Jumping “In The Moment”
The Things Any Rider Can Do To Improve
Randy Henry and Winsome Farm are names that have ushered hunter, jumper and equitation riders from local shows to the winter circuits to the indoors shows—with blue ribbons, circuit championships and year-end titles to show for their efforts. While Randy’s daughter, Micca, coaches clients who enjoy the Colorado circuit, Randy has been spending some of her time with John French’s team at Waldenbrook Farms in California. Randy says, "I'm using my 50 years of experience to work with John. I love it. John's integrity and skill are the best and his intuition is unsurpassed."
Randy says, "I teach people who come in for the weekend at very high quality shows . . . so how do I prepare these people to compete successfully? Simply put, I'm the noisy one, putting everything into words . . . it’s a great balance. We work on two things; they are two things that any rider can learn and improve. One: the quality of the canter. Two: riding a straight track to the jump. It can be that simple."
Randy explains, "You need a quality canter to put in a good round. 'Quality' means balanced. In the simplest terms, a horse's best canter is the most comfortable, smoothest canter that horse is capable of producing. He's neither pulling downward (rooting), nor getting behind the bridle (too soft, not looking where he's going). He's obedient to the leg. He's comfortable.
"Some horses have a beautiful canter naturally. Some. Many horses have a difficult time producing a good canter. When I choose a horse for one of my riders, I'm most concerned with his canter. Find a horse with a really good canter, and you'll have plenty of scope. A naturally rhythmical, balanced canter is the key to finding the jumps and to having a good jump through the air. Unfortunately, most of us have to deal with helping to create the best possible canter.
"When an amateur or a young rider has practiced with her horse, it doesn't take her long to recognize her horse's best canter. Simple questions such as, 'Is he pulling?' and 'Can you make him go easily with your leg?' clue the rider in. She'll learn the feel of it, and she'll know when she has the right canter for the show ring. This feel comes before straightness; if you can tell when your horse is using his best quality canter, he'll find it much easier to stay straight.
"First, I want the rider to do one easy, important thing during her round. That is to add leg at the midpoint of the ends of the arena. Everyone has the skills to do this. Whether you're about to turn to a diagonal line or a single jump or a side line, squeeze with your legs in the middle of the end of the ring.
"The purpose is two-fold. It gives the rider something to do. There's so much anxiety in the rider when she's out there on course! Having something to do gives her breathing space. It puts her in the moment. We give the rider a task to take her mind off her constant inner conversation.
"Secondly, adding leg serves a purpose for the horse. By squeezing, the rider re-engages the haunches and balances the canter. The horse lands on his two front feet when he lands from every jump---in effect, he lands on his forehand. Adding leg re-establishes impulsion and ensures that the horse is prepared for the next jump. The rider is not trying to produce a bigger, stronger, faster canter, just a balanced canter."
[Excerpt From Sep/Oct 2007. To enjoy the rest of the article, don't miss our Sep/Oct Issue!]
How Much Bling Do You Like In The Show Ring?
Patricia Nesto, has been riding since she was four or five. “I got my first pony, did the Pony Club and became a die-hard eventer, did the intercollegiate stuff, turned to the hunters and jumpers, and never looked back," she summarizes. She, too has worked with Dover Saddlery for years. Patricia is Dover’s tack/show shirt/show coat buyer, and attends equestrian-wear trade shows around the world.
"If I'm showing in the Adult hunters, I'm extra-conservative," Patricia says. "I think the apparel and tack should highlight the horse, show off the horse. I like classic brown leather tack; I try to use a leather girth unless the horse has an issue which requires sheepskin. Fancy stitching is pretty on the bridle.
"The jumpers are more athletic, more about power than elegance. The browbands, saddle pads, jumper boots and ear nets . . . that's the fashion, so go for it! The World Cup horses were the epitome of fitness and power. The international riders---dressage and jumpers---know how to be fashionable and tasteful, but never overdone.
"In the dressage arena, I think that the crystal and beaded browbands are beautiful and cosmopolitan, elegant and sophisticated. Dressage is about the beauty of the horse's movement more than the rider, so enhance the horse! One of Dover's employees shows FEI level. Look at her picture in the catalog. Her horse has a simple crystal browband.
"I like some of the chased silver, too, though you could probably put too much of it on one horse. You'll see engraved silver spurs, maybe with the rider's initials. That makes a nice gift, and looks subtle and nice. The same goes for sterling stirrups. A little bit of bling looks nice . . . just, please, don't assume that everything has to be encrusted with crystals!
“Remember the traditional glamour do's and don'ts. If animal prints are in this season, great! Find a leopard-print bag or shoes, but don't create a whole outfit in leopard print. Same thing for the show ring: choose a couple fun pieces, then go classic with the rest. Tack and clothing should be safe and well-fitted; everything the horse wears should serve a purpose . . . ."
Amy Hamlet's knowledge of show ring fashion is invaluable to many competitive riders. Amy works full time as an apparel buyer for Dover Saddlery. Amy bought and trained her horse, Deveron, with her eye on the adult equitation finals throughout New England. She says, "I love clothes. I'm addicted to show shirts and jackets."
She adds, "When I'm showing in a big equitation class, I like to wear something beautiful to try to stand out. I try to coordinate my jacket and shirt for the specific event. I present myself very conservatively for the eqs---my standard uniform for equitation finals is a white shirt with a monogram and a dark blue jacket. But you can have fun with the monogram: choose a color that will pop a little! For the hunters, I'm more fashionable with a brighter (but not wild) shirt. I might choose a pale purple shirt and a blue jacket that has a subtle stripe or windowpane pattern in a tone that almost matches the shirt.
"My horse also wears a standard uniform. His head is kind of big (he's 17.2 hands), so his bridles have a wider browband and caveson with nice stitching. In the eqs, he wears conservative boots: black Eskadrons for the lower levels, and brown leather for the finals.
"The rust-colored breeches keep trying to come back. I think people secretly like them. A while ago, I saw a very capable rider in rust breeches, a light gray coat and a gray helmet. I thought that combination might catch on. Every now and then, I think brownish breeches with lighter-colored coats might catch on. And it's more acceptable to wear brown or gray helmets in the hunters than in the equitations. It takes just one really good rider to make a new color combination seem attractive! But I guess I'll be conservative until it's accepted.
"As for bling, I think I'd like a subtle silver design on a stirrup. You have to find ways to liven things up a little. I go a little crazy with my belts. I have ribbon belts . . . crystal belts . . . leather belts with conchas. You don't see them under my riding jacket unless the jacket flips up on the corner . . . then there’s the fashion statement. And my socks! I hide wild, floral socks under my boots.
"I like colorful stuff in the jumper ring. If I ever do some jumpers, I'll have my horse decked out in all kinds of wacky things: fancy jumper boots, ear net and coordinated saddle pad, plus a matching polo shirt for me. I do think you should dress well and braid for the jumper classics, though.
"I think that the dressage people are willing to choose some fashionable browbands, keeping the classic look with a little style. In fact, the dressage riders tend to buy a whole outfit: complementary vest, shirt and breeches for riding at home for their lessons. Very fashionable!
"At home or on warm-up day at the horse show, you can ride in any outift you like---colorful, monogrammed saddle pads, colored breeches and fun polos . . . ."
[Excerpt From Sep/Oct 2007]
Getting Control Of Frisky Horses
As prey animals, horses can be sensitive and energetic, sometimes difficult to control. Even a usually steady old-timer can feel frisky when the weather gets chilly or he’s feeling his oats. Famous dressage trainer Shannon Peters and top-notch eventer Nicole Shinton share advice for dealing with fresh horses at home and at competitions.
Too Hot to Handle?
"Thankfully, most of my horses are pretty calm," says Nicole. "Any of them can be spirited in cold, windy weather or when another horse is bolting past them. I had a really difficult horse once, and my coach told me, 'You've got to get rid of that horse---he's going to kill you.' I sent the horse to a cowboy who did absolutely everything---hooked him up to a cart even---and the horse came back a different horse. You have to pick your battles, and while I think that you want to win the war, it's not worth getting hurt."
Shannon says, "The hotter, sensitive horse is a little more difficult for an amateur or inexperienced rider. He can easily develop evasions like spooking, bolting, tossing his head and things like that, if the rider is not experienced and confident enough to handle it. It takes a particular type of rider to handle a sensitive horse. Horses can change, too---with training, or the fitter they get. The situation can change week by week and month by month, and riders have to be honest with themselves about what they can handle."
Keeping It Cool In Warm-Up
Many shows have limited space for warm-up. Things can get crowded and chaotic, especially if you're sitting on a green or hot-tempered horse. Both Shannon and Nicole stress that routine is essential in warm-up, since horses usually respond well to familiar situations. Fit horses may get even more worked up if they're trying to understand an onslaught of new information.
"Warm-up differs for every horse," reasons Shannon. "There is a system that suits each individual; whether you lunge early or wait until before you ride, or make it short or long, the important thing is to keep the routine the same. That will keep the horse settled."
Nicole agreed with Shannon. "I try very much for each horse, when schooling at home, to have a good routine that is very specific. I had a very hyper horse, Rose Tremiere. If I put her to work in the same routine at home every day and then did the same at a show, she knew what she needed to do and it sort of took the wind out of her sails."
The excitement of jumping can also get horses charged up, yet a successful event horse must stay balanced and controllable. Nicole says that when she has a horse that's getting frisky in the jumping warm-up, she goes back to the routine that she starts her flatwork with, and works from there. "After that, I jump a couple of jumps and see how the horse reacts. Sometimes it makes the horse better; sometimes it winds him up more. If it does, I do more flat work and might not jump again before I go in the ring. I want the horse's brain engaged and his muscles warmed up, and to have as safe an experience as possible . . . ."
[Excerpt From Sep/Oct 2007. This article goes on to cover how to handle misbehavior such as spooking, bolting, rushing and pulling.]