This is the first time that I have ridden at an F&I Course and both myself and my horse thoroughly enjoyed it. The first day was all about the fundamentals, which after all are the base to everything. We worked in particular on straightness to create more power.
We started in walk; weaving in and out of the jumps, and then proceeded in trot, working on transitions between walk, trot and halt, also rein back. This very simple exercise had many uses; helping the horses to settle, giving both horse and rider focus, improving softness and response to the riders hands legs. As well as helping the suppleness, also allowing Yogi to watch and assess us and the horses.
Focus was also given to our riding positions, Yogi made the point that it is very easy as riders and trainers to focus on the horse and what he is doing. He stressed that whatever level we ride or coach, in dressage or jumping, we need to give more focus to the rider, their position in the saddle and how they influence the horse, to allow the horse to achieve his best performance. We riders are a big part of how the horse performs.
The canter work started on a larger circle around the fences; asking the horses to stay on the circle line, with their legs as if on a railway track but able to turn their heads to the left or the right to gain suppleness. Then we cantered around the whole arena on a large rectangle with four corners and four straight lines, focusing on straightness within the horses’ body to counteract any crookedness within the canter.
With a full set of show jumps in the lovely large arena, Yogi sent us off to pop a few of the small fences from trot, cantering away from the fence, then coming back to trot and jumping another. This helped to encourage the horses to jump in a round manner right from the start.
We then proceeded to canter several lines of varying related distances, turning diagonally across the school, working on straightness around the corner from the approach, along the line of the related distances, to landing and riding away from the fences. Yogi kept the jumps quite small which allowed us to really focus on improving. This went well and we were all noticing how as we focused on our straightness the horses going better and better.
We finished the session as we started weaving in and out of the fences in trot, with a few transitions between walk and trot, to help cool the horses down.
On the second day, it was very noticeable how all the horses and riders came out and warmed up showing great improvement; my horse certainly felt much more uphill right from the moment I picked up the contact. As riders we had a better plan, with clearer intentions giving the horses a clearer understanding of what was required of them. As Yogi had pointed out, horses are creatures of habit and are very good at learning what is required of them, if we always ride them the way we want them to go, by remembering the fundamentals; always riding clear upward and downward transitions, good turns and straight lines they will always work well.
After working the horses in, similar to day one, we jumped a cross pole from a steady rhythmic canter, followed by an upright to get the horses coming up off the ground in a good round way. Then we started to work our way around the lovely flowing course that Yogi had built, a few jumps at a time, being sure to get the clear lines and straightness that we were focusing on the day before.
We then finished by jumping the whole 14 fence course, which flowed well. Yogi gave me some great tips to help my very novice horse to learn to pick his front feet up over the fences and make a better shape, which through time and practice will help us gain consistent clear rounds.
Having arrived at the course on a horse that was very green over poles, I felt that we made great headway; it was good to make the most of the lovely big arena and jumps at Addington. As a rider and a coach I came away with fresh ideas and inspiration. Both my horse and I are going to be practicing straightness and precision to help our continued improvement.
Thank you Yogi and a big thank you to Ann for organizing it all, I am looking forward to next year.
by Karen Whiston BHSI