Fredericks Forum

By: Horse Deals

Fredericks Forum
Clayton, seen here receiving his Armada dish for five Badminton completions, is happy with the event’s new qualification system

Clayton explains the benefit of frog kicks and reveals that there’s plenty of girl power on
the Fredericks yard

If you hear any aspiring event riders complaining that they’ve been made to do impressions of a kicking frog, I’m probably the one to blame. As I write this, I’ve just got back from clinics in Australia and Hong Kong and have been introducing participants to one of my favourite exercises.

Wherever I’m teaching, I find riders struggling to cope with the same problems. Inevitably, their position is at the heart of it — many people complain that their horse is too strong and it comes down to the way they’re sitting. They lean too far forwards, with their legs too far back and, as a result, have no core strength.

Unfortunately, adopting a foetal position is a natural reaction if you get worried, as is pulling back at an onward bound horse. You can guarantee that a rider who pulls on the reins has been pulled forwards, so is also gripping with the leg. The horse is being told to "stop" and "go" at the same time and is understandably confused.

That’s where my frog kicks come in. If you take your legs up and away from the saddle, the only way you can balance is to engage your seat bones and sit on your seat — which is also the only way you can be stable, balanced and independent of the reins.

Another common problem, at all levels, is that of riders who have been told to use their legs and think this means nagging at their horses. You shouldn’t need to tell a horse to keep moving with every stride. Think about what happens if someone nags you verbally. After a while, you start to ignore it and that’s exactly what a horse does if you use your legs all the time.

I get a lot out of teaching and it was great that people who came to the clinics with specific problems told me they felt much more confident. I suspect I’m quite a tough teacher, though I don’t mean I’m rude to people or push them beyond their limits — the only time I get a bit peeved is if I’ve asked them four times to try something and haven’t got a reaction!

In particular, teaching less experienced riders makes you focus on the basics, which are so important whatever level you’re competing at or how highly schooled your horse. If you have problems, you have to take a step back, take a deep breath and then work forwards again. You can’t force a horse through a problem or a competition grade.

I’ve come home to find that the change in entry qualification for Badminton has met with mixed reactions from riders. The emphasis is now on points gained at three-day events rather than one-day CIC results and, as with any qualification system, you can’t please all the people all
the time.

Now, horses and riders must have finished in the top 50% of a CCI**** or the top 25% of a CCI***. To some extent, Badminton’s director Hugh Thomas is playing a numbers game; he says that the increase in the number of entries each year means an equivalent increase in the length of the waiting list and he’s aiming to remove those whose form doesn’t really justify a place there.

Overall, I don’t think it’s going to cause any problems, though I accept that the occasional partnership might miss out. It will definitely benefit the very good horses who have perhaps had a year out through injury. Riders will no longer have to chase points to the same extent to get there, which is as it should be.

In the past few weeks, Headley Britannia’s embryo transfer foals by the Olympic show jumping stallion Jaguar Mail have been backed. Marley (Britannia’s Mail) was the first and it’s really exciting to see them at this stage. We’ve syndicated Marley and his sister Little Britannia and have just a few shares left — so if you fancy being part of eventing history, get in touch!

Lucinda is really excited about her other mare, Prada, after they finished on their dressage score to win their CCI** section at Houghton Hall. Not only is Prada a great back-up to Brit at this stage of her career, but she’s got the potential to be as good.

I’ve got some great new girl power, too, in the form of the Bockmanns’ lovely mare Be My Guest. Plans for her are in the pipeline, so I’ll update you next time.

Pictures by Kit Houghton/Mitsubushi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and Optimal Photography