Washington International Horse Show
  Gary Zook Clinic

20o6 Washington International Horse Show:
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We arrived around 10am to catch the last half of Large Pony Conformation Hunter O/F (Class 122). Of the ponies we saw, many of them were in "good" weight. Overall, it seemed that ponies were just off the pace and the lines rode long, so this caused some problems.

We also got to watch all the Pony Conformation U/S classes. They started with the smalls, which were so cute. I just wanted to take each one home with me. They split each group into two sections, judged each one, then brought back a handful from each group to judge again. We were seated right in front of the judges who weren't wasting any time. They got right down to business, and kept the classes moving very well.

There were some spectacular movers in all three classes. One stand-out was Enchanted Forest who has won the Med. Pony Conformation U/S class for the last 4 years, and it's easy to see why.

They moved quickly to the Junior Jumpers, which was the last class of the "division". Brianne Goutal had a beautiful round but had one rail, which kept her out of the jump off. Maria Schaub had a very forward and excitable horse, and also had a four fault round. Maggie Maclary went clear with Pedro. She had yet to drop a rail at this show. Hillary Dobbs put two into the jump off, as well as her sister Heather, and Sloane Coles.

The course was shorten to start with original fence #1, to #6 (diagonal vertical), to #7 (oxer), to #4b and 4c (in and out), to #5 on the far outside, around to #10.

Heather went first and posted a solid clean round. Maggie's clear rounds ended with a refusal at #6, with a tight inside turn, though with 21 points, she was overall Champion of Jr. Jumper at this year's WIHS. Lexi Reed posted a double clear and ended up second in the class. In addition, with 10 points, she tied with Heather Dobbs for Reserve Champion of Jr. Jumpers. Sloane had a gorgeous ride until her horse blew through #5 as if he never saw it.

Later in the evening, Sloane was awarded the Shalanno Style of Riding award.  This award is presented to the junior jumper rider who best represents the American style of equitation.  The recipient must also possess the characteristics of a a true sportsman. 

With a brief break and course change, they started the AHJF Hunter Challenge. They partnered a junior rider with an international jumper rider, each showing a donated horse over a hunter type course. Of each pair, the rider with the higher score went on to jump a handy hunter course. The pairs were as follows: Megan Massaro and Georgina Bloomberg, Sloane and McLain Ward, Jack Hardin Towell Jr. and Rick Skelton, Maggie and Beezie Madden, and Haylie Jayne and Michael Whitaker. Geoff Teoll and Don Stewart Jr. were announcing and commentating for the crowd. They kept it light, informative and entertaining. There were three pairs of judges set up around the ring to allow for several vantage points.

The course started off on the right lead to a vertical on the diagonal heading toward the ingate to the an outside line. Then to an oxer on the diagonal, to a roll top on the diagonal heading right for the crowd, then bending a 2-stride in and out on the outside wall.

First up was Megan, one of Don's riders, on Stiletto, a breathtakingly beautiful horse with tons of presence and scope. They posted a nice average score of 87.666. Her partner, Georgina rode Matilda, and scored a respectable 80.666. The next pair, Sloane and McLain, both had very forward and aggressive rides that paid off. Sloane with Guns N Roses matched Megan's average, and McLain came in just off with an average of 87.333 riding Jimmy Choo. Jack, on New Manhattan, had a rail, however, his partner, Rick, on Lifetime, posted the high score of the pair with an average of 83. Maggie had a beautiful, smooth ride on True Grit, though her partner, Beezie had her hands full with Once in a Lifetime, who was a little up and spooky. Leave it to the pro to make it look easy though. Beezie posted the new high score of 88.83. Haylie, however, took the lead with an average score of 91 on Saving Grace. Her partner Michael from Great Britain rode InSync, a gorgeous TB, scoring an 83.333.

The Handy course was a lot of fun, with a option at the trot fence, bending lines, and flowing, but technical turns. It started with a diagonal away from the ingate, to a single on the outside, to a diagonal brick wall, to a vertical off the rail, to a diagonal in the center of the ring on the right lead, landing and turning right to a diagonal toward the ingate, around to the left to the trot fence. Here the rider could do 1-stride, 1-stride, or bounce, bounce, to a bending line to the in and out on the outside rail.

I was disappointed that no one went for the bounce. But they each had to decide what would best show off their horse. Sloane came out and rode very aggressively, but was deep at #3, and posted a low score of 70.666. Nick laid down a beautiful course with a nice, smooth inside turn and posted an 84. Beezie's horse was still up, but put down a beautiful, flowing trip. She rode the outside of the option (1-stride, 1-stride) and faded out to get the easy 7 on the bending line to the in and out. It was a nice way to end, and the judges agreed. She posted the highest score of the 2nd round, a 91.666, giving Maggie and Beezie the win, with Sloane and McLain less than a point behind them.

We took a break for some shopping and got back just in time to catch some of the Hit and Hurry. This is where riders get points for jumping the fences until the buzzer sounds. They then have to jump one last fence to stop the clock. If they knock down a rail, they only get 1 of the 2 points.

The course included a lot of inside turns and very large oxers. Michael put down the points to beat, but Margie and HC Oscar came in and top the class with a clear, tight, accurate and fast round. Margie is a true showman! The crowd loved her.

Now we were ready for the Jumper Phase of the WIHS Equitation Final. We missed the first, Hunter Phase. For this class, there are three pairs of judges around the ring. The jumps and course are jumper in nature. In addition, there is a time allowed set, but the riders are judged as well, giving them an overall score for their round (any time penalties are subtracted from their average score).

The course was as follows: Starting on the left lead to a diagonal single in the middle of the ring toward the score board, around to the right to a skinny oxer, roll back to the right, to an airy vertical (without a ground line) on a diagonal, around to left to the triple (4a,b,c) on the outside rail (1-stride to a long 1-stride), bending line (either 6 or 7) to fence #5, an angled vertical around to a rollback to the right to the double combination, #6a,b, to a bending line in 6 strides to a big oxer on the outside rail. Then traveling on the left lead, the rider had a long gallop down to a liver pool oxer, to another long gallop around the end of the ring to fence #9, a oxer to a bending line in 5 or 6 strides to fence #10 (originally fence #1), back to the right to the skinny oxer (original fence #2) then a bending 4 strides to fence #12, a skinny oxer heading home toward the ingate.

They went in reverse order from their previous round. After the first few riders went, the time allowed was extended, but only about half of the 29 riders ended without time faults. The judges were definitely rewarding well thought-out, aggressive, forward and decisive trips. There were a few refusals, several knockdowns and hard rubs.

The scores were average until Chelsea Moss came in and had a forward ride, with only a few hard rubs, and was the first under time allowed. The judge awarded her with an average of 84. We would wait several more riders to find another round without time faults. It was Heather Dobbs with her very athletic mount to have a bold and fast ride who finally broke the trend, and posted an average of 80.333. Nick Haness posted a nice score of 95 (average 90.666), with his bold ride from fence #3 and #5 off the combo hit home with the judges . Maria, Megan, Sloane and Maggie came in under the time allowed and had scores in the low to mid 80s. Hardin came back in second place and was looking to make his move. He took a tight turn to fence #2, had a hard rub at 4c but was bold to double combination (6a,b), and had a nice gallop to 8. The judges liked it, and he now had the high score of the day with 97 (average 93.333), giving him the lead. Haylie was the last to go. She put in a fluid and forward ride, earning scores in the high 80s and low 90s, and averaged a 89.333, putting her in third, just behind Nick for this phase. Overall, however, she was in second, behind Hardin.

The evening session started with the final round of the WIHS Equitation Finals. Here, the top ten were asked back in reverse order, where they had swapped horses and jumped the same course again without the timers.

The first rider back, Heather Dobbs put in a smooth, forward ride and posted an average of 83.333, which wouldn't be bested until we got to the top five. Nick Haness came back in fourth position, had the ride on Megan's horse. He had some difficulty, as he was tight to fence #2, and the horse took a funny step at #3, had a rail at 4c. Then the horse backed way off as he came around for fence #11 (original #2) and had a refusal. Nick handled the horse well, gathered himself and finished the course on a good note. Unfortunately, this dropped him to the bottom of overall final standing. Maggie was next, and posted a high score with an average of 90.333. Haylie put in a nice round, but left some room for Hardin. On Sloane's horse, he rode forward and had a smooth, fluid round to clench the victory with a high score of 92 (average of 88.833).

It was an honor to see the emotional and classy retirement of Grappa. Grappa is THE equitation horse extraordinaire if there ever was one.  Between 1996 and 2002, Grappa took 4 different riders to a totoal of 7 National Equitation Championships.  They had a wonderful video of Grappa and a beautiful presentation center ring. Afterwards, there were some terrier races, and then we were ready for some Grand Prix jumper action.

Steve Stephens build a very technically difficult course, with lots of questions for both horse and rider. The time allowed was lengthened after the 3 initial riders. Two riders retired. Kent Farrington, after having a refusal at fence #3, and dropping a rail at #3 and #4, and Nick Skelton. Another rider was eliminated for refusal at the b portion of the triple combination. All the portions of the triple proved to be the nemesis on this course, as A came down 4 times and C came down 3 times.

The course was as follows: Starting away from the ingate over a large oxer, around the end of ring on the right lead to fence #2, another large oxer bending line (6 or 7 strides) to #3, a skinny diagonal vertical toward the ingate, around to the left to fence #4, a vertical on the outside rail, hairpin turn to the left to fence #5, an oxer, then heading right around the end of the ring, to the triple combination, fence #6a,b,c. This was right past the ingate, and they had to keep their horses going but not too forward, as it was a snug oxer, vertical, oxer. After the C portion, it was bending line to a vertical at fence #7 on a diagonal toward the score board (I swear I saw this in 4, but most rode it in 5 or 6 strides), rolling back to the left to fence #8 on the diagonal, a liver pool oxer, then bending line (5 or 6 strides) to fence #9, hairpin turn, where they had 3 strides off the rail to the double combination at fence #10a,b, a two stride, skinny vertical to an skinny oxer, bending line in 6 strides to finish over fence #11, an oxer.

As mentioned earlier, lots of riders and horses had difficulty but a few ride stood out. Candice King had super fast 4-fault round, posting a time of 71 seconds. Henry Smoulders posted the fastest clear with a time of 69.83 seconds. He did most of the adds, but he was very aggressive in his turns and the long gallops. Aaron had a beautiful and very forward ride. He came in and attacked the course beginning with fence #1. He saw the distance before he ever got on, but was just a bit unlucky and had a rail at 4c. Lauren Hough finished out the first round of 25 riders, posting the last of the 9 clear rounds.

The jump off course started with original fence #2, but in the opposite direction, a long gallop down the far side of the ring away from the ingate over a big oxer, rolling back to the left to the liverpool oxer, with 5 or 6 strides to the single on the outside (original fence #9), around to the right to the skinny double combination, hairpin turn to original fence #4, back around to the right, long gallop to original #6c.

Henry laid the time to beat early, with a breathtakingly aggressive ride to the last fence, putting in a time of 30.55, almost a full 10 seconds under the time allowed. But the excitement didn't end there. Eliza Shuford, despite having a 4 fault round, keep the crowd on the edge of their seats with an amazingly fast and beautiful ride, especially since she didn't have any stirrups after the second fence of the jump off.

Beezie came in, and posted the second fastest time with 33.50 seconds, but she had a soft rail at portion B of the double combination. She held that position, until Lauren Hough rode last. She was conservative, kept all the fences up and posted one of the two double clears of the night. The sacrifice in the time slid her into second place, placing Beezie third.

It was a great way to spend a rainy, overcast day, indoors. We got to watch and learn from the "best of the best" from around the world.

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20o6 Gary Zook Clinic Notes:
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I arrived a little late, so I came in right at the end of the first group, green horses and riders. They were working on transitions with leg yielding, followed by jumping a small crossrail along the short side of the ring at the far end, then trotting into a 2-stride in and out (crossrails) and bringing their horses back to the trot using their seat.

The next group, was made up of 5 riders. They started with flatwork, working with soft contact at the forward posting trot. He was focusing on getting the riders to be flexible in their ankle, to make it stiff, but allowing it to absorb shock and weight, thus allowing them to support their horses with their secure leg.

Then they started working across the diagonal in a figure eight at the posting trot, changing their horses bend in the center, riding inside leg to outside rein. Then he moved up to the canter on the ends, with a sitting trot across the center, still changing the horse's bend, leg yielding back to the rail, riding inside leg to outside rein.

Then back to the rail, at the sitting trot without stirrups. He encouraged the riders to be tall and long, being able to draw a line down through their shoulder, to their hip, to their heel. In order to secure their base, he had them put their crops and reins in their outside hand, and had them put their inside hand behind their back, pushing them forward without them leaning backwards. Then he had them put their inside hand on the pommel, getting them into the front of their saddle, off the "pockets of their pants". He had them do this both directions.

Then he had them tracking left, and jumping over the crossrail from the trot at the end of the ring. Again, they had their reins in their outside hand, and their inside hand behind their back, looking to the left as they landed. He was getting them to stay quiet with their upper bodies, not jumping ahead or collapsing at the hip.

Then he made a bounce (two crossrails) at the end of the ring, and had them change direction, trotting in, with and without stirrups, as well as again with reins in the outside hand with inside hand behind their backs. With their stirrups back, he had them line up along the far, long side of the ring. One at a time, he had them pick up the right lead canter, canter down on the long approach across the diagonal to a small vertical (straw bales), then to the bounce at the far end of the ring, then left, coming back to the trot, to a 2-stride in and out (2crossrails) on the long side (but he wants 3 short strides), then to a gate across the other short end of the ring.

He focused on keeping the canter, no matter the lead or what happened at the previous jump (ie knocked rail, etc); keeping your horse going forward as well as staying very quiet with the upper body. Also, in the in and out, he wanted them to bring their horses back and fit 3 strides in, but to keep the impulsion, thus their leg on, and riding them into their hand. Then he had them reverse the exercise, but cantering the in and out, and putting in two strides. Here he wanted to see them ride forward, and still not collapse or move their upper bodies, but let their legs and their horses do all the work.

Then he put together a long but beautiful course, 18 jumping efforts in all… They started with the long approach downhill to the straw bale, vertical on the diagonal off the right lead, to the bounce, to the in and out (in two strides), to the gate, to a brick wall on the diagonal, bending the line back to the right to the straw bales (the first jump) in five strides, to the bounce, to the diagonal (uphill) rolltop (backwards), back to the right, to a straw bale vertical (on diagonal) in 6 strides, then around the gate at the far end, to a right rollback to the gate, back to the straw bale vertical (downhill), turning left to the rolltop, to the bounce, to the straw bale vertical (uphill, originally jump 1), then circling around him at the trot with their horse on the inside bend.

Everyone did very well! Since the riders were no longer moving all over their horse's backs and staying off their forehands, the horses really improved, becoming more balanced, riding off their rider's leg, and jumping more square and round.

The last groups was big, with 8 riders!! He focused on the same ideas and principles. Solidifying their leg but getting their heels flexible, then he got them looking ahead of themselves, keeping their eyes up. As they were working on changing directions across the diagonal and getting their horses on their outside rein with their inside leg, he would have them use opening/leading rein for some of the greener horses. Then he had them halt, and "walk their horses backwards" again, using their leg to back them, not just pulling them back with their reins. Then he continued to previous jumping exercises as the 2nd group.

He had some good "Zookisms" that I will keep and use in the future, "Horses do everything better without us." and "One body position, not 100", I love both of those.

Again, thanks to the folks at Bridlewood Farms, Gary Zook and all the riders!!

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