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My lessons with Oliver Townend

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  • My lessons with Oliver Townend

    So a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to ride in a clinic with Oliver Townend. I opted to take my older more experienced horse to the clinic because I don't believe in brining young problem horses to the clinic because clinicians tend to fix you so you can fix the horse. It was my first lesson on my new mare and it was the best lesson I have ever had. We started off by doing LOTS of flatwork to get the horses going in balance. First we worked on getting all of our horses forward and in-front of our leg by doing lots of lengthening and shortening. Then we worked on letting our horses find their OWN balance. This was accomplished through exercises such as counter canter and "giving" one rein then the other then both to ensure that we are not the ones balancing the horse. Another thing I really liked is his philosophy on letting the horse make a mistake and learn from it rather than trying to fix it before it happens. For, example when doing counter canter when the horse starts to lose balance don't jump in with half-halts and leg to rebalance them just let them break, regain their balance by themselves then try agin. At first it seems that you are going no where then little by little the horse starts to find it's own balance without the rider holding their hand through the work.

    Then came the jumping! We started out cantering or trotting over a single x-rail. It was small so I cantered up in a pokey canter saw a stride and rode up to it... WRONG! He told me to do it again and when I think I'm forward enough "kick it up another notch" then a few strides out sit up (which I do anyway but a few hunter children would continue on perched forward in their half-seat) and DO NOT LOOK FOR A DISTANCE instead just keep your stride "level" and no matter where you end up the horse should be able to get over the fence because it was presented in a proper forward canter.

    We then moved on to xc and did the same sort of exercises over some small inviting jumps. I really had to work on not dictating a distance and just letting it happen. He explained that it is important that your horse does not rely on you to see a distance and especially in practice let them make mistakes so they can learn how to think for themselves. Another thing I liked is stance that point of xc is just "to get the horse between the flags." I think that too many people have forgot this in their efforts to be safe which is getting confused with pretty. You can't always be pretty! That's why it is important for your horse to have it's own mind on not rely on it's rider/babysitter to get it out of trouble. This mentality (aka fifth leg) is developed in practice where you can let them make mistakes then in shows you can step in and help out a bit if you see something in say stadium that will save you a rail.
    After we did some more single fences we moved on to ditches. He had us all walk over the ditch because he thinks it is very important for a horse to be able to walk calmly over a ditch so it is not made out to be a big deal. We all walked over the ditch several times. He told us not to use ANY leg unless the horse goes to step back or turn. The horse should be able to walk a ditch without relying on the rider to kick it over.
    Then we did a half coffin where we all worked on balance and letting the horse figure it out on its own. After that we did some drops into water and of course we walked off using the same technique as at the ditch. We also did a line of 5 or so "galloping fences" and we worked on keeping the exact same "gallop" between fences. He emphasized that the pace should not decrease or increase near the fence and that all we should have to do for set up is lift our upper bodies (he was big on horses responding to your upper body rather than your leg and hands) and keep the final few strides equal to the ones long before the fence. He explained that too many people are saying that people like him are only winning competitions because they go fast and make time. This is not dangerous because they make the time not riding like yahoos and out of balance but instead they save time because their horses don't need to be "set up" for the fence a mile back. I'm sure most of you knew that though . After that we did a corner and same thing we didn't change much just got going forward, found a GOOD line and sat up then over we went.

    The next day I was lucky enough to have a private jumping lesson and we worked on the same things only more specific to me. We got my horse going much more forward and got me to stop counting myself into the fence (I tend to count outloud from like 5 strides out ) and instead rely on my canter and my horses brain to get me over the fence! This clinic was by far the BEST clinic I have ever attended. For me Oliver really simplified jumping and flatwork and taught me to quit being such a dictator and let my horse figure it out rather than me messing around trying to fix it. After this clinic it is apparent to me why he is one of the TOP riders in the world. And despite all of his success he had no big ego!!!!

    Money well spent

    Sorry, if I made some spelling or grammatical errors...

  • #2
    Cool! Sounds like you had fun. Where was it?

    Comment


    • #3
      Nice

      Very insightful. Thank you. I suppose if we never let them figure it out they never will, sort of speak. What a good philosophy!!
      Forward is good

      Comment


      • #4
        wow, sounds like you had a GREAT time--thanks for sharing!

        And I have to say that as I read, I kept thinking "Jimmy Wofford says that!"....and he's GOD, so you had a fantastic clinic!
        --Becky in TX
        Clinic Blogs and Rolex Blogs
        She who throws dirt is losing ground.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by luise View Post
          Cool! Sounds like you had fun. Where was it?
          Dreamcrest

          Comment


          • #6
            Very cool, thanks for sharing.

            What state or province/country was it in?

            Comment


            • #7
              Dreamcrest is in Port Perry, Ontario.

              http://www.dreamcrest.com/

              I was there too and I am trying to figure out who you are....hmmm. Dark Bay gelding?

              I second everything said...Oli was fantastic.

              One thing I would like to mention is that the kid on the black pony got her cage rattled at the corner and I was impressed with how he delt with it. I have had/seen many trainers who would have drilled her, tears and all, until she got it right but he recognized that that was pushing it for her (that is a maxed Training level corner on an uphill approach and the kid and the pony compete at Entry). He got her confidence back and left her grinning.

              I hope he and Lucy come back again, they were both lovely.
              "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Yeah... I chose not to write too much on the training corner with entry girl and pony but I liked the way you explained how he dealt with that. And no I was not on the dark bay gelding. I was the kid on the light bay mare with the star. Were you on a chestnut mare? Or were you a spectator?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Shrunk "N" Da Wash View Post
                  Yeah... I chose not to write too much on the training corner with entry girl and pony but I liked the way you explained how he dealt with that. And no I was not on the dark bay gelding. I was the kid on the light bay mare with the star. Were you on a chestnut mare? Or were you a spectator?
                  To be fair, I don't think he knew the level of experience (or lack of) for that pair. Should he have asked? Should they have offered? I don't know but he did a great job either way.

                  Ah, you are from North Bay aren't you? Nice mare. No, I was not on the chestnut mare but I wish! I believe OT tried to buy her.....very nice horse. I rode in the Sunday Training level clinic and was spectating the day you rode.

                  Anyways, I think he was great and despite all that has been said about the guy around here I think he is a respectable horseman. He can ride, he can teach and I have seen no evidence of him wrecking horses yet so how he chooses to run his business doesn't concern me. I am very glad that I had the opportunity.
                  "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I always enjoy hearing the "philosophy" or "theories" behind riding. You did a great job explaining Oliver's, thanks for sharing. I'd love to ride with him myself someday!
                    Katie Ruppel & Yellow Rose Eventing *Website* & *Facebook*
                    Email for Questions/Clinics/Sponsorship

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      That sounds like a similar philosophy to Lucinda Green's. It works really well for lower level riders, because it teaches the rider to stay out of the horses way so he can hop around the 3'3'' fences and below.

                      The problem with that is that riders get used to being a passenger and move up the levels, and start doing really well at training(or prelim) and think they are ready to move up. They THINK they can do the upper levels because they have done so well at the lower levels. For example: in show jumping if you jump in too quiet and do nothing to help your horse get out of a related distance, you get stuck on a half stride, which makes it really difficult for your horse to jump(esp. when the fences are bigger) after a while he'll probably start stopping or charging the fences. Either way, i wish the trainers would make it clear that yes, they let the horse do his job and doesnt take aot of time to set up in front of fences....BUT Oli Townend is an expert and has a very good eye so he is adjusting constantly to the situation. All UL riders have to help their horses out. A little bit of dictating is essential, because sometimes horses get themselves into dangerous situations and it's our job to get them out.

                      at least, thats my take on it....

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ForTheLoveOfIt View Post
                        That sounds like a similar philosophy to Lucinda Green's. It works really well for lower level riders, because it teaches the rider to stay out of the horses way so he can hop around the 3'3'' fences and below.

                        The problem with that is that riders get used to being a passenger and move up the levels, and start doing really well at training(or prelim) and think they are ready to move up. They THINK they can do the upper levels because they have done so well at the lower levels. For example: in show jumping if you jump in too quiet and do nothing to help your horse get out of a related distance, you get stuck on a half stride, which makes it really difficult for your horse to jump(esp. when the fences are bigger) after a while he'll probably start stopping or charging the fences. Either way, i wish the trainers would make it clear that yes, they let the horse do his job and doesnt take aot of time to set up in front of fences....BUT Oli Townend is an expert and has a very good eye so he is adjusting constantly to the situation. All UL riders have to help their horses out. A little bit of dictating is essential, because sometimes horses get themselves into dangerous situations and it's our job to get them out.

                        at least, thats my take on it....
                        I really like this take on "stay out of the horses way" philosophy. When I first began taking lessons with my trainer,he emphasized the importance of letting the horse pick his distance, all I had to do was pick the fence and the speed then stay in balance. This taught my horse not to rely so much upon me, and it gave me confidence that my horse could jump without my help. As we continued to progress, he began giving us exercises that required me to change the stride, say riding a four stride line in four then in five then in six then back to four. He also began to require me to have the correct distance to every fence, not just a safe distance, but as close to perfect as was obtainable. This required small alterations of the horses stride on my part. I now compete a horse at Novice and a horse at Intermediate- when I go out on course with my novice horse, I generally try to stay out of his way. With the intermediate horse, I do have to somewhat set him up for fences, especially the more technical questions. If you have to alter your horses stride frequently at Novice, however, the difference is going to be too big to make up at the Upper Levels.

                        Comment

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