This past weekend was a fun one, I got to audit a Buck Davidson clinic at Pine Hill! Jeannette signed up to ride, and I ended up driving down to watch all of the stadium day on Saturday with one of my students. We left town before dark and arrived just before the first group started riding.
Each group started by discussing their current state and goals before they warmed up with some general w/t/c. The first exercise was then presented: Buck told them to ride in a straight line, with their eyes locked on a light pole beside the arena. Then they were supposed to turn left or right before the fence. He discussed perfectly straight at the trot. The horses were ready to go, but the riders made improvements at the trot before moving to the canter. Buck was particular about where and which lead and continuing to ride with eyes locked on the light pole. The hoof prints made a very long flat figure eight. He made clear suggestions for improvement to each rider.
After warming up on the flat, the riders were instructed to trot into a gymnastic exercise. There was a placing pole, then a cross rail. Buck instructed riders to trot in, balance with a half halt approximately two strides from the placing pole, then gallop for one stride after the cross rail before making a sharp turn alternatively left and right. The next step was to add an oxer one long stride from the cross rail followed by five ten-foot canter poles and another oxer, then 3 1/2 strides to a narrow brick filler/wall.
There were additional complications added to make an entire course! I didn’t get a photo, but the riders would turn right and balance in the turn, then jump an oxer, then six strides to a one stride. After this line, they would turn right and come back through the grid or turn very sharply left and reapproach. After the second time through the grid, they would turn left and jump a vertical then a four stride bending line to an eight stride bending line to the one stride. Ok. This is crazy to explain, so I made you a diagram with the potential lines:
Don’t I make beautiful diagrams? Anyways. He added different lines to modify the difficulty. Different rider levels jumped different heights, but all groups jumped the same combinations.
Jeannette and Panda appeared in the second to last group. They looked pretty good, Panda is such a great sport. They chipped in a couple of times when they had a miscommunication, but for the most part it looked effortless (Youtube videos)! Jeannette got to log some more experience points adjusting Panda’s stride, especially longer, aka almost galloping!
As the day progressed, some themes jumped out from the riders. First, straightness was paramount. The half halt before the gymnastic was key, as the course required a forward canter (the canter poles were set at 10 feet). Buck really hit hard on directing the horse with your body through half halfs and moving one’s hips to indicate direction. Having a plan was a bigger problem as the levels progressed downward.
Buck also discussed training horses and how it was important to ask the question clearly so the horse would get the correct answer. Several riders rode the course differently in each repetition, Buck pointed out the horse would have difficulty knowing how to go through the grid correctly if the rider lacked consistency. Some of the riders had problems with horses being too excitable; the solution was still forward. Buck stressed the importance of riding up into the bridle. He explained very clearly how each rider could improve their round, and he was especially good at watching a round while discussing with the previous rider.
All in all, I’d say it was fantastic way to spend a Saturday. I got to learn a lot from watching the different challenges different riders had, and I was inspired by the exercises. I definitely feel like I have a renewed appreciation for the importance of body control. Now I just need to get my body under control…