you to pay through your bank on an annual SO.

Whilst we do have Reps in certain areas ANYONE may run a day for the Association. Jude, Ann and I are here to help you with the organisation, Di will then send it out to members whilst Sam C W will Facebook the information & Sally Newcomb will put it onto the web site. Days planned for BHS CPD days do need to be run past the Committee first so we can contact BHS these days will then be open to all BHS members requiring to update their CPD status.

We have stood to remember Jo Knowles and Pippa Francis. Obituaries were written for both these ladies by Sue Payne and Donn Collins respectively. As a reminder, Jo Knowles was in Sue Payne’s words ‘A very special Fellow of the BHS’, in her 80’s she died in September of last year. Jo passed the Fellowship examination in November 1954 she was in a group of three successful candidates that year putting her in the first 6 people to gain this great qualification. She then rode at the first Fellows’ Riding Course at Stoneleigh in 1973. A respected author and sculptress she was thrilled to be invited here in 2015 to present Wistful her sculptor of her own horse to Eric Smiley, this has been awarded to recipients of the Pat Smallwood Award over the years.

Pippa Francis, it was a great shock to many of us to learn that Pippa had been taken by that cruel illness, cancer, at only 58 years old. Secretary of this Association from 1995-2000. Pippa’s career spanned from working for the Kelletts’ in Ireland to becoming a lecturer at Warwickshire College alongside her BHS assessing work. She then joined OFSTED as an inspector, a complete career change but as in everything she did Pippa won the hearts of all around her and made as significant a contribution to the education sector has she had to the equestrian world.

Now is the time for me to congratulate various people for their successes this year. Welcome to the new BHSI’s, Carrie Byrom, Ruth Baxter, Katy Partrick, Tessa Ryley, Sally Poppe, Charlotte Tarrant, Michelle Williamson, Debbie Morgan, David Llewellyn, Steve Pryde, and Darah Duggan. These people will have received their invitation from BHS giving them their free year’s membership of the F&I Association. Having spoken to Charlie Pardon from BHS membership, on the 3rd January, we have discussed a more prominent leaflet to go out to each new BHSI in the future telling them of the benefits of membership of this Association and their first free year.

Congratulations to our own Islay Auty FBHS on gaining the Medal of Honour presented by the BEF for her work with young Dressage competitors. Thanks for sharing this lovely medal with us all Islay, please now give us a little more insight into your presentation. Finally, a mention for Carl Hester as the new Honorary Fellow of the BHS.

There is a card circulating, courtesy of Sue Payne, for Helen Webber FBHS, those of you who know and worked with Helen do add a note as Helen is now housebound but sends us her best wishes, anyone else who wishes to sign it then please do.

I now need to thank those people who have been and will be tomorrow busy organising the Study Periods: Sue Payne, Sam York, Carol Bennitt Jenny Ward Lizzel Winter, David Sheerin, Danny Anholt and Nick Turner.
AND NOW!! I don’t think anyone other than possibly her darling husband, Ian, and myself have any idea of the hours spent by Ann in organising these two days for us. In most recent days the emails have been flinging back and forth as horses went lame so spaces became available and then people wanted to swop their times. In the end we resorted to phone calls having bypassed texts and my partner, a Dublin man well able for blasphemy & swearing, was astounded at the language which passed across the Irish Sea. However, I do believe Ann has managed to please everyone.

We have Jeremy to thank for inviting our two Trainers/Coaches for these two days and for the repeat performance next year. Each year I am totally in awe of our Presenters and none more so than this year. It has been wonderful to watch you the riders enjoying what has been on offer today from these talented gentlemen, and tomorrow promises even more delights.