Stockley Farm, Calne, Wiltshire 15th June 2021
Held by Helen Martin
On arrival, the first impressions of the facilities were excellent and professional combined with friendliness and a sense that nothing was too much trouble. The day was organised with 5 groups of 4 riders with a lunch/discussion time with Lucinda, this meant a full day from 8am-6pm for our world class coach in what proved to be a hot/cloudless day.
From the start of each session, Lucinda shared her vast wealth of knowledge and balanced this with a depth of enquiry for every combination that she encountered. Emphasis on understanding experience of both horse and rider, their expectations and breeding of the 4 legged friends. Careful notes were taken, tack adjusted, changed and removed and ear-pieces given to each rider. The communication pod ensured that the audience could hear everything the riders and coach were discussing, this made it feel very inclusive and informative to the on-foot participants. Her car was a treasure trove with bits, tack etc for every eventuality, think Mary Poppins!
The groups followed a similar format, reassuring to those who came early, to watch the session beforehand, to glean a light on what the lesson would involve. Each session developed and adapted seamlessly in accordance with the presenting issues with many combinations finding the first exercise quite challenging.
Initially, Lucinda asked each group to ride up a small bank and down in walk, with a skinny raised pole before and after the banks that proved very spooky to the majority of horses. The constraint was to remain in walk and repeat the exercise until it was executed correctly. Each exercise was broken into stages, once accomplished in walk, riders performed the same exercise in trot and canter and did the combination in both directions A,B,C,D,E elements then reversed E –A. It was interesting to see the reactions of both horses and riders when they realised that they would not be doing anything else unless they managed this task! bThis appeared to save time and was logical in approach.
Time-wasting and performing endless circles were strictly corrected, with the discipline of halting in a straight line, a fair distance away from the final jumping effort encouraged throughout the 90 minutes.
The extensive jumping field provided variety, opportunity to link different combinations and was very educational with ditches, corners, gates, water to name a few.
Lucinda was clear in her system and generous in her delivery of the importance of developing intuition within the horse. The importance of allowing them time to think, look and learn for themselves, what was expected. This was balanced and explicitly acknowledged the counter importance of the horse accepting and obediently doing what was asking of them by the rider. This example was cantering the entire sequence of jumping efforts if asked to and repeating until the horse (and the rider!) understood that they needed to keep the canter.
Key Take Home Messages
The importance of being balanced behind the T13 vertebrae of the horse
Plugging into the saddle to stay secure and be ready for any misfortune – study Tony McCoy style
Have a Start/Stop button
Picture a see–saw with the horse being able to look, stay uphill as a consequence of staying slightly upright with a good length of rein so you don’t get pulled forward.
Change bits regularly to find the right one, borrowing can be a cost saving way and encourages variety but warned with examples of buying poor quality tack. The visual image of bits breaking was an important and strong message
Invisible wire from legs to horses’ eyes so that they can focus on the question
A direct link from hands to the brain and the understanding of horses’ ability to pick up on the slightest of vibrations, both positive and negative. Hence, the ability to control our own minds, repetition of tasks to minimise fear and not joining in the game when the horse is panicking, but to encourage the horse’s desire to want to jump the fence.
The relaxed and polished manner of coaching was both extremely encouraging and positive without losing the element of old school corrections where appropriate. The corrections were quick, well timed, fair and with explanations. These boundaries provided a learning environment where riders strived for positive affirmation and Lucinda was equally quick to praise, use humour and recognise where positive change was seen.
Her talk at lunch tackled the difficult subject of fatalities within the sport and the consequences of using mechanical equipment that meant that fences no longer had give in them and that findings verbally discussed, suggests that this could be a major contributor to horse rotations. On a lighter note the story of the U25 Winner of Bicton, Bubby Upton had gone to William F.P to ask advice as she had never ridden such a hilly course. “Keep your eyes on your horse and not on your watch and don’t bolt up the hills” he replied. It is encouraging to hear such sportsmanship and the follow up was a conversation with Helen who shared a conversation with me about William asking her how she would ride a combination if she had a second chance, “ride on 5 not 4”, which he did and made it look easy.
Lucinda talked of the influence of Dick Stilwell, Pat Burgess, George Morris and Caprilli as coaches and the brilliance of Ginny Elliot and Mark Todd as riders to name a few.
So, I wind up this report with the appreciation of having such an iconic horsewoman in this country, not only willing to share such valuable insight out in the field but still ahead of the game with her online academy. Lucinda has been a mentor, coach, rider and inspiration to so many eventers and on yesterday’s training event, is still one of the best trainers in the world. Everyone I spoke to said it had been a fantastic experience and personally it will be forever a wonderful memory that just happened to fall on my birthday.
Report by Victoria Gallantree