William Fox-Pitt Imparts His Cross Country Wisdom in Aiken

Curran Simpson's Woodstock Bennett looking very handsome in the Aiken sunshine with Ryan Wood in the irons. Photo by Jenni Autry. Curran Simpson's Woodstock Bennett looking very handsome in the Aiken sunshine with Ryan Wood in the irons. Photo by Jenni Autry.

That’s a wrap on William Fox-Pitt’s clinic here in Aiken, where we had brilliant sunshine and much warmer temperatures for cross country day at Stable View Farm. The horses seemed to be more settled today — it certainly helped that yesterday’s blustery winds weren’t an issue! — and the riders really rose to the occasion to tackle William’s exercises.

Each group started out with a warmup before schooling banks and ditches. Then they all moved across the field to the water complex, which is surrounded by trakehners and chevrons. All the horses and riders stepped up to the plate across the board, with some horses successfully being introduced to ditches for the first time. Every horse ended the lesson better than they started.

The most challenging aspect of for each group seemed to come when horses and riders schooled the small up bank out of water, with many of the horses stumbling or chipping in. William had the riders slow down significantly on the approach to the up bank to counteract this problem, saying it’s important to never hurry horses through water, as they need to “find their step” to ensure a balanced jump out.

This trakehner jumped beautifully for the most part. Photo by Jenni Autry.

This trakehner jumped beautifully for the most part. Photo by Jenni Autry.

And sure enough, the riders had a much smoother trip through when they took his advice, establishing a steadier rhythm instead of letting their stride get longer through the water. Horses with a more compressed, cattier stride didn’t struggle with this nearly as much, and it was good for the bigger, rangier horses to rock back and balance.

William also had a number of riders shorten their reins throughout the day, especially on greener horses; he said shortening the reins is something just about every rider should be doing more often on cross country. He challenged Boyd Martin to shorten his reins with SBF Cortez in the Advanced group  — “just to see what happens” — and while it didn’t lead to a noticeable difference for Cortez, it definitely helped a number of the other riders.

Once again, William had all of the groups do a substantial portion of the lesson in trot over smaller fences, which he said he does regularly at home, especially with his older horses to help keep them sharp and “entertained.” He also had them focus on approaching the fences in a slower trot — no fast-paced trotting with a quickie canter stride before the jump.

After more than 300 auditors came out to see William’s clinic in Vancouver earlier in the week, the group of about 100 auditors here in Aiken seemed noticeably smaller. But Grace Vance, Stable View’s new COO, said they purposefully limited the number of auditors to around 100 to allow for a more intimate atmosphere.

#EventingJesus imparts his wisdom. Photo by Jenni Autry.

William Fox-Pitt imparts his wisdom. Photo by Jenni Autry.

And that strategy paid off really nicely, allowing everyone to get a good view of the action both yesterday and today, as well as sit near the speaker to hear all of the wisdom William imparted during the clinic. The whole Stable View team has been wonderful and welcoming over the past two days; we have to send a huge thank you for the hospitality and hard work.

And, yes, #EventingJesus continues to gain momentum since the Twitter hashtag launched during yesterday’s lessons, with @EventingConsult coming up with this masterpiece today as his latest artistic contribution to EN:

It looks like our work here is done. Many thanks to Stable View, the riders, auditors and, most importantly, William for making this a clinic we’ll never forget. Check out more one-liners from William below, and keep scrolling for all of our coverage of the clinic so far. We’ll have a full day two gallery coming your way shortly, so stay tuned.

WFP One-Liners

“What does funky mean?”

“If you leave him to his own devices, he gets a bit syrupy.”

“He’s not allowed to trot around like a yak. He needs to trot around like a horse.”

“Look at those short reins … He wants to be teacher’s pet!

“Very often the last thing we do is shorten our reins. It needs to be higher on our list of priorities”

“You must not hurry them through water. You have got to give them time to find their step.”

Click here to see yesterday’s one-liners.

More from the WFP clinic

5 Questions with William Fox-Pitt

William Fox-Pitt Brings the Basics Back to Aiken

William Fox-Pitt Comes to Aiken: Day One Photo Gallery