Middleburg, Va. – Aug. 8, 2018 – Riders once again gathered at Rutledge Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, on Wednesday for the opportunity to learn from Olympic gold medalist Will Simpson. Aleco Bravo-Greenberg hosted Simpson at the historic facility in 2017 and the Rutledge Farm Sessions have now made the clinic an annual event. For the second day of the clinic, Simpson focused on successfully jumping a course with three groups of riders. A continuation from Tuesday’s gymnastics lesson, Simpson explained, “Yesterday was riding with no hand and little extra leg, and today we’ll do whatever it takes to compete and jump a clear round.”
The day began at 8 a.m. with the 3’6” riders, who worked their horses on the flat before incorporating a series of poles into their warm-up. The poles were set as a one stride, to a three stride, to a four stride. The riders had to maintain their horse’s adjustability as the one stride was steady, but they had to open the stride a bit more for the three. They then did the poles in the reverse driection before jumping a vertical and an oxer to warm-up, just as you would during a show day.
“Go forward, slow down, turn right and turn left – that is all show jumping is, but you are pursuing perfection of those four gears your whole life” said Simpson. “The gears have to be quick – you have to be able to make adjustments quickly. Poles on the ground help step up your flatwork to improve your adjustments.”
The course for the day presented a number of different challenges for the riders. It began with a vertical off a short turn with four strides to another vertical with five strides to an oxer set in the corner. Riders then had to make a tight turn to a vertical before doing a bending five strides to a tight two-stride oxer-vertical combination.
After the combination riders continued to the skinny coop fence set on the short side of the ring. This tested the riders’ ability to keep their horses straight because Simpson noted that even three inches to the right or left would give a horse the opportunity to run out.
For the next line, riders could either take an inside turn or an outside turn depending on how the coop fence rode, but the outside turn would risk a time fault. Set on the diagonal, after that oxer riders would continue five strides to a vertical fence.
The final line included a triple combination – an oxer, two strides to a vertical and one stride to an oxer. After the combination riders had to finish with a four stride bending line to a vertical in the corner.
After each course, Simpson gave the riders different feedback based on their round. When one rider got left behind at a fence he praised her for “protecting the clear” and not letting the bobble rattle her. “That happens on course – there’s never been a perfect course,” he said. “Some riders really let that bother them, but you put it back together.”
Another rider had a perfect first round, but when she jumped it the second time the horse had a rail down at the third fence. “That is a Nations Cup trick,” explained Simpson. “You rarely jump the same course twice and he got there nicely. He should have jumped that better, but he knew he was turning and was a little casual, which you need to be prepared for.”
With horses that became too hot he encouraged riders to follow four steps to calm their horse – stretch down in their legs, sink down in the saddle, add leg and close their fingers. After a rider does this three times, a horse will learn the sequence and begin to settle.
One of the main things that Simpson stressed is that riders do not see distances, they create them. It is the job of the rider to present the jump better, and the rider has creative license to turn wherever they want to create the best distance. He also encouraged riders to use an opening rein to help accomplish that goal because it does not influence the length or the quality of the canter – it should encourage the horse to keep going forward.
All riders successfully executed the exercises presented each day and left the clinic with a wealth of information. Rutledge Farm continues to break new ground in the sport at all levels and disciplines, and the team has already lined up four more Olympic gold medalists for the Rutledge Farm Sessions. The first will be Phillip Dutton in October, while Chris Kappler and Leslie Burr-Howard will be traveling to Rutledge Farm to host clinics in November of 2018. Already looking ahead to 2019, the Rutledge Farm Sessions will include a clinic with Olympian Peter Wylde next June.
For more information about Rutledge Farm and the Rutledge Farm Sessions please visit www.rutledgefarm.com/clinics.