It’s All About the Canter in Maya Black’s Clinic with UGA Eventing

Maya Black coaching a UGA student. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Earlier this fall, Maya Black made the trip to Silverthorn Farm in Athens, Georgia for a clinic with the Eventing Team at The University of Georgia. As a team alum, I was excited to return for a visit, and hugely proud to watch the team ride spectacularly.

Maya’s clinic centered around on thing: the canter. “Show jumping is about creating the right canter. It’s trying to get enough RMPs behind to jump successfully,” she said, and every exercise she laid out kept rider’s thinking of the quality of their canter.

Maya started every group with a discussion where she learned more about each pair, and reminded them of the importance of speaking up in a clinic. She asked the riders to talk candidly with her throughout the ride if they had questions or weren’t comfortable with an exercise, saying, “you have to be your horse’s advocate.” Great advice for us all!

Johanna Crumpton goes through the fanned pole exercise. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Maya’s clinic was progressive as each exercise bridged into the next. All groups, from Beginner Novice through Preliminary started over an arc of ground poles. The rails  fanned in a semi circle shape so riders had the option to ride a smaller or larger circle shape.

The poles helped horses produce a more balanced and uphill canter and helped the jockeys remember to keep riding positively and forward all the way through. The ground poles remained a key feature of clinic, and Maya would ask riders to return to the exercise if a pair needed to rebalance or reestablish a good canter.

Sierra Shurtz jumps through the grid. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Next, riders took to the centerline down a grid of two trot cavaletti, a vertical and two oxers. Maya asked riders to achieve a short three strides — in 42′ — between the two oxers in order for their horse to produce a nice bascule. She didn’t spend all day sending riders through the line — explaining that riding on these shorter distances is hard work for the horses and there was no need to overjump this exercise to achieve their goals.

Through this, I saw many team members more successfully compacting their horses, but also more consciously waiting with their body over each fence. “I really liked the exercise and felt it was good for me to wait with my body and not hold too much with my hands, and also helped rocky to jump in a better round shape!” said team President Erin Jarboe.

Jasmine Hawkins rides through the first element of the one stride. Photo by Shelby Allen.

The ride then expanded around the area, adding an oxer that bent five strides (72′)  to a one stride of verticals, which Maya explained isn’t typically seen, but is great for accuracy and a producing a careful jump. “Five to a one stride you won’t see often in competition because it comes up quickly, but one strides are ‘careful training.'”

Erin Jarboe and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Shelby Allen.

The key between the oxer and the in-and-out was achieving the perfect approach: riders who swung out too far found themselves gunning it toward the verticals, which made it harder to produce a careful jump, and riders who cut their turn found themselves either off their distance or underpowered.

Photo by Shelby Allen.

I thought Maya’s exercises were straightforward, yet powerful, and everyone in the group seemed to pull something useful from their ride. But, the biggest takeaway for me were all her “isms,” the little tidbits she’d share if someone was having a specific issue. For example, one rider had a very keen Thoroughbred. Where you’d often see a clinician ask them to halt after an exercise, Maya instead asked her for lateral work around the arena until the horse settled. She says she often does this with Thoroughbreds, and finds leg yielding them much more successful than trying to jam them into a halt.

There were many more of these Maya-isms as she did an expert job of relating to each horse and rider for a personalized feel. It was an educational day for me on the ground, so if you get a chance, I can’t recommend it enough that you take a ride with Maya! I’d also like to extend a huge thank you to Caroline Marlett for hosting the clinic at the lovely Silverthorn Farm.

Go Dawgs. Go Eventing.