Beezie Madden riding Breitling LS for clinic participants.
Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 6, 2017 – Four-time Olympian Beezie Madden took the reins as the participants of the 2017 George Morris Horsemastership Clinic returned for the second day of instruction at the International Ring of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.
Starting the day off in the saddle, Madden warmed up Breitling LS, one of her younger Grand Prix mounts, through various flatwork exercises, touching on Anne Kursinski’s talking points from the previous day as the 12 participants looked on.
Beginning with the walk, Madden stressed the importance of generating activity through the horse’s body by maintaining contact with the inside leg and outside rein.
“You should be able to feel like you can jump a big fence from any gait,” Madden explained. “Impulsion is key, but the horse has to learn to behave and concentrate at the same time.”
Moving on to the sitting trot, Madden transitioned from shoulder in to haunches out, working on getting the horse supple and reacting to the aids. In the canter, Madden moved into a two-point to allow the horse to move forward into her hand.
“Let the horses gallop, but encourage them to stay round,” Madden said. “I want the hind legs reaching under your seat. That naturally helps to elevate the horse’s front end.”
As she cantered, Madden began incorporating three poles that were set in a straight line down the long side of the arena. Madden adjusted her horse’s stride through the poles, encouraging varying stages of collection and working on adjustability on a straight line.
Beezie Madden and Breitling LS
After demonstrating several exercises through the poles, Madden added a curved bounce that included three low fences without ground lines. The exercise encouraged the horse to stay light and self-aware, preparing to head to the more complicated fences.
Exercise to try: Set up three poles at 45 feet apart. (This is more commonly know as a “hunter distance” and should be easily cantered by most horses in three strides.) Begin by cantering through the poles one time in each direction, using the end to practice a half-pass before circling back to canter the poles the opposite way. Then try to canter the first and second pole in three strides, but try to shorten your horses stride by using leg to hand aides and completing the second to part of the combination in four strides. Continue to lengthen and shorten in between the rails until your horse is alert and supple.
Next, Madden added a tarp liverpool to the end of the same exercise, preparing the students to jump the open water during Saturday’s mock Nations Cup competition. Before sending the first group of students to tack up, Madden worked through two combinations of four fences that involved stride adjustments between every fence. This exercise would help the students practice using their eye and making correct adjustments based on their horse’s individual stride.
For the final exercise before creating a course, Madden jumped a triple combination of butterflies and a wooden oxer. Madden explained that as courses become more complicated in the upper levels of competition, course designers routinely challenge riders to navigate a triple combination to a flat distance. This line was a perfect example of a question that the young riders will encounter as they move up the ranks of show jumping.
“You have to practice instinct and riding off of your eye,” Madden explained. “It is great to learn to jump by the numbers, but at the same time you have to learn to ride by feeling and doing what’s best for your horse.”
After Madden dismounted, the first group of 6 students, TJ O’Mara, Brian Moggre, Coco Fath, Taylor St. Jacques, Cooper Dean and Madison Goetzmann, headed to the barns to tack up their horses for the 9:30 session. The students returned to the ring and immediately were asked to create the same kind of active and controlled walk that Madden had demonstrated on Brightling LS.
Group one riders with Beezie Madden
Riders used upward transitions to the sitting trot followed by downward transitions to the walk to help the horses listen to their legs with a progression of calf to spur aids.
The group worked in a circle around Madden while she guided them through a series of transitions eventually leading to the canter.
“Even in the two-point, your shoulders should be behind your hips,” Madden cautioned. Madden stressed that just because the riders lightened their seats in the canter, that did not mean that they should forfeit their position or the horse’s collection and impulsion.
The other half of the six riders acted a ground crew while Madden had the mounted riders begin to practice lengthening and shortening exercises through the series of three ground poles on the far side of the ring. Riders rode the poles with three strides between each, gradually adding strides between the poles with each pass though.
Beezie Madden and Taylor St. Jacques
Madden then had riders practice riding at a forward pace into the first pole, only to collect their mounts and come to a halt before completing the last ground rail. This demonstrated just how open the line of communication between horse and rider needed to be.
After mastering the exercises with the ground poles, riders then added a curved line of bounces that were made out of cavaletti. During this exercise, Madden encouraged her riders to “let the horses figure it out” and only guide their horses through the jumps with an open inside rein.
Once the group had gotten comfortable with the bounces, Madden added two smaller oxers, one with a tarped Liverpool and the second with an actual Liverpool, to the lesson.
Madison Goetzmann jumps the liverpool
By slowly adding water obstacles, Madden acclimated the horses to the main obstacle of the clinic, the open water, and also helped her to explain that if a horse was spooky, it was the same leg to hand that she had discussed in her flatwork that would help control a horse that was intimidated by an open water obstacle.
Once the horses were comfortable with the liverpools, the jumps were raised and the riders completed the same exercise, making a bending left turn to a mock open water fence. While most of the horses were not spooked by the water, some of the riders needed to complete the pattern several times to help their horses get more comfortable.
Coco Faith navigates a combination
The jumps were raised one last time as the riders were asked to jump all of the lines in succession. Each line posed a unique question, and the riders needed to rely on the skills that Madden conveyed to them to answer each question successfully. All of the horse-and-rider combinations finished up their session successfully and thanked Madden for her instruction before taking their horses back to the barns.
The second group of riders included Maya Nayyar, Gracie Marlowe, Emma Marlowe, Caroline Dance, Halie Robinson and Michael Williamson, started out their session the same way as group one. Riders were asked to lengthen and shorten their horse’s gaits while using the entire ring.
Beezie Madden watches Gracie Marlowe
Graduating to working over the ground poles, group two used the poles in a different way then group one. This group focused on completing transitions between each poles. The transitions included walk to trot, sitting trot to canter and canter to halt. This proved to be equally as difficult for the participants as the horses and riders worked to find a way to make the transitions as smooth as possible.
The riders completed the bounce exercise similarly to the first group and jumped all of the same lines. The second group did not focus as heavily on the water jumps because some of the riders in group two did not have horses that were as comfortable over open water as the first group.
Madden patiently and methodically helped each of the the clinic participants understand that, as they continue to grow as competitive athletes, they would need to use every opportunity to school their horses and get to know them if they wanted to succeed. True to form, her honesty and simplicity seemed to rub off on the students and helped them better prepare to move on to the final day of the Horsemastership clinic.
Taylor St. Jacques