Nick took a large group of BHSI’s for jumping ranging from young/inexperienced horses to those competing at 1.20.
A common theme and philosophy emerged with all groups. He started on day one with looking at the quality of the canter using ground poles and progressed his exercises onto bounces, doglegs and turnbacks. These exercises were developed or modified to cater for the level of horses. Nick was emphatic about the balance in canter, and control on landing, allowing the horses to find control of their lead legs and balance for themselves. The exercise of the turnback ensured that the quality of the canter remained, and coming back to the bounce exercise ensured the balance was addressed, lead legs were corrected automatically by the horses taking ownership of their responsibility. Nick encouraged riders to, regardless of lead legs or disunited, keep the balance and still come to the fence, in order for the horses to start thinking for themselves.
Nick had a superb manner of suggestion to achieve improvement, these were quietly subtle but very effective. “Now put your mind to the hind leg” achieved greater engagement without upsetting the harmony or equilibrium that had been developed within the partnership.
During the day Nick, who is trainer of the Irish Eventing team, presented Ross O Hare from Co Meath with his BHSI Certificate.
This consolidated the ethos from the previous day, but incorporated a course of jumps, where without exception we saw improvement in every partnership. Nick said “We must teach horses to be athletes and think for themselves, there must be no Snooze button- aid = reaction”, “The horse must be forwards and straight” He then explained that no matter what discipline, we adhere to the scales of training, however the contact when jumping may vary more than dressage riding, due to the dynamics of the jump, and subsequent re balance on landing.
There was so much to watch and listen to on this course. Watching Jenny Loriston Clark coach the dressage riding, a sit in with Jenny Ward from a judges perspective, and jumping with Lizzel Winter on day one kept us on the ball, whilst on day two we had a dressage judges perspective with Ann Bostock along with a trainers perspective with Jeremy Michaels. Each generating discussion and thought. And Then! A very thought provoking session on the jumping with Eric Smiley. He questioned us as coaches, what do we really mean with some of the common terms we use, do our pupils really understand? Some of the terms discussed:- Suppleness is the acceptance of the aids, Impulsion is available energy. ON LINE and IN LINE, the horses spine should follow the line you want. The rider needs the ability to ride a line and a pace. This was just a small sample!
On the first evening we had the AGM, followed by the evening meal. The sculptress of the beautiful trophy of a horses head, came along,- Jo Knowles FBHS, she said it was the first time she had seen the sculpture since she had commissioned it in 1989 to be presented to Malcolm Brown BHSI. Previously awarded as the Pat Smallwood award, it has now been re-named “Whistful” by Jo, this trophy is now awarded to a coach that has given a lot back to the association, and the worthy recipient this year was Eric Smiley. Lynn Peterson supported us yet again, it is good to see her at our AGM, her support, enthusiasm and drive to modernise the BHS and raise our profile is much appreciated, and we are looking forwards to a bright future. The new BHSI’s were awarded their certificates by Nick and Jenny. Then we had our meal, where the wine flowed freely, and all had a good time. Thanks to Tim Downes for his hilarious “Odes” which we could all relate to. I understand that some of the partying continued into the early hours in the horseboxes, maybe that’s why they all rode so well on the second day!
It is such an inspiration at the beginning of a new year to meet up with friends and like minded people, with world class trainers, to discuss ideas, learn and develop. A huge thank you to Ann Bostock and all of the committee for organising this fantastic event, and I look forward to the forthcoming events in 2015
Report by Mandy Luesley