I am a "no name" rider on a "no name" horse, but for four hours on Sunday, Dec. 19, I was able to participate in an exhilarating and informative clinic with National Show Hunter Hall of Fame rider and trainer and USEF hunter judge, Linda Hough.
The day dawned dark and stormy, and clinic participants braved the tempestuous weather to make their way to the dry enclave of the Diamond Hills indoor ring in Livermore, Calif. Seven of us participated in the clinic. We rode for two hours in the morning, broke for lunch and rode again for two hours in the afternoon.
Linda had us work on the flat, critiqued our equitation individually and had us adjust our horses’ frames, strides and pace. She explained to us what a hunter judge would be looking for in the hack and what an equitation judge would be looking for out of our flat work.
“The key to jumping is good flatwork,” Linda emphasized many times during the clinic. She wanted us to soften our hands, our elbows and our backs. “Be a softer ride, do not overreact.”
Once we moved on from flat work, we worked over small fences and cavaletti to establish a nice pace. She stressed rhythm and planning, following a track and really utilizing the corners of the arena to balance and prepare for the next fence.
When Linda saw good horsemanship she pointed it out and stressed its importance to us. I really admired her emphasis that we are "in it for the long haul" for our horses. There is no need to be perfect in a clinic. Do your best and learn from the experience, and you will gain positively for you and your partner.
Linda was quiet, but stern. She assessed our skill level and our horses' comfort level and customized the exercises to each of us, ensuring that our horses weren’t over faced but sufficiently challenged. Four of the horses were young and inexperienced. Linda said it was critical that the young horses be forward and straight—not easy considering the wind and torrential rain, which she understood. The more seasoned horses needed to be adjustable and relaxed.
I felt honored to be allowed this chance to ride with Linda Hough and came away with a new perspective about my horse and my riding. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend working with Linda to other riders if they get the chance, and I look forward to April 2011, because Linda announced that her daughter, Lauren Hough will then be giving a clinic at the same facility.