Pure Gold Stables in Salem, Ohio hosted its second annual GPS (Galloping, Pace and Steeplechase) clinic last month and it was a huge hit. While some riders were prepping for their first long format events, others came to learn and gain knowledge from trainer Jackie Smith.
Most of the horses were dancing on their toes to start from the drop in temperatures overnight, but they eventually settled and had a blast with Jackie’s exercises. Riders in the area are extremely lucky to have Pure Gold’s wonderful facility and 5/8 mile, all-weather gallop track to host unique clinics like this.
Jackie started out by helping riders develop an effective galloping position. “Instead of thinking shoulders, hip, heel, think shoulders, knees, toes. The balance should be in your thighs and you use your hip angle to slow your horse down.”
Riders started by trotting and then using their hips and their body to bring their horses back down to a halt in front of Jackie. Once they successfully were able to slow their horses at the trot they then repeated the exercise at the canter.
Once warmed up riders then started to work on pace and their gallop. Depending on the experience of the group, they started at a certain pace and then built up. Riders really got to feel the speeds for their level and above. They started at marker A and had to make it to marker B as close to 30 seconds as possible; the higher the level the farther away the markers were from each other.
For example, the Beginner Novice riders started at 350 mpm to develop that pace, then 400 mpm to feel a faster speed and even 450 mpm to know how fast was too fast for their level. The galloping was really geared towards the feeling of how fast or slow the riders were going and how the perfect pace felt for each level. Nearly every rider had a light-bulb moment on how to correctly establish the right pace for their level.
Once everyone in the group had the pace and galloping down, steeplechase fences were added to the challenge. The fences were standard show jump fences with barrels in the front and brush added to the top rail, which many horses preferred to jump over instead of brush through so they could show off their scope!
Riders then applied the pace they learned from earlier to the fences. Jackie’s told the riders: “Coming to the fence about five strides out you balance and sit up through your hips, never sitting directly on the horse’s back but just hovering above while holding in your thighs and sitting up.”
The goal was not to “pick” for the distance, which many riders were doing after riding only show jumping for the winter. For most, it was their first time seeing anything cross country related since at least October. Horses and riders ate it up, grinning ear-to-ear the whole time. Riders walked away with homework to work on pace before the first event of the season and the knowledge of how to ride steeplechase for their first long formats in the future.
Thank you to Pure Gold Stables for welcoming riders into their lovely facility and Jackie Smith for being a wonderful clinician. Best of luck to everyone for the start of their season!