Eventers around the world are doing their homework in the off-season. In Portugal, where the first big event of 2019 is Barroca International Horse Trials end of February, riders and trainers recently gathered for a clinic with eventing legend Sir Mark Todd. The clinic took place Dec. 14-16 and was jointly presented by the Portuguese Equestrian Federation (FEP), Sociedade Hípica Portuguesa (SHP), and the Portuguese Eventing Association (ACCE). Jodie Lazell kindly passed along this report.
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The clinic opened very early on Friday morning with a riders’ briefing in the main indoor arena of SHP where Mark explained to the eager students what they could expect from the weekend.
National and international VIP spectators, as well as national instructors on an accredited training program based around the clinic, were already in the audience of the arena to watch the first riders have their one-on-one lessons with Mark. But the arena soon filled up with people wanting to catch a glimpse of the legend working with our riders.
Riders taking part over the weekend included some of Portugal’s top eventing talent including: João Duarte Silva, Francisco Stillwell, Joaquim Grave and Anthony Lupi Hart. Other participants came from both the eventing and show jumping discipline highlighting how much can be learned when the disciplines train together.
The focus on Friday and Saturday was flatwork and the importance of getting the basics right. Riders worked on transitions, straightness and discipline. The whole audience was very engaged and asked lots of interesting questions which also helped the riders better understand what they were doing and why. Everyone had Saturday afternoon off to make sure they were well-rested and ready for the last day of the clinic on Sunday, which was focused on jumping skills.
On Sunday, the ACCE had arranged for portable cross country fences to be set up in SHP’s main outdoor sand arena which, together with some regular show jumps, provided a perfect playground for the participants to ride the exercises Mark had set for them. The exercises included lots of challenges for the riders and horses to take on, with related distance combinations, broken lines and a few skinny cross country fences on different lines to keep the riders awake and working on accuracy. Even the show jumpers who had never tackled a cross country fence had a go at jumping these fences and there were smiles all around as they completed the exercise.
Mark, the ACCE, and everyone involved commented on what a fantastic weekend it had been and how well it was organized between the FEP, SHP and the ACCE. FEP representative COL Filipe Santos Correia, says, “We have been delighted by the response to this event from the entire equestrian community which has given a much needed boost to eventing in Portugal. We have all learned a lot from this weekend, riders, trainers, spectators and I look forward to the future of Portuguese eventing.”
The President of SHP, Mr. José Manuel Figueiredo, adds, “SHP has been honored to host this weekend for the FEP and ACCE and it has been a privilege to have Sir Mark with us this weekend. We have really enjoyed watching the clinic and hope everyone had a fantastic time.”
ACC President Augusto Calça e Pina contributes, “First, we, the ACCE Board would like to say thank you to FEP and SHP for their support this weekend. We could not have done it without them. Second, we would like to thank Mark for taking time out of his busy schedule to come and see us this weekend in Lisbon. I’ve spoken to a lot of people this weekend and they all agree that this weekend was a huge success and these clinics are something the ACCE will be looking to repeat in 2019.”
Mark himself commented on how nice it was to teach such an enthusiastic and diverse group of riders and to have so much audience interest and participation.