My clinics are a combination of teaching both horsemanship ideals and technical skills to help riders truly connect with their horses. I want my students to understand how a horse thinks and how he feels on the inside, with better awareness of what’s important to the horse. Riders must remember that every reaction a horse has is triggered by his survival instincts. He is wired to act as if his life depends on it.
I teach my riders to do simple exercises on the ground before they mount to connect with their horse and gain his trust and confidence. These exercises can then be applied once the rider is on their horse’s back and integrated into their ride, feeling the connection and connecting the feel.
I focus on flatwork for the first part of each session to prepare the horses both physically and mentally for the jumping exercises. We may then work over poles on the ground or advance to gymnastics depending on the level of horse and rider. I will work on riding lines or complete courses focusing on precision and the horse’s willingness to adjust his stride in a calm and relaxed way.
No matter what exercises we are working on, the horse’s well being is foremost in our thoughts. I am constantly aware of his inner peace and comfort and what I need to do to maximize his athletic ability without causing tension or concern.
In addition to the previously described clinics, I have started teaching clinics with my associate, Robyn Miller. We are trying out ways to merge the groundwork, flat and jumping exercises into every group at our clinics. I believe we have come up with a good system to help people connect the dots on the importance of doing groundwork and how it relates to any and everything you do with your horse on or off his back. The groundwork helps you check your horse for soundness and readiness to ride, keeping you in a safer position before putting a foot in the stirrup. The groundwork develops a willing partnership with your horse as they can better understand your body language and presence, pressure and release of pressure as it relates to your aids on their back. Riders thus learn to speak the horse’s language.
Robyn and I have been giving three day clinics with Day 1 being groundwork and flatwork only. Robyn leads the first day with my assistance to try and help everyone individually. Robyn will use different horses in each session to personally demonstrate what she is expecting to accomplish and to help horses that are especially stiff and braced up.
On Days 2 and 3, Robyn will begin each session with a review of the groundwork and then I take over and teach the flat and jumping exercises. I have found that after everyone has their horses prepared through the groundwork, they are always in a much better place mentally and physically and more rideable for the jumping. Horses are always seeking a confident leader and basically want to get along, feel safe and be at peace. We are able to help many more horses by helping the people who ride and work with them understand how a horse thinks and what is most important to them.