We are so lucky to have these training days at our disposal and I know we all found Darrell very clear and easy to understand and he produced amazing consistency in his methods throughout the day. His main ethos is ‘to give the horse a better ridden experience’ and as a trainer ‘to say the right thing at the right time’ – his Badminton tale ( too much would be lost in translation to repeat here ) had me chuckling for days.
Controlled forward movement with rhythm and bend in all paces was how we began the mornings jumping session. Using the rhythm to allow the horse to remain in balance and stay calm.
We had a collection of green horses, David Sheerin on a barely jumped 4 yr old, Ann Bostock on a unshown jumped point2pointer, Cheryl Bezants on an explosive bay 5yr old and Tasha De Grave on a coloured mare. They began jumping by walking to a low upright with just a trot stride on the way in. Darrell was very careful to allow the horses to find their own balance and pat the ground and jump. All the horses quickly improved in their technique. They progressed to putting some dog legs and curved fences together and some lines were quite challenging! By using less rein and more guidance through looking, all the horses jumped exceptionally well and really did start to find their own balance.
Next group. David, Alec Miles and Cheryl Bezants all on 5yr olds. With this group Darrell used an exercise to highlight the importance of straightness and flexion working together to ride across the middle of the school on the E B line in walk, flex, canter and turn on to the inner track and jump either a fence to the left or right. This was by no mean easy but afterwards the horses jumped well. It was starting to be apparent that Darrell very much uses method of using exercises to improve the rider and the horse we certainly picked up some good ones.
Third group consisted of David again, not even with the decency to be out of puff, Cheryl, Annette Christie and Nicole Biggs all on the ‘big guns’. All the horses competing at BE Novice or above. The school had been set up previously with a course of related fences, curves and dog legs and everybody warmed up putting fences together and getting the horses to work in a good forward rhythm using the corners to set the horses up and keeping the hand soft and body in balance. Our grand finale consisted of a ‘normal’ round followed by using the same fences, this time knocking off 10 strides.
As you would expect the gauntlet was down! It was interesting to watch from the side-lines, especially as we were counting strides not time. David won it but not without hot completion from Cheryl!
After lunch we had Jo Ivimey on her lovely dressage horse competing at medium. A sharp character, who was very tense to start with. Darrell again used sequence of exercises to settle him. He started with counter canter, trot, counter canter to get the horse to let go in the back and be more on the aid which worked well. We were lucky enough to have List One judge Nereide Goodman join the session and we discussed the way of going from a judge’s point of view, particularly the lateral work and then the stretch in tests and what one should be looking for. Darrell brought up the interesting point that the horse was built very uphill and so allowance should be made for his conformation especially at the lower levels.
Mandy Holloway was next up on the lovely Bob. Bob needed to work on flexion and lateral suppleness so Mandy was set the task of using counter flexion in a tear drop exercise and direct flexion throughout shallow loops. Once he was softer and through Darrell worked with them on some changes which certainly had improved expression!
Amanda Kruger mounted on a big coloured horse who showed the typical problem we face daily of being on the riders left hand, a little strung out and not balanced enough to be manoverable. Once again Darrell got them doing patterns and exercises to get him straighter and to encourage Amanda to ride him evenly as well as moving him forward and back. He was very switched on and much more together at the end, highlighting that it’s the exercise that helps the rider help the horse rather than riding manually.
Last up Rachel Levy on a horse who was previously a Para horse now working at Medium. Rachel’s horse started a little inflexible and although an attractive horse he was typical of those horses that look almost round enough but not really through. Rachel had to work hard on the patterns and lateral work to get him softer and it really looked like they were becoming much more of a partnership by the end of the session.
We had a thoroughly interesting, informative and fun day and although it was reasonably well supported, so many more people could have benefited from Darrell’s experience and exercises.
A big thank you to Darrell, Wellington and of course David for organising such a great day. There will be another in the spring – I will definitely be there!
Report written by Liza Faircloth