Wellington, Fla. — Jan. 6, 2018 — The world’s number one rider took horses and riders of the George H. Morris Horsemastership Clinic back to basics on Saturday. Day two of the clinic, held yet again in the Van Kampen Arena at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival Facility, featured Kent Farrington as the instructor for the first day over fences. The twelve riders selected to be participants during the clinic returned to learn some of the tricks to make it to the top of the sport.
Farrington began the clinic with a demonstration with his mount, Baltic Star II, consisting of a typical gymnastics exercise he would set at home. He encouraged riders to immediately get their horses in front of their leg and demonstrated the effectiveness of instilling vocal cues and making sure the horse is responsive to the aids.
“I think by using those simple voice commands on a regular basis that the horse has a better idea of what I want, and it makes a difference on course,” he explained. “A simple cluck can be the difference between getting the horse over the jump or taking a rail.”
Farrington schooled his horse through the obstacles several times and built onto the exercise each round. However, he cautioned riders against jumping just for the sake of jumping and emphasized the importance of containing jump schools to a shorter time period rehearsed several times a week. He explained to the participants that the horse is more likely to retain the information if rehearsed several times a week in short spurts versus one long session and is also less likely to resent the work. The jumps placed consisted of two one-stride to one-stride lines, a single cross rail with a take off rail and landing rail, and two parallel oxers, each with ground rails allowing him to jump from two different directions. He explained that he would take the fences mostly off of the right lead as that is that particular horses weaker lead, and worked his horse through the gymnastics several times until he could clearly feel a difference in the horse’s comfort with that direction.
In both his own exercises and with the students, Farrington kept the jump height small and instead focused on putting in the homework to school the horse on what it may have trouble with. He noted, “A core idea of my training is always train what is uncomfortable.”
Riders were separated into two groups once again so that more individual attention could be paid to their needs. McKayla Langmeier, Alexandra Pielet, Sara McCloskey, Hannah Loly, Samantha Cohen and Delaney Flynn made up group one while group two consisted of Cecily Hayes, Olivia Woodson, Natalie Dean, Caitlyn Connors, Alyce Bittar, and Kendra Duggleby.
Farrington worked each set of riders through the gymnastics beginning with a simple one-stride pole exercise and incorporating the crossrail exercise, roll-back oxers, and one-stride lines as the riders built up their consistency and control of the horse. He encouraged many transitions between fences, and turning or rolling-back the way the horse would not expect to keep them sharp, and again work on their weaknesses. Horses and riders ended the clinic feeling more confident working outside of their comfort zones and looking forward to the third and final day of the event.
Inside Tips from the Top Equestrian in the World:
Farrington held a brief question and answer session for auditors directly following his demonstration. Hands flew up as the audience was given the chance to get inside his mind and learn some of his tricks for success. He once again focused on the importance of maintaining the horse by schooling and training as effectively as possible when asked how he keeps his horses sound and comfortable. “The least amount of jumping I can do to accomplish the goal the better,” Farrington emphasized. “If I can accomplish it with ground rails I don’t even bother setting a jump.”
Perhaps the most powerful and honest knowledge he would instill from the day was his response to 11-year-old Brooks Hull’s inquiry of what is most important to focus on for a young rider. Farrington suggested first that riders should never stop learning and should try to find information wherever possible. He encouraged riders to use the internet as a way of accessing countless clinics and training information, and made the suggestion that the warm up ring is a great place to get free information from the world’s best riders simply by watching what they do. The second piece of information Farrington had was resilience.
“This is a sport where you will do a lot of losing before you win, but you can’t give up,” he said. “Anyone who has made it to the top has had those same fears, and if they tell you they didn’t they are most likely lying to you.”
The Opportunity of a Lifetime:
Nineteen-year-old Kendra Duggleby came out of the day’s clinic feeling beyond grateful to train with the world number one rider and confident that what she learned will help her have a competitive edge to her riding. Duggleby is one of only two riders selected from the Emerging Athletes Program(EAP) to participate in the George H. Morris Horsemanship Clinic, a process in which she had to pass various approval processes and competing against 16 other EAP members for a spot in the clinic. While this is her first experience with winter show season in Wellington and she is participating with a horse she has only worked with for two weeks, Duggleby performed well in the day’s clinic and is looking forward to taking what she has learned into the third day.
The opportunity to work with top-quality riders such as the clinicians in the clinic is something she said she never imagined she would be able to do and has given her a new level of understanding. “Kent and Anne have so much experience that they can teach you so much without even saying anything,” Duggleby said.“I think what Kent really taught us today is that if something is good right now, go work on something that is not because being a rider is an art that you will probably never perfect. I think the good riders are the ones who wake up everyday and say ‘I’m never going to perfect the sport, but I’m going to go and try anyways’.”
U.S. Equestrian’s 2018 George H. Morris Horsemanship Clinic will continue on Sunday morning as current World Cup Champion McLain Ward leads the day, teaching athletes the skills and strategy for jumping in a successful Nations Cup style competition.