The learning continues! The day after Anne Kursinski's flatwork portion of the training session, Beezie Madden schooled the riders through gymnastics. Again, she stressed having your horse in front of your leg, with an active hind end, on the outside rein. Her advice was
"Leg to hand, create the energy, relax when he gives in."
Her exercises focused on adjustability and rideability. She started with a little flatwork to warm-up, including lots of transitions. Focus on not losing balance or frame in your transitions. Use position to keep the horse on the bit, and to make transitions easier on horse and rider. In downward transitions from the canter to the halt for instance, Beezie Madden preached shoulders behind the hips for a softer transition. She even showed a rider how easily she could pull them out of position when they were in two-point versus when their shoulders were behind their hips and their heels were down.
Before they began jumping, Beezie Madden also talked about how to handle a dull or unresponsive horse. If you don't get the response you want, she encouraged riders to give a little jab with their spur. You don't want to constantly keep your leg on, as that will actually make the horse more unresponsive. It teaches them to ignore the leg. Remember the progression of aids: calf, spur, jab, cluck, stick. Ask and take the leg away. The goal is a reactive horse that stays in front of the leg.
Beezie Madden's gymnastics course is available on USEF Network. She started with a ground pole exercise of three poles, each three strides apart. She had riders adjust the number of strides between the poles, 3 to 3, then 3 to 4 and 4 to 3, and finally 3 to 5 and 5 to 3. She said, like myself,
"I could make a whole day out of those rails on the ground"
but moving on. Riders also had to navigate a curving one-stride to one-stride exercise, lines that forced them to adjust their stride down the line, and water elements. Beezie Madden had them halt straight at the end of many exercises to stop the horse from anticipating the turn. If horses were spooky, they were schooled off the inside leg pushing them towards what scared them.
"Give them something to do other than spook."
Through all of the jumping exercises, Beezie Madden stressed the importance when training a horse to put them on the rail to help you find the line to your jumps. As for the jumps themselves,
"Work with the rhythm and wait for the jump to come to you."
On the final day, the riders competed against each other in a Nations Cup style event. Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden, and Anne Kursinski each coached a team of four riders. Laura Kraut individually critiqued each rider after their trip, breaking down their entire round. One thing she repeated often was that riders needed more leg.
"Get going somewhere and ride it out."
She praised the riders that came in with the pace to stay under the time allowed. It all went back to having your horse in front of your leg. She also instructed to adjust by feeling. Don't look down at your hands to adjust your reins. Develop feel to become a better rider.
Anne Kursinski's team won the Nations Cup, but something could be learned from each and every trip. I am so grateful that USEF Network broadcasts this event, as well as similar events from this year and years past. The knowledge is out there if you want it. Go get it.