Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Day 2 of the 2009 Coaching Symposium with George Morris, Ingrid Klimke, and David O' Connor.

Today was gymnasics and XC and the legendary George Morris joined the fun and games.

The day started with GM and David schooling horses over stadium fences. Focus on getting them responsive and relaxed before ever facing a fence and then on getting the “right” jump each time. GM suggested that he always likes to warm-up for stadium over little oxers to get the horses stretching over the fences.

It was also pointed out that horses, particularly those destined for eventing, need to be able to focus on the jump they’re jumping even when there’s something scary on the landing side. This can be trained through the use of poles on the landing side of the fence, gymnastics, or even just “scary things” on the landing side (in this case it was another jump).


Jumping is all about basics: (from GM)
- does the horse go forward off the leg? And is the horse *thinking* forward? (not necessarily going fast!)
- active paces vs fast paces (need to know and be able to feel the difference)
- is horse straight?
- Is horse correctly through? The poll should be the highest point
- remember the training pyramid – remember collection is last for a reason!
- must have solid dressage to make stad work
- GM feels Impulsion should be step one on the training pyramid
- interesting discussion where Ingrid tried to support how this could be possible while never actually agreeing with it.

Discussion about German system vs NA system.
- German system far more collected/controlled.
- NA system more forward/free
o More likely to teach horse to think
o Down side is the horse must be solidly focused

Finding Distances:

- Aiming for a “spot” is detrimental. The horse can jump from any number of spots if you set up the rest.
- Three things required for the right distance: Balance, Rhythm, Trust
- “If you don’t know, sit still and wait.”
- Look at the highest point of the jump
- Make sure to go with the horse. Let go of the horse.

Requirements for Jumping:
- Pace/speed
- Path (What line? Are you jumping straight? On an angle? Etc)
- Distance (this is an aquired sense)
- Balance
- Impulsion

GM: “Don’t go to war without your weapons”
- aka always wear spurs and carry crop
- codicil – train your leg to only use spur intentionally

Lateral Gymnastic:
- off a bending line. Vertical, tight 5 to oxer, 7 to vert
- “precision is only good if it’s consistent”
- several attempts to get the right striding (“make it happen”). Then switch direction and repeat.
- Approach first turn off R, three fences on L, turn R on landing from last fence. Change direction and repeat.

Two things that matter:
- horse’s reaction to the leg
- horse’s reaction to the hand

An exercise to teach the half-halt and obedience:
- little gymnastic (half of one X, 2 short strides to vert, 1 normal stride to half of X)
- canter in, when coach drops hand, halt.
- First attempt halt is before gymnastic, afterwards somewhere inside the gymnastic
- When horses later tried to do the gymnastic (tricky striding) at normal sized fences all were able to reasonably easily

Random jumper notes:
- if riding a TB should be in very light seat
- “self carriage is the holy grail of sport” If you have to sit hard, lift hands, etc the horse is not in self carriage
- turns should be used to rebalance, not to change pace
- lots of turns and reverse turns should be used in the warmup to prepare for turns on course.


Introduce skinnies at the beginning. Courses becoming more technical, this is rapidly becoming a critical part of training from the lowest level.
- using a tiny fence with guide poles on takeoff and landing
- Gradually build in height and then put poles on ground before eventually taking them away
- When introducing them to skinnies on XC, start with big wings on either side of the fence. Then move wings out 5’ and eventually remove entirely.

Land and go:
- if you lose 1 second off each of 30 fences, you’re half a minute too slow
- “you must have fun together after the jump”

Turing Exercise:
- important because you need to be able to hold a line on a curve
- figure 8 over two cavalletti (perpendicular to each other to make a corner)
- big loops to start and then gradually shrink the circles
- bridge reins to help encourage turning shoulder and independent hands

Random XC Notes:
- when you bring your body up to balance before the jump make sure your hands don’t come up too
- “don’t interrupt with your hands.”
- train the horse to understand that the shift in your body means something is about to happen. Make sure then that *every* time you move your body something is going to happen. Otherwise you train the horse to ignore you.
- 10 strides out of the jump you should know if the jump will work. Not necessarily seeing the distance, but know if you have the right canter, is the horse focused on its job, etc etc
- When schooling stadium always pick where specifically on the fence (about 1ft wide spot) you’re going to jump and insist on it. So when the jump is only that wide you’re still ok.
- Focus on the landing (David’s exercise was to draw a circle in the dirt and say “land in the circle). Forces the rider to stay in the moment during the landing and first few strides rather than “oh thank god we survived!”
- Horse should land from every fence and ask “what’s next?”. Train this by landing from every fence asking a question.


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