Last weekend, the Alberta Horse Trials Association welcomed top Canadian eventer Kyle Carter back again to Alberta for a three-day Young Rider Clinic that took place at Prentice Creek Equestrian Centre near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. This clinic was organized and subsidized by the Alberta High Performance program, and the event also received a generous club funding donation from the Alberta Equestrian Federation.
This clinic was open to riders who are 25 years of age and under, competing at the EV75 (Pre Entry) level and above. The rider spots in this clinic were split between young riders who are attending the USEA Eventing Young Rider Championships; young riders from the Alberta High Performance/U18 program and young riders who are not on the High Performance team. Auditing was free to anyone who wanted to come out and watch and learn.
Kyle is one of Canada’s most successful riders, representing Canada multiple times at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, 2008 Olympics in Beijing, 2007 Rio de Janeiro Pan American Games, and 1999 Winnipeg Pan American Games. In addition to his personal accomplishments, Kyle is also a highly regarded coach and clinician, and has had great success bringing his students up the levels in eventing. Several of his students have gone on to compete at the 5* level, and he holds the coaching record for having the most students win gold medals in eventing at the USEA Eventing Young Rider Championships. Kyle continues to focus on competing at the highest levels of eventing and hopes to again represent Canada at the Olympics. He and his wife, Jennifer, own and run 5 Ring Stable, a successful 5* eventing barn in Citra, Florida.
The hot summer sun shone down on 22 riders who attended the clinic, as they rode in dressage, show jumping and cross country lessons over the weekend. There were many different horse and rider levels, from EV75 (formerly Pre-Entry) all the way up to EV115 and EV120 (previously Intermediate and Advanced).
In all three phases, Kyle emphasized strong basics, utilizing exercises that strengthened each horse and rider’s foundation and skills. Exercises and feedback were tailored to each horse and rider, some were more experienced combinations introducing some new concepts and challenges as they plan to move up the levels or hoping to attend the Eventing Young Riders Championships, and others focused on perfecting skills and solidifying the basics, focusing more on the developing their partnership for the future.
Kyle’s teaching style is very effective, blunt and honest, with a generous dash of comedy thrown in. Many stories were shared from his past success and failures, to help educate and explain the madness behind the methods. He has a great way of making his points clear and getting the information across, and he really takes the time to ensure horse and rider are understanding what he is explaining and the questions and exercises being asked of them.
Throughout the weekend Kyle spoke a lot about working smarter, not harder, as he explained the intricacies of training of the horse and setting them up for success using small steps and a progression that builds confidence and makes sense. He emphasized the little things, like the quality of transitions, working on the balance by transitioning down on a circle and on an uphill slope, not a downhill.
He encouraged riders to really think about the steps and the little details, and instead of trying to force the horse to do what we want them to do, use movements and exercises that naturally help them do what we are trying to accomplish. The goal was not perfection, but to ensure that the exercises we ask the horses to do help us end up with a better horse at the end. “Don’t tell your horses NOT to do something, instead, give them something to do. SHOW them what you want them to do.” Kyle explained.
On show jumping day, each group started off with some basic pole exercises at trot and canter before moving onto some course work that included bounces, combinations, riding up and down hills, skinny jumps and lots of technical turning exercises. Each course he had the riders do required accuracy and very organized riding, and Kyle was great about pinpointing what each horse and rider needed to improve and then taking the time to really explain how to do that. Kyle included poles and technical footwork exercises not just at the beginning, but throughout the courses, to ensure horses and riders were staying organized and focused at all times.
Cross country day started very early and saw the first group warming up with the rising sun in the cool morning air. Kyle focused on using different exercises utilizing show jumps as well as terrain during each lesson to work on the education of both horse and rider. Riders warmed up over some hills and different cross country fences to practice their rhythm, galloping and balancing positions, before moving onto some exercises working on angles.
Kyle emphasized that even on cross country riders needed to still be training their horses between each fence. Then the groups moved on to some mounds where some show jumps were set up to help the riders and horses practice riding up and down terrain, and then each group progressed to adding some angled approaches to the jumps on and around the mounds as well. Kyle is a big fan of using show jumps on cross country to introduce new questions and challenges, as they are much more forgiving than a solid fence during the learning process. Riders finished at the water complex, practicing some different lines and questions that Kyle had again incorporated some show jumps into.
Kyle really took the time for each horse and rider, explaining things multiple ways until they understood, and often took more time than allotted for each group. You can tell he is very passionate and loves to share his knowledge, and he put in an incredible effort with each group from the very first in the morning, to the last group of the day.
“Knowledge is power” were some of the parting words as he wrapped each group up. He encouraged every rider to keep working hard, no matter what size their goals are, and to take every opportunity possible to keep growing and learning, and to focus on training and bettering the horse, not just winning. “Being competitive is NOT the same as being a good horseman” Kyle stressed.
Each horse and rider came away with lots of constructive criticism, encouragement and feedback, and were excited to take what they’d learned from Kyle and practice hard to keep on improving. We look forward to having Kyle back for another clinic in the future!
Huge thank yous go out to the Alberta Horse Trials Association, Alberta High Performance, Kathleen Ziegler for organizing, Canadian Eventing Development Foundation for their sponsorship, and Alberta Equestrian Federation‘s generous club funding donation.
We are so incredibly fortunate to have clinicians of this caliber come to Alberta, and are very thankful to the Alberta Equestrian Federation for their support in making this happen, and we hope to collaborate on more of these opportunities in the future!
If you aren’t a member yet, the Alberta Equestrian Federation provides many opportunities and benefits for all of their members. From clinicsand shows, insurance and coverage, to programs for the recreational rider, AEF has all your bases covered! Consider becoming a member of the Alberta Equestrian Federation! For more information see: https://www.albertaequestrian.com/membership/