January 24, 2008 — I had hoped to write every day, but my schedule has been just too packed! I know I’ll be leaving out so, so much and may even mix up some timelines, so I apologize in advance.
We kicked off yesterday morning with John teaching a bunch of lessons. One exercise that he did I particularly liked. It involved figure eighting over a single fence, and trying to make each turn back less strides than the one before. Beezie managed to get it down from starting around 20 strides to only 6. During a later lesson, John was talking about the proper way to ride a course. One comment that stood out there was the idea that the first step you land off of a fence is the first stride of your approach to the next fence. Basically, there is no time to sit there and wait for things to happen.
After that, it was off to the showgrounds. It was the first day they had horses showing at Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). I got to see a few horses go in the 1.30 meter class and the 7- and 8-year-old division. All of the horses were well-behaved and before I knew it, most of the day was gone.
We went back to the farm, and I got to take Judgement out on a walk around the trails in Grand Prix Village. He’s so handsome! Once the schedule was done up for the next day, we quickly went home to change before we went to the Danny Marks talk that was part of the George Morris Horsemastership clinic. Danny showed pictures of some of the old and current great show jumpers both over fences and standing without tack. He then pointed out different attributes that he feels go into the conformation of a good jumper. He talked about the importance of a strong front end to help the horse slam off the ground and then showed a frame-by-frame picture of a horse’s take off. This really helped demonstrate how the different body structures come into play. When we got home, it was off to bed for me!
This morning, I joined John in watching the first session of the George Morris clinic. It was some flatwork followed by lateral gymnastic work. To start their jumping work, George had the riders canter over a series of angled cavaletti rails. There were only three strides in between the rails, but they were set at opposite 45-degree angles. The riders all did the exercise well, and you could see the horses really supple up after a few times through. When they switched to a course involving lots of turns to fences, things got a bit more complicated. There were two fences set at an angle, so the inside distance was about 10 feet different than the outside distance. Most of the horses wanted to do one stride here and some were very reluctant to do the two strides. From the clinic, we went back to the barn to watch a few horses jump. Then it was back to the showgrounds to watch Beezie in the WEF class on the International Field and a few other horses in some other jumper classes.
I know I mentioned the other day that I was really interested to see how they school their horses before classes. Just like everything else they do, it’s straightforward and detail oriented. They seem to jump just enough fences to make sure the horse is ready to go and ideally no more. After things wound down at the show, I got to take Judgement out for another tour around the neighborhood. It’s always amazing to me how settled experienced show horses are with so much going on around them–other horses, golf carts, cars, tractors, people, scooters, hedges, lawnmowers… the list goes on and on. Back at the farm I watched one more lesson and helped set the course for tomorrow morning. It’s going to involve some bending lines, and I’m interested to see how it rides.
Katie Faraone, 27, spent a week with John and Beezie Madden as a grand-prize winner of the 2007 Week with the Maddens Contest, sponsored by Bates Saddles, Practical Horseman and the Syracuse Invitational Tournament. Katie started riding when she was 11 and showing jumpers at 15. She works in sales for a staffing company in Boston and rides several times a week.