While riders who were invited to the USHJA Emerging Athletes National Level Clinic were treated to lessons with several top-of-the-line clinicians, including Mindy Bower and Dr. Midge Leitch, the highlight of the program, Jan. 8-10 in Reno, Nev., was the opportunity to ride with Olympic gold medalist Peter Wylde.
“I was really nervous to start, but he was really nice and has a very positive way of teaching,” said Arden Cone, Landrum, S.C. “I like that his exercises really focused on having the horse give to pressure and overlapped with what Mindy Bower did in the ground work session and a lot of what Melanie said in the first clinic. I like when concepts connect like that.”
Wylde had two goals for the weekend, one of which was to get the riders familiar with horses they had never ridden before.
“The borrowed horses were the most challenging, some people are at a disadvantage. The committee has enough horsemanship sense to weigh some of that. They’ve been given enough time to see the course, get to know the horses, practice a little, so they can be accustomed to their horse. Not knowing the horse is the hardest part,” said Wylde.
For the most part, the riders handled their borrowed horses admirably, but a few of the riders had a little bit of trouble when first starting out. One rider, Molly Osier, had a horse that was sticky at the liverpool. Wylde rode the horse, and demonstrated part of his own training philosophy.
“What I don’t like is thrashing, yelling, kicking, flapping arms,” said Wylde. “I think you undo a lot of ride-ability you establish on the flat when you make a fuss. You lose the horses mind. You have to be firm and strong, but you have to do it in a precise way. I just closed my leg and rode strong, and it convinced the horse it needed to go. The school I gave him regained his ride-ability.”
Watching Wylde ride gave Osier a better idea of how to ride her horse, and she used his methods to successfully jump him over the daunting jump.
“It was a really good experience [to ride with Wylde], he has a lot of knowledge and talent, and I think everyone who rides look up to him,” said Osier, Marion, Mass. “He really finessed [my horse], so I tried to emulate him when I got back on. I tried to be a lot more forward and smoother instead of being rough and just trying to get my horse over it. I’m a really visual person, so when I see someone do something, I can watch and understand and apply that to my own riding.”
Wylde also spoke to the students about the importance of establishing good quality flatwork in order to improve their jumping.
“I try to understand and analyze every horse and then try in the most patient of ways to educate a horse to the best of his ability,” said Wylde. “We’re excellent in our country with analyzing courses and riding for the distances. We are not good at the dressage aspect of our jumping. I would love to see people spending more time on the flat, so that instead of gunning for the long one, they could hold for the deep distance and still make it look good. For me, I would like to see U.S. riders have a little more dressage in their jumping than we do now.”
Wylde’s second goal for the weekend was to encourage riders to pursue their goals to the utmost.
“I think that the most important thing that I would like to connect to these kids is that I want them to set goals for themselves, and I want them to know they can achieve something great in their lives, and that they can do that in riding,” said Wylde. “I want them to believe that this is a great sport and there are some great rewards in this sport. They’re going to learn some things about riding, but for me, the more important thing is I want to encourage them to have hope and really do great things with their riding.
While Wylde is based in Germany, he hopes to continue to be involved with the EAP and loves the idea and concept of the program.
“I’m really happy that Dover has been a part of this and been really supportive of this program,” said Wylde. “We at the Wylde Collection and Dover Saddlery wanted to be behind this and support this in the best way we could.
“I think it’s great to encourage and identify talent for the future. I hope that as the years go on, every kid in America will want to do [this program],” said Wylde. “It’s not often that young kids get to relate one-on-one with an Olympic gold medalist. It’s good for them to connect with someone like me, find out I’m real and normal and inspire them that they can do the same thing. That’s such an essential thing for important athletes to connect with future stars and get them to realize that these dreams are attainable, and that they can achieve something that’s really great.”