For many upper level upper level riders, the weekend before Rolex is filled with last minute preparations, for horse and rider alike. But at Tuscany Hollow Stables, located just north of Louisville, Kentucky, the weekend before Rolex means that Hawley Bennett Eventing is coming to town for another amazing clinic.
For the past 2 years Hawley has flown across country (well, almost) the weekend before Rolex to teach all levels of riders. From riders and horses who have never jumped before, all the way up to riders who are currently competing at the FEI 1 and 2* levels. Amanda Conti and I, (Erin Murphy) met Hawley last year when she was kind enough to say yes to a Kentucky clinic. She said that she’d never taught in Kentucky before, and it was a perfect excuse to get to Kentucky a few days before everyone else.
We had the worst weather that Kentucky could throw at us in April: rain, sleet, and almost freezing temperatures. When I got the call in September that Hawley was booking clinics, and if I still wanted Rolex weekend, I was a little shocked that she would even think about putting up with that risk again, but I quickly booked it.
This year the demand was huge, Hawley taught over 3 days, and totaled 57 rides! We tried to break her spirit, but at the end of the three grueling days, she got on the plane and was still smiling. We had absolutely amazing weather this go around, we’ve paid our dues for bad weather, and the weekend went off without a hitch.
On day one, Hawley taught private flat lessons to 10 riders. The positive but stern teaching style had everyone in great spirits when they left the dressage ring. Something that struck me as super interesting, is the music that she played while she was coaching.
She had an awesome mix of music while she was coaching, and it really lightened the nerves. At one point, I was singing along to the music in my head, and I just left my nerves just dissipate. Horses and riders got a good workout, and Hawley asked each rider to let her know what their next dressage score was. I have a feeling that she’s going to follow up on that fairly closely. It’s like having a guardian looking over our scores.
Day two was grid day — talk about intense! Bending lines, gymnastics, bounces, tight jumper roll backs, and barrels were all part of her courses. Small groups of riders of 3 and 4 were put to the test in each of their sessions.
Each group, even though the Preliminary level, started out with ground poles to work on rhythm and suppleness of the horse. After a few minutes, and each horse was gliding through the
canter poles at ease, riders were put into “marathon jumping.”
Jumping lines continuously until they started getting better and better, and it was amazing to see how right she was. By the end of the lesson, each horse was jumping rounder and more through, and the riders gained so much confidence, I was excited to see everyone out on cross country the next morning.
On day three, everyone took a field trip to Flying Cross Farm to school a few fields of their cross country course. Hawley told me that she had to come back so she can teach in the other fields too, because we didn’t even make a dent in what Flying Cross has to offer!
Horses and riders geared up a games and took on her courses. Again, she started everyone over a log on the ground to get rhythm established, and then moved on and up from there. We are so blessed to have such an amazing facility in literally our backyard to play around in. Hawley said many times that we were so lucky to have rolling hills and to teach our horses how to rate themselves up and down them.
Every group had elements like skinnies, mounds, banks, water, water drops, logs, houses, and coops. No one left without a huge smile, and left saying that they felt more confident. Hawley said, that her favorite thing about teaching clinics is the second day improvement, and she couldn’t have been more right. It was astounding the improvement of the riders.
There was definitely so much that everyone took away from this weekend, and we are so excited to have Hawley as part of the Tuscany Hollow Stables family. We are looking forward to her return in August, and of course next year Rolex!