F & I Sam Watson stable tour 2017

Sam Watson

Following on from a brilliant morning at the Willlie Mullins stables and an indulgent lunch the F&I members headed off to Irish Event rider Sam Watson’s yard. Sam began his international career when he represented Ireland at the Junior European Championships. Sam’s father John won a silver medal in the 1978 World Championships in Kentucky so eventing is in his blood. He started out in England being based with Lucy Wiegersma and with his best known horse Horseware Bushman has completed many 4* events including Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky. He also has a number of 3* horses including Horseware Lukeswell and Imperial Sky.

We had the chance to meet Sam at Willie’s yard earlier in the day and found out his role within the Mullins stables. All of Willie’s horses get six weeks of flat work when they come back into work and Sam plays a big part in this by helping the work riders understand how a horse should work. Sam educates the riders on how to effectively and correctly work a horse in order to condition and strengthen them by using the scales of training. Sam was very focused on suppleness and straightness but also the power and strength of a horse. He pulled out three horses for us to look at in-hand and trotted up, Sam explained what he looked for in a horse and certainly had a liking for the sire Puissance as all three horses were by him in addition to Bushman. It was interesting to hear Sam’s preference when choosing a horse for eventing, he was less inclined to go for a big moving warmblood and commented that all his horses are at least 60% blood. He discussed the importance of choosing a horse with natural ability to allow him to develop it into an athlete for the sport and finding one with a good brain as you need a horse who doesn’t rely on its rider all of the time. He did mention however that Bushman was not a great mover or initially the most natural jumper but his trainability and big heart is what enabled him to succeed. Sam shared his new exciting venture EquiRatings with us, a risk management database for eventing to help improve safety within the sport, this is obviously something Sam is very passionate about. He also hopes in time change in the scoring format of eventing will take place by taking the emphasis off the dressage phase, watch this space.

Sam had a lovely set up, he had 14 horses in work and the main yard consisted of a court yard of 22 sables with an immaculate tack room. We had chance to look around the rest of the yard, there were large spacious pens so horses could have more freedom and relax away from the main yard. Sam liked to promote relaxation in his horses in order for muscles to recover post exercise and commented on how horses cannot recover if they are box walking or unsettled. In the fields around the back of the yard there was Black Hercules a chaser from Willie Mullins’s who had been very successful but lost his way last season so Sam was hoping to help get him back to form. Sam then took us to see his indoor arena and outdoor schooling paddock which was surrounded by a sand canter track. His wife Sparkles was riding 17yo Bushman who looked amazing for his age and clearly enjoyed his exercise, Sam discussed how he likes to think about the mechanics of a horse when riding them and how he relates this to the work he does on the flat. Sam finished by riding 13yo Ardagh Highlight a horse who at times can become tense so he demonstrated the use of canter work, counter canter and adjustment of the canter between poles to help relax him while keeping the connection and making the hind legs work into the rein resulting in a huge improvement in the trot work.

I am sure every member in attendance thoroughly enjoyed their trip to Ireland and on behalf of all of us thank you for arranging such a brilliant day.

Alice Bannister-Bell

F&I Willie Mullins Tour 2017

On the 27th June the F&I Association were lucky enough to be invited on a tour of Willie Mullins’ training yard in Co Carlow. This opportunity was not to be missed and the maximum number of 30 people attended, made up of F&I members and some Irish enthusiasts. Firstly I must apologise for the length of this report, as you may gather I am a huge racing enthusiast but I will try not to ramble on too much…….to continue reading full report by Amy Bannister-Bell BHSI, click here: Willie Mullins report 27th June

F and I Study Day with Judy Harvey

On Monday 8th May, 11 members of the F and I association and friends spent a very fruitful day with Judy Harvey. The morning session was filled with an eclectic mix of five horses, working at different levels, ranging from retired racehorses to a very game grey cob. These were followed by 3 superstar horses ridden by Judy’s working pupils and a client.

Judy’s insightful observations and suggestions were ‘to the point’ and resulted in improvements with all the horse/rider combinations. The common thread was the need to ‘wait with energy’ in the paces and movements and allow the horse time to find its balance. Much emphasis was placed on working on the problems that arose, quietly and with empathy, through understanding the strengths and weakness of the horse.

It was a pleasure to see all the horses quietly grow and improve, even if they had to work through ‘difficult’ patches. This was achieved by very astute and clear direction from Judy and sympathetic riding by all the riders.

There was also much input and banter from the ringside gallery. The ‘Gold Star’ was awarded to Sally the grey cob and ridden by Ann Bostock for the best flying changes of the day.

A big thank you to Judy for welcoming us to her yard for the day and filling the day with knowledge and understanding. And a big thank you to Ann for organising the day.

Report by Richard Evans

Report of F&I Badminton Course Walk 2017 with Eric Smiley FBHS

This year at Badminton the BHS Fellows and Instructors Association were treated to a course walk with Eric Smiley FBHS. Born and raised in Ireland, Eric spent 10 years in the cavalry Regiment then decided to pursue a Professional career with horses. Having trained at Talland to gain his BHSI he then returned to Ireland. He gained his Fellowship in 1995 and now lives in Dorset with his wife Sue.

Eric gained his first team selection in 1985 for the European Championships at Burghley. Since then, he has represented Ireland at two European Championships, three World Equestrian Games and been on four Olympic Teams competing at Barcelona and Atlanta as well as a regular competitor at Badminton and Burghley.

To begin the walk Eric asked everyone to imagine which horse they had brought with them to ride around Badminton – to think of its strengths and weaknesses and to keep those in mind when approaching each fence. He stressed that the rider’s main responsibilities would be pace and line throughout.

Eric thinks that there are three types of rider who arrive at Badminton, those who are just happy to be there, those who are determined to get round clear and those who are there to win! He explained that each of these groups would have a different plan of attack for cross country day.

As the walk progressed it was clear that Eric Smiley was determined to make this a learning experience for all, asking questions and getting observers to analyse each fence for their particular horse.

The first fence the group looked at was fence three, the Keepers Question, a large table with a gaping hole underneath. We were asked to imagine the fence with a solid front. He advised that the dimensions were perfectly acceptable at this level and the hole was just there to let the riders know that the designer Eric Winter meant business!

As we approached fence four, Mike Weavers Haywain, Eric drew attention to the undulating ground which would help the horse to balance itself before the fence, also the steep rise and the ledge would help the horse to come to a good take off spot. He discussed making the time at 4* level and at this fence the rider should not be needing to balance the horse a long way before the fence, thus losing valuable seconds.

Fence five, Savills staircase was the first combination – the old Beaufort Staircase. There was a choice of a left or right hand rail in, steps down to a skinny angled brush. Eric emphasised the importance of not allowing a horse to deviate from a line and asked us to imagine how we would apply that to our horse. He stressed the importance of not panicking at the A element of combinations because a line would open up in front of the rider and to concentrate on jumping in over the A element well.

Fence six was a new fence, the Countryside birch, with a clever design. Essentially an enormous table made more difficult because of clever course stringing and its position in relation to a large tree on the landing side. At this stage the riders different approaches to the course will become apparent, are they there to get round or to win?

Eric talked about Eric Winter’s subtle use of line throughout the course which will force the rider to think about their options very carefully every step of the way and that this would make this a mentally taxing course for the rider.

Fence seven and eight the L200s and The Lake are early in the course this year. Eric explained that the complex scene which opens up in front of the fence can be distracting for the horse, taking its focus away from the obstacle in front of it. It was important to find a good purposeful take off spot for the pickups. The log into the water he thought should not cause problems, riders should keep the horse’s focus up on the log and not down through the gap. How the rider chose to ride the exit would depend on the horse they are riding, the narrow brushes are angled left or right, and the decision would depend on the horse’s strengths, the right hand brush is slightly faster.

Eric explained that the offset oxer at fence nine is clever use of an optical illusion. The narrower from side to side that a wide fence is, the higher and more daunting it appears.

At the Shogun Hollow fence ten, the route chosen would depend on whether your horse jumps right or left hand corners better. Clever use of fence dressing makes the approach to the second corner on the fast route challenging; the trick here would be not to disturb the horse’s rhythm going through the hollow.

At KBIS eleven and twelve, the first crossing of the vicarage ditch, Eric again emphasised the importance of line and suggested that riders who had had problems at ten may choose to jump the clever separately numbered alternative.

There are two options at the Outlander bank 13ab. Selection of route would depend on your horses stride length and way of going. The approach canter needs to be punchy and uphill. The shorter distance on the right hand route would suit a more compact horse and has a more forgiving landing. The left hand route would suit a longer striding horse and would see the horse landing further down the bank.

The Trakehner at 14 should not cause trouble at this level and was a great photo opportunity!

The Hildon Water Pond at 15abc is clever use of terrain and line and comes in the middle of the most difficult section of the course from fence 8 – 20. At this point we may see horses start to lose confidence and riders adjust their plan accordingly and start to take alternative routes.

Fence 16 is described as a let-up fence, but Eric stressed the importance of remaining focused throughout the course.

Fence 17 the Mirage Pond. Eric took the group to the exit side of the pond and again explained the importance of not panicking when the line to the B element of a combination is not visible, in this case it was a ‘simple’ brush off a curving line.

Fence 18 was a large oxer followed by the PHEV corral at 19ab. This fence was a new concept and interesting use of fence dressing to create a seemingly impossible line to the B element. Eric discussed the use of fence dressing as a distraction among a mass of rails and the challenge which the rider has to keep the horse focussed at this stage of the course.

Fence 20 the Event mobility Dining Table is straightforward but followed by 21 which is a treble of maximum dimensions. An accuracy question at this stage of the course should not be underestimated. The distances are forward thinking and would require good attacking cross country riding.

Fence 22 was a bull finch out of the far end of the Lake, not commonly seen these days. As a result of rider complaints, the brush had been thinned before the start of the competition. Despite it being unfamiliar Eric hoped that it would not cause many problems.

Fence 23abc Huntsmans Close had been softened this year and involved a related distance of log piles. Whilst walking the course with riders Eric had stressed the importance of not being distracted by the position of the trees on take-off and landing but to focus instead on riding a curving line between the fences. By doing this the line would open up in front of the rider!

At 24 the World Horse Welfare Gates, Eric again stressed positive riding of a curving line rather than sharp corners, so as not to break the horse’s rhythm thereby leading to an unfortunate mishap.

There only remained the Quarry at 25 which involved more undulations and angles and a double of very large box hedges at 27 and 28. At this stage Eric stressed that they would need accurate riding as the horses would have weary legs and mistakes come all too easily.

Eric concluded that you could see the influence of Eric Winter’s Showjumping background on his first Badminton Course. Eric Smiley did not think that this was a ‘normal’ Eric Winter course like Blenheim and that he had truly stepped up to the mark as a designer. Eric thought that a horse and rider combination would grow in stature if they successfully completed this track and he hoped that it would produce the kind of jumping that Eric Winter was looking for!

All that was left was to thank Ann Bostock for organising, although she had to be elsewhere on the day and to thank Eric Smiley for his generous time.

Report by Sally Poppe BHSI

F and I training day at Talland

It was a fun and informative day run by the legendary Pammy Hutton. Held at the impressive Talland school of Equitation.

Pammy started the day on her own young horse. She explained that she would like to get us all to encourage young horses to do more lateral work. In particular, to encourage shoulder in and half pass training early on, to gain greater control in difficult situations when the young horses are nervous or overwhelmed. 

Throughout the day we were lucky to have a super selection of both riding school horses (most of which had competed to a high level) and riders that brought their own horses to the training day. They were all very interesting to watch as they all had super personalities and some were easier to get a tune out of than others. However, all the riders finished with a smile on their faces and seemed to have gained a greater insight into their strengths and weaknesses once they had ridden. 

The day finished with Pammy riding the lovely Magnum. She explained the rider position checklist she goes through every time she rides. She does lots of work without stirrups to improve her depth of seat and would encourage us all to do the same on a regular basis. She worked on Magnum’s balance and outline, asking him to be a lot more up and out. She talked about the importance of rhythm and how in test riding you can gain so many marks by just riding the movements in a rhythm.

In this last session, it was super to see how Pammy and her daughter Pippa work together as a team to get the best out of one another’s riding. Pippa took no prisoners when correcting Pammy’s mistakes in the canter pirouettes but was quick to praise when things got better. Little corrections pointed out by Pippa in the contact in both the trot and canter work led to better balance and rhythm. Pammy took the instruction with grace and a smile on her face. 

One of the greatest things about these training days is that you realise everyone is nervous about making mistakes or looking inadequate or foolish. Pammy told us all to be more confident and to try to put your best foot forward, but above all to work hard to try to get better every day. The great thing about Pammy is although she is thought of as tough and a bit ‘shouty’ it’s all done from the heart! She genuinely wants you to get better and loves the horses she works with. She’s been there and done it and has so many stories and experiences to share. 

It was lovely to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. I would like to thank Jeremy Michaels and Jude Mathews for arranging the day and Pammy Hutton for her time and expertise. Also, I would like to note that the office and helpers at Talland were great too!

Report by Sarah Stewart BHSI

Training Day with Nick Turner FBHS

F & I North West Region Training day at Myerscough College, 28th March 2017.

As an F & I member based in Lancashire, and the Stable Yard Manager at Myerscough College, I was delighted to be able to provide the facilities for the North West Region, spring training day.

The day started with a couple of hours of flatwork sessions, then the majority of the day focussed on jumping. However, throughout the day there was a common theme, ‘Less is more’.

Nick was excellent at reminding us all about strong, simple, basics of good riding. He was consistent during the day ensuring we didn’t make things too complicated for the horse or ‘Their shutters will come down and start to say no’ – the horse will struggle to understand what is required.

He highlighted that good preparation was key to success, whether that was riding lateral movements, transitions, or the approach to a fence, being clear not to ‘harass’ the horse. Doing less, was allowing the horse time to digest the information given from the rider, which resulted in a more fluent, clear and calm way of going.

During the jump sessions, there was a variety of obstacles placed well in the arena, to ensure we rode positively and reacted quickly. Nick wanted us to let the horse see its own stride to the fence, ‘just ride forward and straight, allowing the horse to make a decision’. Always reminding us to ‘breathe, relax and keep our body up – not back’. Thus allowing the rider to use their body more effectively, and aid the natural ability of the horse.

I even managed to enjoy a spot of jumping with my reins in one hand – yes this was intentional! It was an extremely effective method to stop the rider, (me on this occasion) interfering with the horse’s rhythm and stride into the fence, trying to place the horse where I thought it needed to be. A fabulous exercise to stop bad habits that we acquire. While maintaining balance, fluency and a forward canter. I am happy to report I wasn’t the only rider to be asked to do this!

Thank you Nick Turner, for your enthusiasm, inspiration and clear sound training advice. Ensuring harmony and understanding between horse and rider.

And thank you Sue Ricketts for organising the day for the North West Region. We are looking forward to the next one!

Report by Kirsten Owen BHSI

National Equine Forum Report

Birdcage Walk, London, 2nd March 2017.

With great excitement – a day out in London – WHOOPEE! and above all the company of Sue Ricketts…such fun.

Car washed and polished, nobody would see it but it is a special occasion going to London.  Suit cleaned, shirt ironed, shoes polished…too much information I know!

I met up with Sue on a beautiful sunny day and we were to be stuck inside but heyho. We checked in and were met by the lovely organisers of the Forum, produced our passports for accreditation and were duly given our Delegate Packs, closely inspected as to what the day would hold for us, a full day of informative and eminent speakers on a wide range of topics, to include the following: Chairmans opening address by Tim Brigstocke MBE, Lord Gardiner Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, DEFRA, followed by a most informative presentation on the progress of the Central Equine
Database by Stewart Everett, Chief Executive Equine Register.

There followed a panel discussion chaired by Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare with the panel consisting of, Graeme Cooke, Chief Veterinary Officer UK and DEFRA,  Simon Cooper, Wetherbys GSB Ltd., Nikki Newcombe, Chair of BETA, Clare Salmon, Chief Executive BEF.   Following this was a short presentation by Ross Hamilton on the Horserace Betting Levy replacement AND then at long last LUNCH and time for a cigarette….delicious lunch and a glass of wine but what a bun fight with everyone squashed into a relatively small room, Sue was much more successful than I was at sourcing the puddings.

Then back for the afternoon session with speakers on a wide range of topics, SADDLERY and BITTING covered by Dr Sue Dyson, Neil Townsend, and a most interesting talk by Dr Caroline Benoist of Neue Schule, challenging our long held understanding of how bits worked, some of which I had difficulty with agreeing with!!

BIOSECURITY Andrea Vilela of Redwings who gave the results of their Strangles Survey, Professor Josh Slater gave a presentation on Infectious Diseases and especially EHPV and it’s impact on yards and the local horse population. Coming to the end of the afternoon Lynn Petersen, Chief Executive of the BHS gave after some difficulty with the computer system, much rushing around by various people trying to fix the problem and in which time I am sure that Lynn wished the ground would open up and swallow her, a presentation on the BHS and how Horses could help young people and the positive impact on their
fractured lives.

The afternoon was closed by HRH The Princess Royal and her famously direct and succinct take on the Equine Industry and how we must all work together, as so many bodies are researching the same problems but due to lack of communication, the bodies are not sharing this information and her final words were that surely there needed to be ONE Passport Issuing Authority!!

The day over and with much to mull over, Sue and I then decided that it was time to hit the town and a very enjoyable evening was had…I hope…where we had drinks in one establishment, main course in another and pudding in a completely different restaurant.

Overall, I had the most fabulous day, great speakers and the most wonderful company for our foray into town.
Report by Simon Somers BHSI

Ingestre Training Day with Tim Downes FBHS

Focus on lateral work

I’d like to start by saying that I first joined the F&I Association in 2001, but let my membership lapse after just 1 year. I am so pleased that after all this time I have re-joined, and can take advantage of the fantastic opportunities the association offers.

We had a really good day with Tim Downes at Ingestre on the 22nd February, kindly organised by Sue Ricketts. Thankfully we were blessed with mild, dry weather.

The objective of the day was to focus on lateral work. We started in the class room discussing the theory behind lateral work; we covered different lateral movements, the importance of them, where they belong in a horses training and common mistakes made by riders when asking horses to perform these movements. Tim compared riding lateral movements to a dance, the importance of riders going with the horses movement, and how it is essential to give correct, consistent aids so the horse understands what the rider is asking rather than trying to interpret what the rider thinks they are asking for.

We then had 2 riding sessions. The first was to ride lateral movements, developing the quality of the movements and the position faults we commonly see when we are coaching.

The second session was to give marks to the lateral movements we were observing, discuss why we would give that mark and what sort of comment a judge might give. There was a lot of discussion about judges’ comments and the need for trainers to understand the meaning behind the comments – judges can only give a couple of words, not a paragraph on what the problem is and how to improve it! It is up to coaches and trainers to interpret the comments in a way that less educated riders can understand and work from.
We finished off in the class room with Tim explaining in quite some detail how he gives marks for various movements, what he looks for, how easily marks are lost, and how they can be gained, he used examples such as simple changes and transitions to halt, rein back, moving immediately to walk.

The day certainly gave us plenty to think about… Thanks to Tim, Sue, everyone involved in the organisation and the lovely lady who made our lunch!!

Report written by Rebecca Cooper

Click here for Powerpoint slides

Wellington Show Jumping Training Day with Captain Richard Waygood

A big thank you to David Sheerin and all his Team at Wellington for organising another fabulous training day under the watchful eye of Richard. The indoor school was a godsend as the snow was falling and temperatures freezing!

Richards philosophy throughout his training session was “you might have to crack a few eggs to make your omelette”. This analogy was to encourage riders to go a few steps back to correct bad habits and way of going. This encouraged riders to create better rhythm, suppleness, self carriage and lightness as an end result if not today then in the future training sessions to come. This philosophy was reiterated from the flat through to the jumping exercises.

The exercises started with two sets of 3 poles on a tight curve at either end of the arena travelling over the centre line(L and I), these were used to both trot and then eventually canter through to establish the balance and turning of the horse underneath us. This set the horses up well for the next exercise of another 3 curving poles over G with the middle pole raised according to ability. In the beginning we were all guilty of turning late which meant we were too straight to the raised pole and landing wide of the landing pole therefore losing the suppleness of the horses jump and the control of their outside shoulder. Richards enthusiasm and quick judgment soon corrected us making us look at him on approach to the exercise to create the turn sooner and land turning. The horses all learnt to back them selves off the poles and produce a more athletic jump which in turn produced a better approach for their next fence.

The session progressed with emphasis on maintaining a good open uphill canter with shorter turns back to verticals and oxers. The quality of the horses’ jump improved each time making the riders aware of allowing self carriage and forward canter through the turns. Richards quick praise followed by enthusiasm for wanting the exercise ridden even better next time was just brilliant.

The final exercise of the curving raised poles to vertical 5 strides to an oxer was proof to see if the canter was in self carriage and balance was maintained. All the horses and riders had worked hard at all levels and were rewarded by good experiences.

It is so helpful that members/guests spectating are able to be in the arena with Richard and can be part of the discussions. It is so valuable to listen to Richard coach and his thoughts behind the changes he would like to make with each rider and horse and why he might not pick the rider up on the most obvious mistakes. I know I came away from the day full of enthusiasm and confidence with a great jumping exercise not only for my horses but a useful tool for my coaching. Thank you Richard for being so inspirational.

Lunch was a delicious buffet organised again by David, yumyum, thank you. A great time for us to sit, chat and reflect on the mornings work. We have a great network of friends in the association and we are so lucky to be able to spend days like this together both discussing and learning from the master. THANK YOU.

Report by Catherine Cawdron

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