Building Upon Progress: Day Two of Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic

© Sarah Harper: Julia BartonJulia Lee Barton and Bonnaroo

Wellington, Fla. – Dec. 27, 2016 – The theme of Day 2 of the Robert Dover Horsemastership Week was building on what you learn, moving forward and not making the same mistakes over and over in your riding. We began the day with our 7:00am workout, this time with a guest trainer, NFL linebacker Sam Lamur. Sam and Mike Barthelemy built on our stretching work from yesterday and worked all the muscles in our legs using different exercises. We took stretching breaks in between to make sure we were staying elastic, much like we often do during training sessions with our horses.

Today I had my second lesson with Robert Dover. We picked up right where we left off yesterday, and made even more progress. Robert made it very clear to everyone that he did not want to see the same mistakes carry over from day to day, and he didn’t want to teach anyone the same lesson twice. His message was definitely received, as the riders seemed to be breaking new ground throughout the morning’s lessons.

During my lesson, Bonnie and I worked a bit more on the quality of her trot, but quickly moved into collection work at the canter. Once I was able to ride a jumping collected canter, as if she were ready to step into an extension at any moment, I was able to communicate with smaller, quieter aids. Bonnie became lighter and more responsive as we worked. George Williams and Alison Brock worked on similar exercises during their lessons with clinic participants. It is so generous of them to donate their time to this program, which helps young riders like myself so much. In just two lessons I have felt myself challenged and inspired to raise the level of my riding.

© Sarah Harper: Callie Jones Callie Jones

The afternoon began with a discussion with 4* FEI Judge Janet Foy. Janet gave an insightful and humorous lecture on judging, what judges are looking for and the most common mistakes she sees at every level.  Janet stressed that because FEI has set a mandatory retirement age of 72 for 5* judges, it is important to get younger judges coming up through the program before the rest age out. She noted that one of the best parts of the judge training program is what participants learn from each other, much of which can be used at home in improving the participant’s own riding. She also emphasized that it bothers her when riders make the same big mistake again and again. For example, if a horse breaks to the trot when the rider is trying to collect after a canter extension, Janet noted that the rider should be completely focused on making sure the horse doesn’t break again in the test. I thought this tied in well to what Robert and Lendon have been focusing on as a goal for the clinic.

Our second lecture of the afternoon was with Craig Bernstein about horse nutrition and reading feed bag labels. While we always expect top performance from our horses, we often overlook the power of nutrition.  It seems obvious, but a horse with even slight nutritional deficiencies isn’t going to feel their best, and therefore isn’t going to be as physically and mentally capable as they could be otherwise. Making sure you do your research and find the feed that is best for your specific horse is vital to successful performance.

Our last lecture of the day was on boot care and fit with Mac Thompson. Mac was helpful in answering questions and explaining how imperfect boot fit can actually impact our riding much more than one would think. It not only affects the way you use your leg, but the effectiveness of your seat. He also emphasized that if there is a problem with part of the boot that you should get it fixed immediately, as otherwise it will weaken the rest of your boot too. Both of the lectures provide information that will help us become better riders and horsemen every day, so it is important that we utilize it. Fixing mistakes, moving forward and improving are what this clinic is all about.

Tomorrow is a day off for the horses, but not for the riders! We have a full day of fitness training, lectures and a field trip. We will also be making sure our horses are still feeling their best and ready for more after two hard days of training.

Julia Lee Barton, 14, of Lawrence, Kansas, claimed the 2016 Pony Rider National Championship aboard Bonnaroo in Wayne, Illinois. In 2015, Barton picked up the top placing in the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final, 13 and Under Division Championship. 

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