VHSA 2007 Judge's Clinic
  Katie Monahan Prudent Clinic

VHSA 2007 Judge's Clinic - Jan 6 at Deep Run:
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There was a very nice turnout; I think almost every seat was full. It was well catered with coffee and snacks in the morning, and a nice soup, salad, and sandwich at lunchtime. The judges (Ms. Meredith McLaughlin, Ms. Tracy Mullen, Mrs. Betty Oare, and Mr. Jimmy Lee) were sitting a table at the front of the room, to the left of the projection screen. The day was broken up into two sessions. The morning was for Hunters, and the afternoon session was dedicated to Equitation. The focus of the clinic was to assist the competitor by letting them know what a judge is looking for during each trip.

They started with video footage of the top 8 riders from the 2nd round of this year's Hunter Classic at WEF. It was a class of stars: Sandy Ferrell on Late Entry (formerly owned by Betty Oare), Louise Serio on Costello, Teri Kessler on Pavarotti, Hardin Towell on Take Away and Blink, Addison Phillips on Who's on First and Socrates, and Pamela Polk on Fiyero. We watched each video, and then went back and discussed each round individually.

Overall, they really focus in on the jump (scope, loftiness, bascule), pace (quality of canter, forward, balanced), rhythm (consistency), and flow of the course (being swept away when watching, "not writing anything down"). Although a good hunter can be hard to define, this is what they are looking for, and they know it when they see it. Mr. Lee has a acronym he uses on his card... NAH (Not-A-Hunter). Mr. Lee also made a comment about riders landing in a heap after the jump, and that this isn't correct. Not only is it distracting, it works against the horse.  

Hunter circles were also discussed. Often times a judge is finishing out the card for the trip preceding yours, while you are begining your trip. However, at this time, the judge wants to see a workmanlike hunter circle. Use this time well to prepare for your trip and remember that you are already giving the judge an initial impression of you and your horse. You do not have to trot, and you definitely don't need to do a sitting trot if you don't do it well. Depending on the judge, you can trot, then walk, then canter without penalty, though there are those who will penalize you, so they recommend that you know your judge.

Take Home on Hunter Over Fences:
  • It is a horse show, so SHOW your HORSE - highlight the good, cover up the bad!
  • Quality of the JUMP.
  • Quality of the CANTER.
  • Consistency of PACE - Light to little contact vs. heavy contact is preferred.
After lunch, they showed the 2nd round, Jumper Phase, of the 2006 WIHS Equitation Finals. It was nice because I was at the 2006 WIHS and took extensive notes. So, I remembered most of the rounds fairly well.

They really liked Sloane Coles. They felt she had nice basics, solid leg and base. Mr. Lee really liked Maria Schaub as well, but didn't care of her "posting at the cater" which he feels is becoming an epidemic in the BigEq. This is NOT what they are looking for. To paraphrase a comment of Mr. Lee's:  'usually when someone copies another person, they don't copy the good things, just the bad!'

There was a brief discussion about crest vs. automatic release, but none of the judges seemed bothered by all of the BigEq riders using a "crest release". They did reiterate that you should only show what you are good at, so do NOT do a sitting trot if it isn't perfect!!

Take home on Equitation:
  • It is a horse show, so SHOW your HORSE - highlight the good, cover up the bad!
  • Have a plan and execute it!
  • Basics are KEY: legs, base, upper body!
  • Ride to WIN - take a risk!
Finally, they quickly went over under saddle classes, where they showed a section of Hunter Pleasure (Junior Riders) from the VHSA Associate Finals this past year.

Take home on HUS/Pleasure:
  • It is a horse show, SHOW you HORSE - highlight the good, cover up the bad!
  • Light contact - shows horse can accept the bit.
  • In pleasure, your horse should look like a pleasure to ride.
  • The WALK is important. Practice it!
  • CANTER is the #1 gait on the flat.
  • Do NOT overdue the trot - avoiding pumping the leg!

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Katie Monahan Prudent Clinic at Columbia Horse Center :
Saturday, April 28th

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Take Home Messages of the day:
  • Impulsion = Energy
  • Riding well = Discipline of self and of horse
  • Learn (and practice) adjusting your stirrup CORRECTLY.
  • Work your horse evenly both directions.
  • Do EVERYTHING the RIGHT way ALL the time.
  • Even quick horses NEED leg.
  • Ride with closed fingers. Stiff hands start in the shoulders.
  • Flexion of your horses head NEVER comes from pulling on the rein, but from creating IMPULSION from their haunches.

Session I (8 riders):
To begin the session, Katie Monahan Prudent lined the riders up along the short side, and learned each of their names. She feels it is very important to have a good student-teacher relationship. She then told them a few key characteristics in a good student:
  • MUST Listen
  • React quickly
  • TRY, TRY, TRY (even if you are unsuccessful)
At that point, she had them go out and track right in a circle at the walk with two horse lengths between each of them. They were to maintain that distance and not pass or circle. She was “spot checking” each rider, picking up the good and bad. During this time, she requested that one of the riders adjust her stirrups. The student started by taking her foot out of the stirrup, and Katie immediately had everyone stop so she could go over the proper way to adjust stirrups. She then had them practice and said that they should be able to do this at the walk, trot and canter!!

She then had them pick up the posting trot. She had the riders lengthen and shorten the trot, focusing on maintaining the same TEMPO but lengthening or shortening the stride of the horse, not just going faster or slower.

“soft” rider. Then, one at a time, she had them go to the extended posting trot. She then had them pick up their stirrups one at a time.

Once they had their stirrups back, she went on to work on bending. To keep their horses from being over bent, she reminded them to NOT forget about their outside rein during the inside bend. Using an inside, indirect rein (hand to opposite hip), you should just be able to see their inside eye.

On to the canter… One at a time, they cantered to the end of the line. She focused on a clean downward transition, sitting and supporting the downward transition.

They started jumping over a small gymnastics along the long side of the arena. It was an in and out, trot pole to cross rail to a small gate. To begin, she took the crossrail down and laid it on the ground. She had them trot in and halt on a STRAIGHT line. She talked about releases. The CREST release is good for beginners to intermediate riders. But for more advanced riders, they can progress to an automatic release, maintaining contact and a straight line from the bit to hand to elbow. Then she put the crossrail back up, and had them go through the gymnastics again. Focusing on maintaining tempo, and stopping on the line. Several riders had difficulty halting. Their horses drifted right, as they were anticipating the right hand turn. She pointed out that these riders are SOFT, and they need to stick to the plan and be firm.

She then got on a student’s chestnut mare that was quick. It was funny, because the rider said, “She gets fast if you touch her mouth.” Katie said, “That doesn’t make ANY sense, so I should get on.” The mare would get quick and raise her head to try and evade contact. Katie kept consistent light contact, kept the mare straight, and MAINTAINED the tempo no matter what the mare did. She worked the mare back and forth over the in and out and the mare improved quickly.

Then she put together a small course… The riders were to trot into the in and out, halt on the straight line, pick up the right lead canter, turn right up the diagonal, jump the gate, roll back to the oxer in the outside line, land and continuing cantering to the left to the other diagonal line (gate to brush box) in 5 strides. She focused on them riding a pre-planed track and made sure they made the appropriate changes based on the previous ride. She also mentioned that if they needed to make adjustments to their horse’s stride based on how they jump in, then they MUST do it immediately in the 1st-2nd stride. Do NOT wait!

She then divided them into hunters and jumpers. She had the jumper riders do an inside turn on the roll back, and also encouraged them to sit more on the turns for balancing the horse. The hunter riders were to maintain 2pt throughout most if not all of the course.

Session II (8-9 riders):
She started the second session the same way as the first. Lining the riders up, learned their names, and then started them on the circle, reviewing their position; stressing form is function, and practicing good horsemanship.

She had them pick up the posting trot, to a figure eight, working on bending their horse to the inside. Then she had them do a sitting trot one at a time across the diagonal and had them leg yield to the outside rail. They then did this at the canter, in both directions. After this, they started over the single vertical gate, landed and went to a sitting trot and pushed (leg yielded) them into the corner.

Next she had them go over a small course. They started off on the left lead up the diagonal line (vertical to oxer) in five strides, around the short end of the ring where the riders would roll off the rail about a quarter of the way down to a roll top set at a diagonal, land, and turn left to the outside line in five strides. She wanted the riders to execute accurate turns, establish a pace and stick with it, but hold them out and not let them cut or fall in. She said, “Good riding is analyzing.”

Session III (8 riders):
Katie began this session as she did the first two. She highlighted that one must have an adjustable horse that can be lengthened, shortened and maintained. Many of us were not born being able to see a spot, but it can be learned with practice and an adjustable horse.

She had them go into a posting trot and brought up riding on the bit. It is about creating energy (or impulsion) and then regulating it. She put out two poles about 36 ft apart on one side of the circle, and continued to have them trot over them. She then had them practice leg yielding down the center line. Back out on the circle, she had them canter (freely) over the poles beginning on the left lead; each rider got either 3 or 4 strides. She then had them all do it in 3, and then in 4. She wanted these riders to STRETCH themselves, to change their bad habits to GOOD habits. Depending on if 3 or 4 strides were easier for the each rider; she had them do the opposite.

She had them start over the in and out from the left lead, landing and then collecting and sitting trot through the corner. Then she selected a few of them to come through and put 2 strides in the in and out.

For their course, she had them start with the outside line off the left lead in 5 strides. Then to the first of the diagonals off the left lead, rolling back to the right around the in and out of the triple, around to the triple (4 strides to an in and out), land, and track to the left, around to the roll top, to a bending 5 strides to the in and out along the long side.

Session IV (8 riders):
Session IV started off in a similar fashion to the others. Again, she had them track in a circle at the walk with two horse lengths between each of them. It seemed that this group had the hardest time with this, even having a small pile up in one of the corners.

She then moved on to the posting trot, sitting trot, leg yielding, haunches in, haunches out. She feels that lateral movements are very important for jumpers; it stretches them, their hamstrings, backs, etc.

Next, she had the riders line up along the long side of the ring. From the corner, she had them pick up the walk through the corner, pick up the left lead along the short end, then trot to the far corner, and counter canter down the far long side. All the riders executed this well.

Next, she had them walk the corner, then pick up the counter canter and keep it through corner. A few of them had their horses swap in the corner during this exorcise.

She then ramped it up even more, and had them pick up the left lead, do a half turn about a quarter way down the far long side, and hold the counter lead through the corner. I think only 1 or 2 horses executed this without swapping, breaking, or cross cantering.

Following that exorcise, she had them start on the left lead, canter the in and out, rolling backing, holding the counter lead, jumping the in and out, and then stopping on a line. Most of the horses had a hard time with this. She said that this usually happens, even with the best schooled horses, so it needs to be practiced. Then she had them jump the in and out, continue straight and hold the counter lead. If they landed on the correct (left) lead, she wanted them to do a simple change to the counter lead.

Their first course was the outside line in 5 strides, to the first jump on the diagonal line on an angle, rolling back to the right, (in between the in and out), a long gallop to the triple, around to the left to the rolltop, with a bending line to the in and out on the outside. She noted that even when we need to shorten our horses, we need to keep the canter LIVELY.

For the jump off, she had them start off on the left lead to the first jump of the outside line, rolling back tightly to the left to the oxer of the diagonal line, around to the in and out outside long side, rolling back to the in and out of the triple, landing and tracking left, around to the left to the roll top. She made the point that it is in the corners, that jump offs can be won or lost.

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