As a first timer to this course, I was a little apprehensive about what to expect, however I was quickly put at ease by all! A lovely welcome indeed!
Kenneth Clawson our jump trainer for the two days decided to have a theme.
“How do we as riders know what contact, feel and timing is? As coaches how do we teach it? “
A wide topic as these words will and do mean different things to everyone, including me. I was fortunate enough to ride three different horses, of various levels and these words had very different meanings to each of the horses I rode, this depended on the horse’s age, stage of training and horse and rider combination strengths and weaknesses.
Kenneth used his counting of canter strides down the long side from quarter maker to quarter marker in a 23m x 40m area just wider than the average dressage arena. This self-educated riders as it highlighted the horse and riders ability to shorten and lengthen. Or lack of one or other, a constructive exercise as it sharpened up the riders timing while maintaining a comfortable contact with the horse and riders had to remain soft in feel.
Poles were also used to test riders accuracy. Straightness over the pole and quality around the turn was tested by trotting down the middle of the pole and the down he outer edges, the latter creating focus and a better ‘off the floor’ feel. Amazing what ability horses have when the stabilizers are taken off.
Progression was made to serpentines, the brief was clear ‘three U joined by straight lines not V’s or S’s.
The serpentine exercise proceeded to be used on a larger area with two simple vertical jumps put on the straight lines of the serpentine. We started in trot then proceeded to canter, Kenneth reinforced that quality was to be kept in the canter through the turn, this followed by straightness before, during and after the jump with the horse being on correct canter lead before you enter the first corner on the landing side of the verticals, all with the riders staying comfortable in their bodies over the jump.
No sweat! Really!!
Well there is a whole load of home work for me with all of my horses before their event season.
All riders started with a much clearer plan, significant improvement was shown by the horses working softer quicker, ready to apply their newly found flair to their jumping skills.
The warm up continued from where day 1 was left, the vertical jumps on the large serpentine. We then proceed to jump a related distance that was neither a real 4 or 5 stride distance so Kenneth obviously tested to check that both horse and rider could do both.
We then tested all the work that we had put in and jumped straight around a course, Kenneth ensured all riders kept canter quality, with good rhythm through turns to straight approaches and get aways. Most people found by riding this way they had gained more time!! The horses all looked more together, got in the air and showed care and attention to the fence. A pleasure to watch!
Report written by Kylie Roddy.
11th and 12th January, 2012.