Middleburg, Va. – Oct. 12, 2018 – On Wednesday, two-time Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton traveled to the historic Rutledge Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, to teach a one-day clinic for riders of all levels as part of the Rutledge Farm Series. The unique clinic series brings together championship medal winners to teach at the world-class facility throughout the year and includes McLain Ward, Will Simpson, and Leslie Burr-Howard. Wednesday’s clinic with Dutton featured five groups of riders ranging from Advanced to Beginner Novice where they worked on the open grass field to perfect their jumping and cross country skills.
“Today I wanted riders to make sure they get in the right habits of riding correctly and getting themselves prepared and the horse prepared before they compete,” explained Dutton. “I would like to think that when you get to the competition it’s a rewarding experience and that you’re really ready. There’s nothing worse than being at a competition and not prepared. And so the more you can do at home or at clinics it’s a good experience for you and your horse when you get to compete.”
The clinic began with a focus on flatwork where Dutton stressed the importance of riding from leg to hand. He wanted riders to be firm with their flatwork so that the horses would be sharper while jumping. Dutton had riders collect and extend their gaits, while focusing on the horses being quick to react to the leg.
Once the horses and riders were warmed up on the flat they began a series of jumping exercises which included difficult lines, corner fences, hills a triple bar. The goal was to teach the horses to stay on the line they are riding so they learn to trust their rider. While that is the technical aspect, he also had riders gallop the triple bar out of hand, as that is also a key component of cross country.
After riders completed those exercise they jumped a bending line in a varying number of strides, beginning with five strides, then riding it in four strides and then in six strides so that at a competition they can vary their ride accordingly. Each section wrapped up with a final long course.
“We are doing all different types of approaches, all different types of riding to keep putting your horses in different situations so you gain their trust,” explained Dutton.
Autumn Rae had horses in two sections of the clinic and enjoyed having the opportunity to work with Dutton. “It was great,” she expressed. “I thought he was super positive and had some really good exercises to get the horses either shortening or lengthening and coming in at different canters so it was really useful. He was very systematic in what he was doing. Sometimes it can be hard to take a clinic with someone who doesn’t know you and your horse, but he seemed to size it up really well and really quickly and do very appropriate exercises.”
Dutton concluded the clinic saying, “There’s not one way of riding, when you do dressage, and then you change when you jump, sure there are variations on it but it’s all been around for thousands of years, and it’s not too complicated, but it does require some concentration and making sure that you always understand it correctly and that you can work on it every day. The horses are a creature of habit and we have to get them in the right habits of how to go and being obedient and it should be two carpenters working together or two people working side by side, it shouldn’t be a battle. So that comes from constantly working together and your horse understanding what you’re asking and trying to be very clear and consistent with it.”
“I’m very honored that Aleco asked me to do this day,” noted Dutton. It’s a beautiful facility, it’s great equestrian tradition, and I think it’s the first time that eventers have been here so it’s exciting to be a part of it.”
Rutledge Farm Sessions brings exclusive educational opportunities to riders and professionals in Middleburg, Virginia. Drawing from a pool of Olympic-level clinicians, Rutledge Farm offers monthly sessions for riders at all levels and disciplines. For more information on how to attend or audit upcoming Rutledge Farm Sessions please visit rutledgefarm.com/clinics.