The second day of the Hawley Bennett-Awad clinic at Dragonfire Farm in Wilton, Calif., was just as challenging as the first. Perhaps even more so as we all partied a bit hard at the McFall’s house on Saturday night. Red wine, food and Team DF always results in very good times.
The morning started out with fog and cold, sending most of the spectators seeking additional jackets. By afternoon, it was gorgeous. Building off the previous day’s themes of accuracy and adjustability, Hawley had riders work through a series of four fences set at right angles to one another about four strides apart. This exercise was excellent to ensure that the horses were on our aids and challenged our accuracy.
Certainly you could have ridden straight through and angled all of the fences, but Hawley was after accuracy, having us ride to the center of each fence. I particularly enjoyed this exercise, as I’ve been lazy about looking to my next fence lately, and it served as a good reminder to actively use my outside aids when turning. It also reminded me to not snap down and duck with my upper body at the waist when I jabbed myself in the throat with the handle of my crop.
From there, Hawley had riders come across the diagonal again through a triple (four strides to four strides). The final jump in the triple was actually part of the broken-line exercise and made for a nice pseudo-figure eight, as it was easy to go boldly across the diagonal but in order to come back through the broken line again, you really had to use your corner well to rebalance and collect.
Once it was established that the horses were responsive and riders were handling the turns well, additional challenges were added, including one where we landed off of a single and made a lefthand turn in six to a one stride, followed immediately by a right hand turn to a single in five. On the far side of the ring there was a very looky oxer-to-bounce combination that was very intimidating when it was first set up; but after seeing it tackled with virtually no problems all day long, it was very straightforward.
Everyone showed significant improvement from day one to day two. More fantastic pictures are on the Dragonfire Farm Facebook page. Hawley is back at Dragonfire in a few short weeks, and I know everyone that attended is looking forward to having her back and curious as to what challenges she’ll bring next time.