January 2020, Addington.
What an inspiring two days. Corinne Bracken and Adam Kemp complemented each other, both in their methodology and in their delivery. For two days we felt totally torn between which coach to watch! The discussion section held on Tuesday was a brilliant idea and gave us a good insight to both coaches’ philosophy and experience.
Overwhelmingly they spoke with a combination of common sense and passion. The discussion was fantastic – we all could have listened to them talk for hours. It was both refreshing and reassuring to hear two exceptional coaches discuss with vehemence how the welfare of the horse must be at the forefront of all training and not trying to sell their ‘way’ as being right. Adam discussed how the dressage horse isn’t able to ‘see’ what was coming, whereas the showjumper could see, and explained how this influenced coaching. Both were supportive of basic training, and spoke about how today’s rider seemed to miss out on ‘Horsemanship’ and were often unable to handle their horses on the ground, and were competing in some areas above their capability. They said that many riders could benefit from thinking like the horse, understanding why their horses would react or shy, for example.
Corinne used circles and 90 degree turns, ‘pole gym’ and guide rails during the warm up stage of each session, regardless of experience, improving stability and rideability and a favourite of ours, riding in between the oxers, or bounce fences before jumping them, which encourage riders to hold their position and leg aid, to help straightness.
The use of a smaller fences towards the end of the arena, was explained. Encouraging the horse to ‘energise’ the canter by engaging the hind leg, with a caveat, that with a tired horse it would kill the canter. Corinne explained the use of plenty of oxers, being the only obstacle to truly work to horse’s core muscles, improving technique.
And how refreshing to hear plenty of humour in the sessions. So many quotes we remembered, because the delivery was fun.
Corinne – “you can’t collect a crooked horse, collection only happens with energy, you can only go fast or slow if they are crooked, but remember in the scales of training, what comes before collection?………. Absolutely Everything.”
“Never underestimate the size of the fence in training, big fences are often used for lack of technique” “Always striving for ‘Rideability’” “Often the more you chase the horse, the more they’ll back off.”
Adam’s analogies of our sport – “You wouldn’t make the tennis racket and then learn the game, or build the Formula 1 car or a Sailing boat and compete when they aren’t quite finished.”
Leg into hand – “There’s no such thing as a one-armed accordion player” and “use your legs before you do it, not after you’ve messed up”.
Adam spoke about how we use language to get to the correct understanding; for example, in the Piaffe work, he would describe the movement being ‘in place’ rather than ‘on the spot’.
He used a whole range of exercises to work and improve each horse and rider – and explained that the Grand Prix test was the best example of asking for “On and Back” throughout an entire test.
There are mountains of notes that we took, too many to mention, but from a spectator’s point of view, it was good to witness progression and horses with a varied experience and ability. Corinne & Adam were both superb at relaying information and including spectators and study groups in each session.
Both coaches appreciated being able to work with knowledgeable and able riders and spectators on these two days too – they both said they really enjoyed it! Next year’s coaches have a tough act to follow. But we are all enthused and are very much looking forward to next year’s Annual Course.
Kirsty Fontaine-Henley BHSI, Hayley Newman BHSI, Lowri Powell BHSL5 E&C, Rachelle Purnell. BHS IIT.