Learning at EQUITANA USA: Inside Phillip Dutton’s Clinic on Jumping with Green Horses

Dual Olympic Gold Medalist Phillip Dutton teaches the nuances of equestrian competition at EQUITANA USA. Photo courtesy of EQUITANA USA.

There’s never a bad time to take part in an opportunity to learn, and when eventer Kelly Jarvis saw that Phillip Dutton was teaching a clinic at Equitana USA last weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park, she jumped at the chance. She got even more than she bargained for when she found herself as, for the first part of the session at least, she was the sole participant on the first day of the clinic. Kelly brought her 7-year-old off-track Thoroughbred, Watson, to tackle a session focused on introducing jumping to green horses, and she took a few minutes to fill us in on some of the main takeaways from an incredible learning experience that even saw Phillip get on Watson for a part of the lesson.

With jumping a green horse, being forward is the number one priority, if they’re not forward at every jump, it quickly becomes unsafe.

Leg on means GO! Watson was kicking at my leg when we were doing flat work which caused issues almost immediately when we started jumping. Phillip was able to keep his leg on strong enough to get the message across that leg on means go and bucking wasn’t going to take that leg away.

When there are holes in your training, they will eventually shine through and it’s best to find the holes and patch them sooner rather than later.

Even with green horses, it’s important to start working on adjustability in your horse’s stride early on so you have options when you go to ask for transitions. We practiced this on the flat because forward doesn’t always mean running.

Unless you have a horse that bolts or rushes jumps, always canter away from the jump and go straight rather than turning immediately.

If your horse chooses to run out to the left, you immediately turn right and vice versa so you don’t agree with your horse that running out is okay.

When Phillip Dutton asks you if he can hop on your horse, you always say yes! It was an excellent learning opportunity for the both of us. My next ride was completely different, he was immediately responsive to my leg and our transitions happened the first time I asked rather than at the fourth or fifth ask.

“Overall it was such a great experience and opportunity that I plan to sign up for every chance I get in the future,” Kelly said. “The atmosphere, the education, and getting to ride in the famous Rolex arena was an unforgettable experience that couldn’t have been possible without Equitana.”