Horse Jumping Clinic

horse jumping clinic
Alfonso with Erin & Chip

Today we had a horse jumping clinic with Alfonso Salcedo here at Spruce Meadow Farm.

I love having clinics because you can gather new “tools” for your “training toolbox.” As a riding instructor I learn a lot from watching everything from a first time riding lesson through advanced sessions.

Clinics are great for those “lightbulb” moments too. Sometimes, when you hear someone say something just slightly different and it clicks, it makes something you may have been struggling with so much clearer to you.

Imagery can help…I remember reading a long, long time ago in Sally Swift’s Centered Riding book about imagining yourself as a tree with your trunk growing (stretching) up and your legs growing down deep into the earth like roots.

In our last riding clinic at the farm, a dressage clinic with Linda Todenhagen, she told everyone to bring their inside shoulder AND hip back when bending their horse. To me that made a much bigger impact than just saying to bring your inside shoulder back because it got us to turn with our whole upper body which helped get our horses bending better. I think Sally Swift used the imagery of a barbershop pole for that same purpose.

I’m a huge believer that your horse’s body reflects what your body is doing.

Alfonso used the same basic exercises with each level of rider.

horse jumping clinic
Jess & Pumpkin practicing cavaletti poles

Erin and Chip did a private lesson first. Chip tends to be a little excitable so Alfonso suggested trotting cavaletti poles that are fairly closely spaced to keep him thinking about collecting and staying quiet rather than lengthening and getting more forward.

With all of the riders he worked on using more leg aid for bending and less rein aid, again to promote a quieter hand and ride.

After the cavaletti work he used trot poles to a very low jump, working on riders using their eyes and focusing on the details of what they were doing.

A great exercise that I had never seen used before…a new “tool” for my toolbox, was Alfonso using a hand raised for walk and then lowered for halt, done next at trot and walk. He used this to work on the difference between looking and seeing. Without “looking” at him you needed to use your awareness to “see” what was going on while focusing on (looking) where you were going.

horse jumping clinic exercise
Gillian & Sage doing a jumping exercise.

As you turn to a jump you initially want to use your eyes to look at it and get your straight approach, but once you are on line to the jump you want to look ahead where you are going, but you can still see the jump, you just don’t want to be stuck in “looking” at it.

I believe Sally Swift called this “soft focus” or maybe “soft eyes.”

Another important “takeaway” I got from the clinic was that I was reminded to pay attention to keeping a lighter seat “on course.” We work on lots of flat work as well as jumping (your horse isn’t going to “go” any better over fences than they do on the flat!) so we need to be reminded to ride with a lighter seat when jumping…particularly in the hunter ring where we want everything to look very smooth, easy and polished.

Alfonso’s lessons in the horse jumping clinic today were excellent and we are looking forward to having him back next summer to do a 2-3 day clinic. It will be a great time to polish our jumping skills during the 2014 horse show season.

It is always good to be able to take advantage of riding with an accomplished trainer in different types of clinics but you also need the consistency of a good solid training foundation on a regular basis.

horse jumping clinic
Buddy & Arlo are a bit “steamy” after their workout in the clinic 🙂

Then you can add to your skills when you get the opportunity to ride in a clinic, like we did today in Alfonso Salcedo’s horse jumping clinic!

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