I must admit I went to Wellington with a tinge of disappointment having pulled out of my jumping slot, scheduled for the afternoon, only the day before but, I told myself it would still be good for me to go and watch Richard coach and how right I was!!!

With three sessions in the morning and the same in the afternoon there was a great cross section of horses and riders for Richard to work with.

Much praise was given to Wellington’s school horses used by Gemma Porter-Rawlings and Susie Seymour who, by their own admittance, were a little rusty in the jumping department! Both had super confidence boosting sessions on lovely willing horses.

Richard did a great job of involving those spectating which made things run on a little but was much appreciated. Feedback was always delivered in a very positive way and his manner put even the most anxious combinations at ease.

Throughout all his sessions, including the lunge jumping demo over lunch, he stuck to the same key principles, with improving the way of going the main aim. To achieve this, focus was centred around straightness and self carriage. This involved getting horses to “buy in” to the way of going; taking responsibility as they came round the corner to set up for the fence. He repeated at a number of points through the day, that as riders and trainers we should not be afraid to “break a few eggs in order to make an omelette”. I took this to mean that we shouldn’t be afraid of letting mistakes happen in order to improve and advance the way of going.  This was encompassed perfectly in a simple exercise all the groups did to start with. Richard set a fence up on the midline and asked riders for a neat near right angle turn to it off the long side, letting the horse come to the fence then asking for a transition to walk or halt before reaching the indoor wall on the other side and making their turn. Although some struggled to begin with, and at points didn’t look pretty, all combinations managed to master the exercise within a couple of attempts.  From here Richard moved on to jumping short courses. The preparatory exercise really seemed to help improve corner riding and control. He did point out that jumping exercises (like the one described) and gridwork tended to be ridden at a canter speed of approximately 9mph whereas courses should be ridden at a more positive pace of around 12mph.

The concept of the horse “buying in” was carried on through the fantastic loose jumping demo we were treated to over lunch. We watched three very different young horses get to grips with the concept and quickly grow in confidence. Richard stressed the importance of clear instruction to both the horse and to those assisting him (of which there were a further two or three helpers).

The 20x40m indoor was continuously taped at eye level about five metres in from the track. Richard went on to use two fences (approx. 23 feet apart). For all three horses; he built up the first fence from poles on the ground to an upright with groundline and then built a second upright, and made it into a spread to finish.

All horses showed an aptitude for jumping and were rewarded with food each time they were halted. The final horse (supplied by Helen Cole), responded particularly well to the loose jumping, benefitting from firm encouragement through the corner before the fence and the positive reinforcement of the food afterwards.

It was nice to hear Richard stress the importance of not doing too much and that regular repetition was the key to improvement and progression.

The afternoon sessions, with more advanced combinations, also introduced the idea of turning horses into “weightlifters”, especially those with quite open frames. This entailed getting the horses to push off their hocks more.

Tom Searle had a very busy day, admitting in his fifth of six lessons that he was beginning to feel a little tired. Personally, I would have happily put his lovely young grey and Kylie Roddy’s super coloured in my boot and taken them home with me! Much praise was also bestowed on Nette Christey’s beautiful grey campaigner who was a delight to see put through his paces.

Lastly, the final group of the day, Tom, David and Helen Cole were a treat to watch. There was a friendly level of banter both between Richard and the riders and from the stands, which made for a very open, relaxed and interactive atmosphere. Clearly all three had trained with Richard before on these horses. Still, the same principles were upheld and reinforced with the result being three combinations that showed real skill and effortless style. I’m sure they all have very exciting event seasons ahead of them this year and I wish them all well.

Report by Bryony Wilson

Event date 10th March 2015