Clinic-ing in the Covid Age: Boyd Martin at North Jersey Equestrian

Screenshot courtesy of Lauren Healy.

2020 has been the year of “training” for most equestrians, and a uniquely-formatted clinic series that combines virtual and in-person learning with Boyd Martin in New Jersey is taking it to the next level.

Laura Healy worked with Boyd to create a three-part series held over three consecutive months starting in July; the final session takes place today, Sept. 6. The series has been hosted at North Jersey Equestrian in Branchville, NJ, with trainer/operator Kim Clouse. Laura originally developed the idea after speaking with Boyd about developing a format that would enhance the standard clinic experience. “We have attempted something different to give exposure to beginner and lower level riders, up and thru pro-am, to work with Boyd over a number of sessions in a more personal way,” Laura explains.

With the pandemic in full swing, many events canceled and Boyd taking some time out of the saddle to mend from surgeries, it allowed him to devote more time to this type of format. To kick the clinic off each rider was asked to share a video of them riding with no specific emphasis except to give Boyd a good picture of what level they are riding and areas that Boyd and the rider can work on at the first of the three in-person sessions. In addition, each rider was asked to give an outline of what challenges they are facing, areas they would like to focus on, and a set of goals they would like to achieve.

Some examples of the challenges riders were facing, which seems to cross all levels, were how to successfully navigate ditches, ride combinations and keep momentum. Some riders were working with new and/or young horses and wanted advice on how to navigate a course successfully and work towards a bright and future partnership.

Each in-person clinic was broken into groups of two or three riders all riding at or near the same level and geared towards either cross country or show jumping. The sessions ran approximately an hour and a half but sometimes stretched further if there were areas that the riders could benefit from additional support from Boyd. The sessions were fantastic to watch, as Boyd was not afraid to test the riders’ tenacity and the riders rose to the challenge, sometimes with a slight smile — “You mean that jump??”

Boyd Martin and Laura Healy. Photo courtesy of Laura Healy.

Between in-person sessions the clinic held group video chats, cocktails allowed, wherein each rider could give Boyd and the group updates on what they have been working on, events they had attended, and potential challenges they had faced. No one was shy about sharing the spills and thrills they had encountered which helped create a real comradery within the group. This virtual experience offered unparalleled access to a top U.S. rider – exactly what Laura and Boyd discussed.

Laura and her husband Brian started Bayboro Equestrian in 2019, with the long term goal of bringing top equestrian talent like Boyd Martin, Kim Walnes and others to their community in Sussex County, NJ, while rethinking what the clinic format looks like. They carefully considered what riders gravitate towards and want, and factored in how costs and formats can deter many from attending.

“Our goal right now is small and focused on growing rider awareness in our community here in North Jersey but our vision is large. We are passionate about the sport, we have a huge support in the rider and equestrian community here and want to help build something special and eventually grow into other areas, ” Lauren says.

“In addition, we both feel very fortunate for the advantages we have had however small they may be, eventually I hope to create a program to bring horses into the lives of children who would otherwise not have exposure – and by nature bring some little diversity to the sport. I myself fell into this sport purely by chance (I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago) and would love the opportunity to expose children of all income levels and races to the wonderful equestrian world that we love so much!”