While the weather threatened not to cooperate, the Dreamcrest all-weather footing came in handy, although no one got too wet.
Jimmy's clinics start
both days with an 8am lecture. The format is driven by questions, but the lecture outlines his analytical approach to understanding the physics of our sport, from the 5 phases of a jumping effort (approach, takeoff, flight,
landing and departure),to the different positions needed by event riders to maintain perfect balance throughout all 3 phases (stirrup leather needs to stay vertical at all times).
Jimmy is well known for his quotes and anecdotes….
- Blyth Tait says: "…In the approach sit down, not back…"
- Steinbrecht wrote: "...the spine of the rider should be perpendicular to the spine of the horse…".
- George Morris calls an "educated leg/grip" one where the rider can move the grip up or down on demand to meet the challenge presented. The more leg required, the lower the grip needs to go. But if the grip gets
too low, it's like riding a greased pig! If it gets too high, the leg starts to swing.
Jimmy's philosophy includes reinforcing the basics:
- The horse's monocular vision means they have to move their head to change their focus.
- The sensitivity of the hand is dependant on the security of the lower leg.
- Good hands = good elbows + good shoulders.
He also subscribes to some more controversial techniques:
- Look at the top of the fence on the approach (front rail of an oxer; back rail of a triple bar; back rail of a ditch-and-rails, back of an open ditch).
- When releasing, the hand needs to go down to follow the shape of the horse during bascule.
Jimmy can break down specifics as an exact science. E.g. The sequence of a horse's action during takeoff are: front feet land; head goes down; head comes up; hind steps under and plants; hock loads like a spring…and
then he jumps. Analyzing each phase of each kind of jump helps us identify how we can best position ourselves and present the horse to any fence.
He also admits that much of what we do is still not fully
understood. He referred to Jack Le Goff's theory that there is a direct compromise between the submission/roundness of the dressage canter and the initiative/length of stride required for cross-country. Certainly this is
unproven, but perhaps not untrue.
When asked how to cope when "things seem to happen too fast" in jumping, Jimmy recommended focusing on "getting connected" for the duration of each exercise and working on one
specific thing at a time.
On the first day, during the riding portion of the clinic, Jimmy expressed the importance of a rhythmical approach (count out loud to help focus on the rhythm). We practiced adjusting
the canter stride riding a short 5 from vertical to oxer, then reversing the exercise and riding in 4. Ideally, each stride is the same length, but if you have to adjust, make it the first stride not the last! He
corrected several riders' techniques with an assortment of "tricks" like the penny on the rail (is it heads or tails?) to train the rider's eye and the reins over the horse's head (buckle end acts as a neck strap) to keep the
riders hand in front of the withers. The show jumping exercises included arrowheads, corners, skinnies and bounces in assorted combinations. The emphasis was on riding accurately and staying soft in between
On the second day, we spent a lot of time in the recently named "short course field". The setup is perfect for a clinic, because all the cross-country questions are at show-jumping proximity!
We practiced speeds and galloping position. Then we simply put some fences in the way. While the questions were quite technical (turning lines, drops to skinnies etc.) the job seemed easier after the tuning exercises
the previous day. I'm sure by the end of the day, we all felt the same: Thanks Jimmy, that was awesome!