After my really tough show jumping warm-up and round at VA Horse Trials, I was so thankful that Boyd was able to get me going again with a confidence boosting private lesson on Friday. We did some excellent exercises in precision using ground poles and tight turns, combined with gymnastic jumping lines and roll-backs. It was just what I needed to remember that we can jump! Boyd struck just the right balance between getting me going and not wearing us out so we'd be ready for P Dutty!
People say Phillip is quiet - but what he lacks in numbers of words he makes up for 100-times in word choice. He really is exceptional. At the clinic, there were 3 groups (BN - 3 riders; N/T - 2 riders; and Katchi and me in a T/P group with 3 other riders). The three groups were excellently paired in skill, and Phillip found every horse and rider's weaknesses... it happened earlier for some, and later for others... but eventually, we each heard "Come Again." And a few heard "Stop, stop, stop. Come here." I was tremendously impressed with Phillip's ability to create such an individual experience for each horse/rider, despite the group lesson set-up with everyone doing the same lines - yet addressing their own unique needs. He really narrowed in on each horse/rider's strengths and weaknesses and was not satisfied until we really got what he was saying. I was also stunned with his "Jim Wofford-ish" psychic mind reading abilities! More than a couple of times, I found myself sitting on Katchi, thinking "how the hell did he know I was thinking that?!" Not only is he an eventing super hero, he performs jedi mind tricks as well. sheesh.
Click here for more great photos of the clinic by Kasey Mueller!!
Rather than trying to recount all the amazing things Katchi and I learned and did over the past two days, I think I'll just share some of his comments during Saturday afternoon's Q&A (with wine and cheese!) and during the riding sessions - his comments weren't revolutionary. They were grounded in basic horsemanship that works - although he didn't say it, I'll summarize everything he said - "keep it simple, stupid." If you stick with this post to the end - video awaits you!
November 2010 "Phillip-isms"
- Horses at all levels should get a few weeks off each year - even if they don't need it physically, he believes they come back to work mentally refreshed. However, he said each horse will tell you what they need - if you turn them out to pasture for a break, and all they do is stand at the gate waiting for you - put them back to work! And be careful in giving them too much time off so that it takes months to get back a good fitness base - be sure they are exercising themselves in the field while you're not exercising them in the saddle.
- As part of the USET training sessions, Phillip thinks the specialized dressage and show jumping training has been exceptional. However, he said at the higher levels of eventing - dressage specialists have trouble understanding what fitness does to an event horse in an electric environment (like having 25,000 fans in the stadium!). Training at home for big big movement should be done; but at a big event, maybe you can only ask for big movement. With super fit event horses at top events - your first goal probably has to be to calm and soothe - you cannot push a highly fit event horse too hard in an electric environment because they will explode. [From my own eyes at WEG, I was very struck by the difference between the dressage horses and event horses as they left the arena after their tests - almost every dressage horse WALKED out on a free rein despite the crowds going berserk- almost every event horse danced and pranced, lept and bounced, at something between a piaffe and a gallop to relatively quiet applauding crowds. A horse is definitely not a horse.]
- A horse must learn to jump cross country slow before he learns to do it fast. The importance of cross country schooling is to give the horses time to look, understand, think, and learn. On course, adrenaline kicks in and many horses will jump things they haven't really thought about. Eventually, this will catch up to you. Once a solid foundation is formed and the horse moves up the levels - he probably rarely (if ever) needs to school. And the reality is that 4* jumps just can't be schooled - you need to rhythm, adrenaline and flow of the entire course for them to jump right. Woodburn's first XC jump after Rolex in April was on course at Richland Park in August.
- A really well trained horse makes the rider look really good. But the real test of a rider comes when things don't go right - and especially how you train the horse to correct the issue. That's horsemanship. To that end, make every jump count - give the horse every opportunity at every fence to do it right. Pick the right line and the right canter for your horse. A horse that wants to run out left will be turned right "for the rest of his life" - after every fence, after every run out to the left, forever and always until he learns the door to the left is never ever open to him.
- Going fast does not mean the horse is in front of your leg. Running away is a disobedience of its own kind. Many riders do not understand this - they think if they are going fast at a jump, the horse is forward and responsive to the leg - but its not likely true.
- On the danger of long spots: the rider must find a way to train the horse to come in deep to his fences, to rock back onto his haunches, and round over the fences. A horse who continually leaves long will flip over a fence - maybe not today, but someday. As they learn, they may get in deep and stop - but you have to stick with the lesson at every single fence until they learn.
I should have had a notepad with me all weekend to take notes on all of Phillip's clever comments, but this is as good as my memory can do. It really was great stuff & I'm so thankful for the opportunity to have such amazing eyes on the ground helping Katchi and me put our stuff together! And, of course, thanks to my mom for being a great groom and taking the videos below - which will make for excellent winter watching - over and over again! And special thanks to Karen and Amy for putting it all together to let us come play with Phillip - and to Cosequin for BUCKETS AND HATS!
And now the videos...
1) Lesson learned at the coffin: rider pull back, horse no go. rider let go, horse go. Funny that.
2) XC hi-lights! Woo-hoo! We're havin' fun now!