Ex­er­cises to Bet­ter the Horse

Olympian Kent Far­ring­ton shares a se­ries of gym­nas­tics dur­ing the 12th an­nual Ge­orge H. Mor­ris Horse­mas­ter­ship Train­ing Ses­sion.

Practical Horseman - - Contents - By Jo­ce­lyn Pierce Pho­tos by Amy K. Dra­goo

Asiz­able group of au­di­tors, bun­dled in parkas and grip­ping steam­ing cups of cof­fee in the un­sea­son­ably cool south­ern Florida morn­ing, gath­ered be­fore 8 a.m. to see the world No.1-ranked jumper. Kent Far­ring­ton stood be­fore the crowd in dark sun­glasses and a hat, ex­ud­ing con­fi­dence and giv­ing off an air of star qual­ity. He an­swered ques­tions calmly and com­pletely as one hand af­ter an­other shot up to ask about ev­ery­thing from train­ing meth­ods to com­pe­ti­tion sched­ules to build­ing con­fi­dence in his mounts.

The im­promptu Q & A ses­sion was part of the 12th an­nual Ge­orge H. Mor­ris Horse­mas­ter­ship Train­ing Ses­sion—a multiday clinic de­signed to iden­tify and de­velop the next gen­er­a­tion of U.S. Eques­trian Team tal­ent—in Welling­ton. The 2016 Olympic sil­ver medal­ist, who as a kid be­gan rid­ing at a Chicago car­riage sta­ble, talked of the end­less hours of hard work and shared an­other of his secrets to suc­cess—study­ing other rid­ers. He ex­plained that when he got the rare op­por­tu­nity to go to big­ger com­pe­ti­tions he would stand by the warm-up ring and watch.

“I would know what equip­ment they were us­ing. What bri­dle they had on. What kind of warm-up they were do­ing,” he rat­tled off. “Were they wear­ing spurs? Did they carry a stick? How short were their stir­rups? Did they fin­ish with an oxer or a ver­ti­cal? How many fences would they jump? I would no­tice ev­ery­thing. So by do­ing that, I was gain­ing a lot of knowl­edge and free lessons, as I call it.”

Kent’s be­lief in the im­por­tance of at­ten­tion to de­tail and the power of ob­ser­va­tion was ev­i­dent through­out his gym­nas­tics mas­ter­class as he asked the 12 par­tic­i­pants to study not only their own horses and think about what would make them bet­ter in­di­vid­u­ally, but also to take ad­van­tage of free lessons by watch­ing other rid­ers work through prob­lems with their horses.

The Warm-Up

Kent en­cour­aged rid­ers to take their time in the warm-up and likened it to hu­man fitness, em­pha­siz­ing the im­por­tance of let­ting the horse stretch to be­come loose while feel­ing for any sound­ness is­sues be­fore ask­ing the horse for more.

“I ride a lot off of feel­ing,” Kent stated. “It’s im­por­tant for me to feel what is right for the horse and not a mat­ter of ro­botic rou­tine. Go with what feels right for that par­tic­u­lar horse on that

Par­tic­i­pants in the Ge­orge H. Mor­ris Horse­mas­ter­ship Train­ing Ses­sion set jumps while clin­i­cian Kent Far­ring­ton gave his demon­stra­tion from the sad­dle.

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