Friday, July 6, 2012

Five Reasons to Love Eric Smiley

Sometimes you just get lucky.  You happen to cross paths with the right person at the right time.  That's how I felt two years ago when I went against my hard-and-fast policy of only riding with clinicians after auditing - on a whim, I signed up for a clinic with Eric Smiley.  Luck of the Irish!  Eric must be one of the most under-rated clinicians in the U.S.  Bet you haven't even heard of him, have you?!  Eric's an FEI international dressage judge - been around Badminton and Burghley more than a few times - took home a few medals to Ireland from a couple European Championships - made the fighting Irish proud at a few World Championships and Olympics - and he's now coaching the Belgium event team.  He's got a resume that most people only dream of.  And, oh by the way, he's incredibly kind, has a discriminating eye, is absolutely adamant about precision, and is a tremendously fantastic instructor!

So, when I heard there were still a few spaces available at last week's Eric Smiley clinic at Waredaca - and with Phillip being sort of unavailable for lessons what with that Olympic team prep thing - I jumped on the chance to ride with Eric again.  He was just as fabulous as I remembered. So here are 5 reasons to love Eric Smiley:

1. Eric is a discriminating dressage judge and everything about his jumping teaching is grounded in solid dressage basics.  His most used phrase... "Is the canter good enough?  Good enough for what?  To jump that over there?  What about that over there?"  If the canter is right, the jump will be too (gee, sounds an awful lot like Phillip!).

2. If you know you have the right canter for what you're approaching, believe it.  Stay still and be ready to support him if he needs it.  Don't chase the horse down to a jump, just hold the right canter every step of the way.  Eric also commented that when riders raise their hands on the take off, it's their way of trying to protect the horse from the poles.  Don't protect him!  Let him learn to come in deep and round up to take care of himself - or hit a pole - so what!  He'll learn to take better care of himself next time!

3. Treat every XC jump like it's just a log in the middle of a field.  If you tell your horse it has ghosts and goblins under it - he'll believe you!

4. When you warm up over small XC jumps, keep your leg soft and quiet.  It's tempting to over-ride everything, but the horses must learn to jump anything you point them at.  Save the strong aids for a time you really need it - in general, keep it quiet and expect the horse to do it himself.

5.  If you're putting in an effort of 7, and your horse is giving you back an effort of 3, that's just bad economics.  It's a bad investment and a terrible return on your money.  The horse must always give you back at least as much effort as you give him.

If you ever have the chance to ride with Eric, jump on it!  You won't be disappointed!  And if you happen to have any red boots laying around, be sure to wear those in your lesson! He'll think you're very funny!  :)

As for the rest of the past week... Katchi I have been on the road and on the road and on the road!  We picked up one more quick XC school last weekend, giving Katchi some more time walking ditches, while I coached 3 super cool ponies over some big boy fences.  July 4, Katchi and I celebrated American style by partaking in Colbert's Sport of the Summer - Dressage show!! I was so thrilled with Katchi for picking up two more scores over 60% at Second Level - which finished all my scores for the USDF Performance Award at Second Level - THANK YOU my wonderful OTTB!!!!  And tomorrow... tomorrow... hello 100 degrees and Loch Moy tomorrow.  I walked the course this afternoon, and they've done a great job of keeping it short with lots of time in the shade.  It was also 8 degrees cooler there than at my house, so I'm very hopeful we will make it through all three phases!  But it's definitely a day to take one step at a time - with lots of ice! 

1 comment:

  1. I just had a clinic with him, too, in MA! He was great. I would ride with him again in a heartbeat.