Phillip Dutton traveled to California this week to teach a clinic in which many West Coast eventers participated. Tamie Smith was kind enough to share her thoughts and what she learned from a "clinic with the master." Thanks, Tamie, for writing, and thank you for reading!
It was one of those cross country clinics that makes you think, “Why haven’t we had him out before? After all he is the master cross country rider of all time.”
While I was out East, I saw many top riders taking their cross country lessons from Big Phil and I was able to watch many of them as I only had a couple of horses to ride each day. I also had a lesson with him on my Twizted Syster mare and he helped me tremendously.
Here on the West Coast we have access to the best dressage and show jumping help and so I thought, “Let’s get the best cross country help.”
The last two days were focused on cross country — how to prepare horses for the questions asked of them at the competition. Like Bruce Davidson Sr. said to Shannon (my groom) and I and in his Bruce voice, “You don’t go to competitions to see how good you are, you go to show how good you are!” That is precisely what we worked on, teaching the horses about how to be better cross country thinkers.
Key points learned while Phillip was here:
- Never take a jump for granted.
- Work on the canter every stride on approach.
- Practice technical lines, but always go back to jumping a gallop fence to gain their confidence.
- Keep the horses forward to fences without letting them drag you past the distance. If they do, make sure your body is back so they can learn from their mistakes. If they don’t learn from their mistake, you might consider a different sport for them.
Time is made up from going away from the fences, not coming to the fences. It is very important to have your horses to the deep and balanced distance.
I was thoroughly impressed with how positive Phillip was, but he also very critical, which I believe are the ingredients of a good coach and making great riders.
When things didn’t go as planned he broke the exercises down to get both horse and rider back on track, and each rider and each horse learned and finished their class better than when they started.
We can’t wait to have him back out in March!