Area IV Enjoys a Weekend with Hawley Bennett-Awad

Hawley coaches the Novice group on the ditch question. Photo by Susan Horner. Hawley coaches the Novice group on the ditch question. Photo by Susan Horner.

What a treat it is to have the opportunity to learn from an established upper level rider! This was my personal first attempt at organizing a clinic, and the magnitude of responsibility is enough for a post of its own. Suffice it to say, all of the work was 100% worth it as I watched the riders beaming as they improved each day and as I watched Hawley give out high fives and compliments on jobs well done.

Hawley is an excellent clinician in the sense that she knows exactly how much she can challenge each rider. The participants for this clinic, held at the beautiful Longview Horse Park in Raytown, Mo., ranged from experienced Preliminary pairs to green horses and young riders on their trustworthy ponies. No challenge was too big or small for Hawley, who efficiently encouraged each pair to reach new levels.

Day one of the clinic was cross country, and riders were divided into groups by level. We were blessed with amazing weather this weekend, and each horse and rider came off the course more confident than they went on. Hawley prefers to string several fences together rather than focus on a single fence — a good test for an event where you will, of course, not be jumping just a single fence.

Coaching Amanda Pezold and Beth McDaniel's Alabar through the water complex. Photo by Susan Horner.

Coaching Amanda Pezold and Beth McDaniel’s Alabar through the water complex. Photo by Susan Horner.

By putting together several short courses, Hawley was able to give each pair a challenge while constructively criticizing their areas for improvement. She put a lot of emphasis on holding your line straight before and after each fence to encourage your horse to stay straight, something that will only become more vital as the riders progress up the levels.

And she certainly knew what she was doing, as each rider repeatedly said how much fun they were having and how many firsts were achieved this weekend. I was perhaps most proud to hear the “yes ma’am” and see the concentration and dedication on each rider’s face as they tackled the next question. Hawley is the first to tell you when you’ve screwed up (and what you need to do differently to fix this going forward) and when you’ve done a super job. None of the pairs were over faced, but all were able to step a bit outside of their comfort zones and have the opportunity to rise to the occasion.

On day two, we tackled a technical but not overly large show jumping course. Due to some harder footing, Hawley didn’t max the jumps out but still provided a stiff challenge with a lot of related distances and gymnastic work. She interjected her commentary with anecdotes from her past competitions or lessons, making each exercise relateable.

Photo by Jaiden Waddle.

Photo by Jaiden Waddle.

She worked well with tired horses, giving them exercises that were inviting and challenging all at once. A line of one-strides was imposing but a great exercise in balance and straightness, and it was really interesting to see each pair work through this and come out on the other side successfully.

Hawley’s big pet peeves are clucking and looking down. As is tradition with her clinics, riders were challenged not to break these rules or risk an assignment of push-ups. Happily, most riders were able to accomplish this goal — although a few onlookers were not!

Overall, this clinic was a great educational opportunity for both riders and auditors. Everyone came away a little more grown up and with some new tools in the toolbox, which is what we all want out of a clinic. Many thanks once again to all of the riders, volunteers and supporters who made this a success. Also, thank you to Hawley and her husband, Gamal, for coming to Area IV for the weekend. We can’t wait to have you back!