1000’s of equestrian followers packed into Addington in late January 2023 to take pleasure in “For One Evening Solely” with eventing world primary Oliver Townend and Olympic showjumping legend Geoff Billington. It was the primary time this double act had come collectively for a night lecture demo in a while, and their reputation exhibits no indicators of waning because it was an entire promote out.
Whether or not spectators had been in search of ideas to enhance their using, their horse’s method of going, or simply an entertaining evening out, this dead-pan comedy duo didn’t disappoint with banter aplenty. So what did we be taught alongside the way in which?
1. Whereas using a rising five-year-old named Elton (so named as a result of “he seems like he’s acquired Elton John’s glasses on”) and concentrating on discovering “rhythm and stability, rhythm and stability”, Geoff shared that the perfect recommendation he’s ever had from his mate David Broome was to “preserve your stomach according to the entrance of the saddle otherwise you’ll wobble off”.
2. When Elton acquired a bit smitten by his work, Geoff demonstrated how he teaches horses to half halt off his higher physique, so he doesn’t have to drag. “The sooner he goes, the extra I lean again as a part of the half halt,” he defined, “so he learns to control his tempo off my higher physique. Maintain practising that till he is aware of that sign. The earlier he comes again, the earlier you’ll be able to journey forwards.”
3. Not blessed with lengthy legs (Geoff described his personal as stumps), Geoff desires his horses to go ahead “with a contact of the leg, then after I sit again he stops”. He additionally trains the horse to maneuver simply away from every leg off a lightweight contact – not brute drive. He emphasised the necessity to “journey the again finish to the entrance finish – don’t pull the entrance finish again to you.”
4. In the meantime Oliver was centered on keep good “rhythm and stability” always on Caunton Stud’s rising five-year-old gray stallion Diacondrik over trotting and canter poles, earlier than shifting on to leaping a small fence. After he tapped out a rail on one event, Oliver got here again round to the fence with the identical “good stage stride”, and this time the horse made a brilliant bounce, having learnt from his earlier mistake. “This horse’s mind is gorgeous,” Oliver stated with a smile.
5. Oliver reminded the viewers that whereas repetition is essential to younger horses’ studying, the petrol tank can run empty in a short time, so it’s additionally necessary to offer them loads of breaks.
6. Shifting on to his subsequent horse, a really engaging and “thrilling” rising six-year-old bay mare, Hialisca De Takam, who was the four-year-old French eventing champion earlier than being purchased by Caunton Stud, Oliver reminded the viewers of the significance of getting the horses working simply for you. Working via loads of transitions, Oliver stated they need to be “as straightforward as altering the channel in your TV”.
7. Oliver defined that the rationale skilled riders can work a whole lot of horses in at some point is as a result of the riders aren’t working bodily onerous. They practice their horses to be responsive with “a number of gear adjustments, forwards and again, concentrating on their response to the leg”.
8. Geoff described his second journey Doris, a rising six-year-old who has jumped 22 double clears as far as “as cautious as a nudist over a barbed wire fence”. He demonstrated how he teaches a horse to land on a specific leg from a fence: “look the place you’re going, bend the neck and drop your exterior leg behind the girth”.
9. Geoff additionally shared some recommendation he learnt from the nice coach Lars Sederholm: “Experience the again finish to the entrance, preserve your palms collectively and the power goes out via the bridle – then you are able to do something”.
10. Discussing what makes a great horse nice, the pair agreed there are various elements and that “you don’t actually understand how good they’re till they’re doing it”. Oliver stated he used to fall off his excellent five-star horse Ballaghmor Class “day by day”, but the horse went on to a lot success on the highest stage. Geoff stated that horses must have expertise, a terrific thoughts, they usually have to remain sound, including: “They must be taught to settle with all of the travelling, staying in unusual stables week after week – it’s not nearly having a giant bounce”.
11. Whereas remaining centered on preserving a easy, stage stride to their fences, the aggressive nature of each riders got here out whereas using two associated distances. They demonstrated each horses’ adjustability by including a stride into the 5 stride distance from a double of uprights to an oxer, after which becoming further strides down a seven-stride distance between an upright and an oxer, with as much as 11 being achieved.
12. Geoff’s younger son Alfie seems set to observe in his well-known father’s footsteps, ought to he want to take action. He and his beautiful little gray pony delighted spectators forward of the interval – “He’s extra fashionable than daddy already,” quipped Oliver.
13. The riders purchased out their large weapons for the ultimate a part of the night. Geoff rode his grand prix horse Simply Particular, who he described as “an entire gentleman, who travels fortunately on the truck subsequent to Doris”, whereas Oliver had Caunton Stud’s well-liked stallion Consolation (pictured prime). Each are breeding stallions, though Simply Particular combines sport with breeding, whereas Consolation is stored so busy together with his breeding duties that he’s had little or no competitors mileage. No matter that, Consolation confirmed how naturally straightforward he discovered his work, whether or not that was on the flat or over the fences, which had gone as much as a substantial dimension. After leaping round, Oliver admitted with a smile: “That is the kind of horse that makes me need to change jobs” – we are able to see why!
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