Friday, November 21, 2014

David O'Connor at The Equine Affaire

As mentioned in my last post, I was lucky enough to sit in on one of David O'Connor's clinics at Equine Affaire. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of my own because I am a dingbat so I will suffice to break up my text with a slew of pics from the Google.
David and Custom Made win gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Image from:
The theme of the weekend was 'Rider Responsibility' which include direction, speed, rhythm, balance, and timing. I only attended the Sunday afternoon session, though reading those summaries I wish I had been able to make it to one of the flat work sessions as well. I'll expand a little bit on Eventing Nation's article about the Sunday afternoon jumping session. 

First, David had the riders demonstrate three of the four positions that one uses during cross country: the galloping position, the preparation position, and the jumping position (the fourth position is for going down a bank, which he humorously pointed out would be very difficult to demonstrate in the indoor arena we were in.) 

Galloping position: Crotch almost over the pommel of the saddle, knees somewhat straight (I think he said ~160 degree angle). Most of the riders placed their hands just above the horse's withers. Upper body close to the horse's neck. 
An unknown rider with a nice galloping position (because I couldn't find any of David from the side) Image from:
The idea of this position is to stay quiet, so that when you change your position to the preparation position, the horse pays attention and knows that something is going to happen. If you have a "noisy" galloping position - if you're flopping around up there - then the horse isn't going to be able to tell when you're changing your position and won't know to get ready for something to happen. Eventually, you want your horse to seek the jumps him or herself and when the horse feels your position shift, they'll eventually learn that means a jump is coming. 

Preparation position: The upper body sits up taller and the hands come off the horses neck. This should happen about 6 strides away from the jump.
A blurry David' O'Conner and Custom Made preparing for a jump in Sydney. Image from:
Jumping position: Hips come back, leg angle closes, release. Wait for the horse's jump (nothing new here)
David O'Connor and The Native at Fair Hill in 2001. Image from:
David had the demo riders demonstrate these positions over a large oxer, emphasizing that it was the riders responsibility to choose the appropriate speed to come at the jump.

The next exercise emphasized straightness. David set up 4 pairs of flower boxes one stride apart and had be riders canter through them. To make it more difficult, he took away one flower box from each pair (making each little jump only 4 feet wide).

He then showed the audience how he introduces ditches to young horses - with a tarp in place of a liverpool (a black one makes it even more ditch-like!) and a small vertical over the tarp. This helps keep both the horse and the rider's eyes looking up. After once over the small ditch jump, he added a large vertical one stride after the ditch, again helping to keep the horse and rider's eyes up and looking ahead. Finally, he made the series more challenging by adding an additional large vertical one stride before the ditch, to make a three jump combination.
Okay, so this isn't David - It's Karen O'Connor and Teddy of course! Image from: 
The clinic finished up by jumping corners. David made sure to mention to always start small, as there's a lot you can still work on without adding height. One this that he emphasized here was keeping the horse straight after the jump and not allowing the horse to drift to a certain side.

Other things of note:

  • David said that your horse should learn to be looking for the fences him or herself. One thing that teaches them to do this is the shifting of your weight from the galloping position to the preparation position. Doing it (correctly) enough times will teach your horse that this change in your position means there's a jump coming up.
  • He also mentioned that when schooling an XC combination he always starts with the second (or last) fence in the series, taking the horse over it a few times before then doing the fence before it. Since the horse is then already familiar with the second fence, he'll be tuned in to it and looking for it after you then go over the first fence in the combination.
  • Another point I thought was interesting was how he handled run outs. Instead of circling the horse to come at the jump again, he had the rider stop the horse as soon as possible and then back up far enough to try the jump again. This happened once during the skinny flower box exercise and another time at the "ditch" to vertical combination. In the case of the combination, the rider backed the horse up as much as she could (which wasn't much, only about a stride length) and David put one side of the vertical down so she could pop the horse over the low end.
So there you have my review! I'm definitely glad I got to watch and I feel like I learned quite a bit. A lot of this info may be old news to many of you that have had formal training much for frequently that myself, but it's always good to hear from the pros!

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1 comment:

  1. So jealous that you got to audit a David O'Connor clinic!