Eric Horgan taught a clinic in Durango, Colorado at the end of April. EN reader Helen Guidotti attended and was kind enough to send us this clinic report. If you have a submission to share, please send it to [email protected] Thanks to Helen for writing, and thanks as always for reading!
I just wanted to share with Eventing Nation the fun and exceptional learning opportunity we had when Eric Horgan came out west to help us out. I have been working with Eric for over 10 years and have thoroughly enjoyed every single ride. I might not have liked them ALL at the TIME but learned from the ride so that looking back, I can say, I have enjoyed every single ride. I have been lucky enough to attend his Developing Rider Session in Aiken SC two times now. And counting. Should the Gods deem it so, I will go back to Aiken again. Eric typically heads west 2 or 3 times a year and we are so lucky to havsuch a fun, talented, observant, creative teacher here in little ol’ western country. Or the big wide west if you prefer. Durango is definitely off the beaten track for Eventing, the closest recognized venue a mere 5 1/2 hours away. On a good day.
We began the clinic on Thursday with dressage. Eric spends much of the time teaching us to get back to basics. If the horse is not punching forward from behind into an elastic, yet supportive hand with the horse accepting the bit, then there is the platform from which the magic will begin. Riding is SUCH an art. The timing between aids, the amount and pressure of the aid(s), reading the horse and knowing when to apply how much from where is what keeps us all coming back and trying again and again. As Eric always says “Every rider KNOWS when it is right,” the challenge is figuring out how to get it and then how to get it on your own. Another favorite saying of his is “it is simple, it’s just not easy.” Darn if that’s not the case! The responsibility of the rider to control his own body in such a manner as to get the best out of his horse is tremendous and we don’t necessarily think of that all the time. We have to be in the middle of the horse, centered, over our stirrups with a solid core that is also “soft” and not trying to control the horse but to guide it in a dance. Go yoga! That also means taking care of one’s own body. I have come face to face with 38 years of riding (skiing, brothers, riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, riding, water skiing, falling out of bed, soccer, riding, basketball and, oh, did I mention horses?) injuries that I have chosen to take the injuries on and get myself pain free so that I can FEEL what the horse is doing. (It’s working, the horses do tend to have a right side, I just couldn’t feel it!) That has been an epic journey meant to be discussed another day.
This is a picture of Elisabeth early in the ride.
Elisabeth took up riding a few years ago and has recently begun taking lessons. She and Raf are figuring out dressage and the communication involved in it.
This is what Elisabeth and Raf, a 6 year old TB/cross ended up doing.
Melissa and Ticos, trying their hand at a Training level show jump course. Melissa has brought Ticos (OTTB) up to Training level and they are looking forward to competing soon. Melissa has learned much more about riding from the core and allowing the horse to move out in front of you, a lot of which she picked up in the Aiken Developing Rider Program Eric holds each winter.
Sara and Cane having a blast. Sara is riding the 7 year old TB/cross, Cane in the exercise Eric set up where you strive for 6 equal strides. It is all about the canter and if there isn’t a great canter going into a jump then how can the jump possibly be successful? (Meaning, not JUST getting to the other side with the shiny side up and the frog side down!) We did lots of getting the canter right exercises, having the horse move forward and then bringing them back using your back, not your hands.
Kathy, who, with her husband Mark, own the wonderful facilities, and Kaymus negotiating a “define your stride” exercise.
Janet on her beautiful new OTTB, figuring out forward vs. fast. Janet is from the Hunter/Jumper world but appreciated auditing Eric’s clinic last fall, bought Cory and was able to ride in the clinic this spring.
Pam and Penny showing how it is done. This is a jump out of a roll back turn.
Jessie and Pache take on the 6 equal strides exercise. Pache was bred to be a race horse but since food and lethargy are his middle names, he did not deem it necessary to run fast. Jessie has brought him along to the Novice level and has him going beautifully.
Helen and Stanley tackle flat work. Stanley is a 4 yo OTTB. Turning is quite the curiosity for Stanley. He finds it amusing that humans think turning is so important.
This is early in Marcia and Gift’s lesson. Gift is a 24-y.o. Arabian teaching Marcia the ropes.
Marcia and Gift beginning to realize their potential!
The jumping days centered around the canter. If the horse is not in a forward, balanced canter that is straight then the jumps just won’t be there. It is fascinating to watch the riders heed Eric’s advice and turn their jumping totally around: rushing horses relax; walk-to-canter transitions got sloggy horses moving; by the rider sitting up and waiting for the horse to leave the ground, the horse was left to jump the fence unimpeded instead of the rider leaping ahead to jump it for them. These are some of the examples of what we were able to, hopefully, fix. It was a wonderful clinic with many AH HA! moments that keep us begging for more and gives us lots of homework until next time. Which is in August for any westerners who would care to join in!