One of our loyal readers, Jennifer Joyce, sent in her personal recap of an Ian Stark clinic, which she participated in over the weekend at Galway Downs. Thank you Jennifer for sending your recap and photos in, and thank you for reading.
I had the privilege of riding with Ian Stark at Galway Downs this weekend. The first day was a private dressage lesson. He helped me get my horse to carry himself without a pulling match. Patience goes a long way on a young horse. He worked on my position and pace. I was allowing him to move through my hands too much, and my tendency was to rush him forward, onto his forehand. Ian had me keep my hands very still, relax my legs, and wait for Riley to relax and carry himself.
At times I felt like I was holding a 100 pounds in each rein. After 35 minutnes of holding my position, Riley lightened in the reins and carried himself easily. For the first time, I have a horse that is easy to ride, and I found his canter work and the corners of the ring to be my friends. Ian was confident that once he is made to carry himself every day and gains the correct strength, the extended work will come very easy for him.
The second day was show jumping. Ian really worked on getting riders to ride their horses more forward and freer to the jumps. The first exercise was a line of five bounce fences that encouraged the horses to use themselves more. He helped the riders come into the exercise with a more forward pace and better balance. After the horses were doing the bounces well, he made the line into a vertical in and oxer as the last element. V-poles were added to help keep the horses straight and jump bigger.
Each horse and rider combination improved as the exercises went larger. He is great at building confidence in the horses and riders. After the gymnastics, he worked on rideability in bending lines and through turns. Emphasis was on keeping the stride forward and consistent. Most important was to keep the horses coming forward without interfering by overusing the reins and remembering to keep your leg on to support them off the ground. Ian keeps it simple and fun! He is truly amazing.
I rode my 6-year-old Connemara stallion, Blue Rock Riley. He has done three Training horse trials and one Training Three-Day. After the the clinic, Riley feels like he’s ready for a move up to Preliminary this year. I learned how to keep a better pace and ride through my turns with more power, instead of getting quick and flat.
Another key element for me was to stay more up with my body over the jumps, which allowed my horse to jump rounder and have more power after landing. I am hoping Ian will come back to California soon and be available for more lessons. A huge thank you to Robert Kellerhouse for bringing him to Galway Downs and offering us the wonderful chance to ride with the Master.