For the second year running Carl Hester kindly agreed to teach at the F and I course at Addington. Unfortunately last year I was unable to get a place on the clinic with Carl as the places were like gold-dust and I wasn’t quick enough off the mark to apply. That taught me a lesson! Thankfully though this year I got my application in much quicker and got a place.
A lot of the other course attendees this year were also on the course last year and had taken on board what Carl had had them do last year. This meant that this year they were showing much improvement and some horses looked completely different in their way of going from when they arrived last year.
Carl worked a lot on getting the horses to be supple and submissive in all aspects of their work, whether stretching the horse to soften it, or making sure the horse was reacting in front of the leg as and when required. These themes dominated everything he did and every horse and rider benefited.
There were a lot of useful techniques and insights to take away in all levels of training from the young horse up to the advanced horse. Some that I and others noted included:
riding long diagonals riding a shallow travers, rather than half pass, to keep the forwardness and swing and bring over the outside foreleg;
taking the hands towards the half pass/travers rather than back across the wither away from the direction of travel, to encourage the swing;
keeping straightness through the outside of the horse, using leg-yielding in on the circle to help rebalance the contact through the rein;
collecting and at the same time stretching the neck so the horse could canter very slowly and in rhythm yet with a full stretch over the neck and back and loose rein contact – in fact virtually on the spot and still without the rein;
helping the horse with the leg and whip, without pulling on the rein;
keeping it easy for the horse to do what the rider requires by sitting easily, poised and in balance yourself, with a following hand and quick to reward a good moment;
making wider inside rein invitations to bend and always activating the hindleg;
keeping the exercises easy e.g. playing with working-pirouettes or half-steps towards piaffe, as a fun exercise in a soft outline, rather than always making them hard work in an advanced outline.
I got a lot out of the two days with my horse and left the course with different exercises to use. What a fantastic opportunity to work with Carl – I just wish I had two years in a row!
Review of Di Lampard’s Show Jumping training (report by Sam York)
Well it was worth the drive through snow and freezing temperatures for the superb opportunity to watch two days of talented riders and horses being put through their paces by two of our top British riders / trainers.
Addington centre again provided excellent training facilities and viewing opportunities for spectators. Although chilly, the arena heating, horse blankets and a spectacular range of hats ensured that everyone maintained great spirits and stamina to watch, network and generally have a good gossip following the festive season. I personally was very disappointed at not being able to ride my horses booked in, as, due to a client’s horse rearing up and coming over on me causing internal issues requiring surgery, I was restricted to watching only, but I was not disadvantaged at all; if anything having the time to focus and watch all of the two days of training gave me as much inspiration, advice and clarification as any budding rider and trainer could need for a while. The only problem was deciding which trainer to watch but with a great logistical set up it was very easy to move from one arena to another quickly.
I was asked if I would write a report on Di Lampard’s training over the two days, obviously I split my time with Di’s arena and Carl’s so I may have missed some sessions but my overview follows.
Di Lampard is a sure authority when it comes to jumping horses and training riders, being a lady rider who has represented Britain in two world equestrian games, two European championships and more than 40 Nations cup teams, along with being National ladies champion twice, winning leading show jumper title at Wembley and leading lady rider in Great Britain for no less then eight years it was not surprising that her approach was systematic, disciplined and showed great attention to detail. The approach to each group was aimed around sound basic principles but with a good trainer’s classic ability to pick up on each rider and horse’s individual needs and requirements.
Each group was always encouraged to thoroughly warm up both the horse but also themselves. Di was keen to ensure the horses were fully in front of the leg, responsive to questions being asked of them and especially straight and really going somewhere. Some groups also warmed up over poles, and raised poles with Di looking for horses and riders to focus, stretch and improve rhythm and balance, which become so obviously vital as the sessions progressed. Irrespective of what level the horses were currently working at, all the horses warmed up progressively over a simple small cross pole, this not only further warmed the horses up, but also told Di a lot about both the horse and the rider, this being an indication to Di’s eye for detail and showed off her training skills, as she was very quick to assess her riders and the type of horses they are riding. The exercises went on to develop two or three fences together requiring a very regular level pace from one fence to another, Di kept emphasising that the delivery to the fences is the vital key to good show jumping, a lot of attention was paid to relaxed but active canters with good preparation off the turns and corners, especially ensuring that riders rode the horses off the outside aids, with no backward contact but an open hand if necessary for sharper turns. This was particularly practiced with several different exercises over the two days, one being a curved three fence exercise on the short side of the arena with 11 yard distance between each fence, and a four fence exercise on a circle in a different session. Di explained that these exercises are also used to sharpen up both horse and rider and to take them both out of their comfort zone, Di explained that with young horses and more advanced horses it is important that we do not always ride perfect distances and that we must take ourselves out of our comfort zone as that will prepare us not only for riding in competition but also psychologically to train us to deal with all eventualities in training and in the ring. Di also touched on not over protecting horses especially youngsters and making sure they think for themselves, not always over riding set distances and lines.
Di insisted on a lot of the horses to be encouraged to come softer around the inside leg and riders to be more supportive with their outside aids. This was also identified again with a three fence exercise (three and four non jumping stride distance) where fences were off set requiring a shallow serpentine line to be followed involving left, right, left turns to be executed, not only did this challenge straightness in the rider and horse’s body but also gave chance to practice and teach youngsters to land on the correct leading legs. This additionally gave Di chance to address rider straightness and the influential role of the rider’s upper body when jumping. Many riders were advised to become more aware of their upper body movement and identify how it can influence the horse’s balance so much, this is especially important in the last few strides before the fence, when the horse needs to be particularly uphill, relaxed and being able to focus on the fence not being over ridden or distracted by the rider’s upper body and over adjusting down the rein in those last few strides.
Related distances were another theme through many sessions which is hardly surprising as riding jump courses both BSJA and BE rely heavily on related distances, technical turns and combinations. In these sessions, work was started with poles on the floor ensuring that riders could identify the strides clearly and Di then set them the task of adjusting the horse’s strides longer and shorter without compromising the engagement and softness across the horse’s top line which would then directly effect the horse’s jump. Di explained many times that often when riders try to adjust the horse’s stride to ride a set distance they actually end up having the opposite effect, a lot of advice was given on how to influence the stride with a softer more relaxed approach from the rider. Advice was given to encourage many riders not to over react and over ride when trying to lengthen a horse’s stride, but to try to feel for a longer stride without the all to common tendency to sit heavier and drive a horse, this only causing hollowing and irregular striding or rushing with a quicker but shorter stride. To shorten the stride emphasis was put on improving the preparation, half halts and upper body influence needed to collect the horse, but all with a less restricting contact and without shortening of the horse’s neck, produced a softer more relaxed horse who will start to sit more and shorten the stride allowing the hind leg to still come more under the body, therefore leading to a regular level stride, with a rounder more powerful jump.
Straightness was another strong priority of Di’s training, many exercises included the use of poles laid on the floor both on take off and landing (she did say she uses flat rails at home). This technique was used to help the rider identify if they were not straight and also helped visually to encourage both horse and rider to stay straight. Di explained that straightness is not just about lines but about true straightness leading to increased engagement and strength of the horse’s body and then in the jump.
The height of the fences for all groups was kept moderately low as effective training did not require big fences. Di expressed that if the basic principles are achieved the height of the fence shouldn’t actually be an issue (obviously horse and rider talent and their confidence allowed for). There were many individual issues addressed with riders and their horses, which was both very beneficial for the individuals riding but also very useful to spectators who as riders and trainers could all relate to riding or teaching a client with a similar horse with similar issues. There was good interaction between riders and Di which was improved further on day two with the aid of a microphone, this allowed for an even better spectator experience as well.
So often people feel the need to showcase something unusual and technical when asked to teach or demo ride at such events as this one, but the reality is that most top riders have the same systems at home that consist of correct basic training, preparation for the job being asked of the horse in the ring and the ability to enhance individual horse’s jumping techniques. This as we know can be achieved with endless specific training techniques which on a constructive note maybe a few sessions could consist of a couple of horses with different jump technique issues and ideas and examples of methods can be shared, such as the use of grid work, specific types of fences and various distances to see how these sort of horses and riders could be improved.
As ever it was easy to see how us riders so often are the problem and that we need the regular advice and training to keep us on track, but this is needed with sound reflective practice so we stop, analyse ourselves, reflect on performances and training and carry on again fresh and focused, something that is all to often neglected when we are so busy competing, training and surviving in this demanding industry. This is why such courses as this are fantastic opportunities to just take a deep breath have a think about where we are and remind ourselves where we are trying to go ! And all that before we rush off to our next client, competition or training session. Therefore in conclusion a big thank you to Di for her transfer of knowledge, ideas and openness to share her training and teaching principles, and Well done F & I for organising such events and I know I speak for everyone who attended many thanks and we all very much look forward to the next one.
Dressage report – Carl Hester – by Becky Monk
Show Jumping report – Di Lampard’s – by Sam York