Middleburg, Va. – Nov. 9, 2019 – Riders gathered Saturday at Rutledge Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, for the opportunity to learn from top equitation guru Stacia Madden, fresh off the 2019 major equitation finals circuit. Part of the 2019 Rutledge Farm Sessions, the first day of Madden’s clinic focused on flatwork and gymnastics with three groups of riders.
Each section, ranging from 2’6” to 3’6”, began with simple flatwork. Madden emphasized that, “Good riding is good riding.” She asked riders to warm up at the trot and the canter before advancing to framework and lateral work. Madden also had all of the riders participate in “No Stirrup November,” noting that it’s not just a strength exercise, but it’s also a balance corrector.
Once all of the horses and riders were thoroughly warmed up on the flat, mirroring each exercise both directions, they moved to work over ground poles to begin preparing to jump. The first exercise was over a set of four trot poles to two trot poles.
“If you cant trot a rail with good timing, it’s going to be nearly impossible to trot a fence with good timing,” said Madden. “Trot jumps teach patience and control. If they are toeing a rail then they are probably getting to close and the rider isn’t managing their pace.”
Once the riders completed the exercise at the trot, Madden adjusted the poles for the canter. She put two poles relatively close together to create an “oxer” followed by another pole three strides away, and then three more strides to the second pole “oxer.” Riders had to make sure their horses were listening and stayed adjustable to fit both four strides and three strides between the poles.
For the next exercise, riders were asked to jump two singles, each off the quarter line. The goal was to keep the angle towards the corner of the ring, and then bring the horses back to the sitting trot before picking up the canter again and turning down the line to the next fence. This exercise was used to help keep the horses going straight while staying soft and adjustable.
The final exercise was a short course where riders would canter two fences in the middle of the ring on a figure eight with a short approach before cantering the final line, which began with a vertical three strides to an oxer and then three strides to another vertical. Then they halted at the end of the arena. The line once again tested adjustability as the first three strides would be a little long and the second three strides a little short, and they had to halt very quickly, so the horses had to be listening to the riders the entire time.
On Sunday, riders will return to Rutledge Farm for the second and final day of the clinic, which will be focused on jumping over a course. The riders and horses will take what they learned from Sunday’s gymnastics and translate it into ways to help them successfully navigate a jumping track in the show ring.
For more information about Rutledge Farm and the Rutledge Farm Sessions, please visit www.rutledgefarm.com/clinics.