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Anna Blake Keeley

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When You Have An Opportunity to Ride with Buck Davidson, Take It

Clemson's Intercollegiate Eventing Team recently had a team clinic with Buck Davidson at Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, South Carolina. Team member Anna Blake Keeley kinda wrote a recap of the clinic experience. Many thanks to Anna for writing. Go Collegiate Eventing!

The Clemson Intercollegiate Eventing Team with Buck Davidson. Photo by Olga Mohr Photography. The Clemson Intercollegiate Eventing Team with Buck Davidson. Photo by Olga Mohr Photography.

When you have the opportunity to clinic with the fifth-ranked rider in the world, you take it. Even if you haven’t shown in over a year. Even if you’ve jumped all of two times in the past month. Even if your horse seems more like a cow these days, and your fitness isn’t much better. But Buck Davidson is worth pulling on your uncomfortable show boots and doing some last minute trot sets.

Two weekends ago, the Clemson Eventing Team hosted a clinic with THE Buck Davidson (insert squeals of glee here) at Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, South Caroline. The mixture of nerves and excitement when learning from an idol is hard to explain to the non-horsey friend; needless to say, every girl on the team, whether going Beginner Novice or Prelim, was beyond thrilled to ride with Buck.

The weekend began with show jumping on Saturday, followed by cross country on Sunday. Despite recent, non-stop monsooning in South Carolina, the footing was fair and the weather beautiful and sunny. Even Mother Nature was rooting for the weekend to be a success.

Buck, in the artful way of truly great teachers, altered his advice for each group’s abilities while still maintaining the basics. Because my group was last to ride, I was able to watch him teach throughout the day. In one particularly helpful exercise, riders asked their mounts to stop mid-combination before a second fence, using their seat and leg (rather than the not so effective, yet so tempting yank on the face) to halt.

As someone whose horse has issues with stopping, I was wary of asking for the halt, but as Buck pointed out, the act allowed for the rider to have complete control over the jump. The stop became the rider’s idea rather than the horse’s, forcing the horses to listen in front of the fence. Asking your horse new questions can sometimes lead to flops and messes, but Buck assured us that this is a sport not of trying but doing. He patiently worked through individual problems, astutely giving advice catered to each person’s riding.

On Sunday, Buck pushed us to do things outside of our comfort zone, while making sure we never lost our confidence or were scared. We focused less on finding that perfect stride and more on maintaining balance and control in our approach, so that no matter the striding, our horses were able to jump well.

For me — a less confident rider on a less confident horse — Buck was the perfect clinician. He was patient and calm and positive, but also assertive and insistent on getting the best ride possible. He took his time with each rider, and posed with the team afterwards in a good-natured fashion.

Weekends like this remind me why I ride. Yes, it may be an “individual” sport, but so much teamwork and support goes into getting that great ride. Whether you’re plip-plopping in your backyard or galloping around a course, we all have something to learn. Overall, it was an amazing weekend with a talented and fun group of girls who all share the joy of riding. The Clemson Eventing Team hopes to host another clinic like this in the near future!