Middleburg, Va. – August 12, 2019 – Following his recent double gold medal performance at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, Olympian Boyd Martin traveled to historic Middleburg, Virginia to teach a clinic as part of the Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series. Riders ranging from Preliminary to Beginner Novice had the opportunity to focus on their cross country skills with exercises in the ring under the watchful eye of the champion athlete.
“It’s very important as a clinician for me to recognize the riders that are advanced and here to really pick something up, so I really decided to try and push them along,” explained Martin. The structure of the clinic is about how I train my horses at home – probably a little bit different to what the riders are used to but it’s a system that works for me. It was basically sessions in getting the horses thinking cross country exercises in the ring at home, so when the horses go cross country their mind and their thought process is in the right place.
He continued, “You have to change your teaching strategy a little bit with the greener horses and greener riders – it’s important not to get too gung ho and rattle the confidence of the younger horses or greener riders. It’s important to train to the degree of difficulty and to take a little bit more time building up to the course.”
The clinic began with flatwork focused on keeping the horses fresh but balanced. Martin wanted riders to balance their horses by simply lifting their body, not putting pressure on the mouth. Even in the warm-up, Martin encouraged riders to put their “foot on the accelerator,” because, as he explained, it is better for the horses to be fresh and wild early on. He had riders practice going from a big open stride to a short and balanced stride.
After the flat warmup, groups moved on to a serpentine exercise over three verticals set in a line off of the diagonal. The exercise was focused on keeping the horses responsive, looking for the next fence and thinking quickly. Once that was done well by each of the participants they moved on to an exercise that encouraged horses to focus on looking ahead. Three verticals were off-set in a straight line with one stride between each, and the goal in mind was to jump all three in a straight line through the very narrow opening.
Martin eventually added two wide oxers, four-strides apart, and a large triple bar which could be galloped like a cross country fence. The final exercises were over a pair of corners around a sharp corner. The exercise proved difficult for many of the horse-rider combinations, but Martin worked closely with each pair to create an exercise that they could execute correctly, telling riders that they had to go “over it, under it or through it.”
During the clinic, Martin acknowledge that each exercise was not necessarily easy or pretty. He wanted to train the horses to think quickly, be ready for the unexpected, and in a split second see a fence and figure it out.
“It’s different than a hunter/jumper exercise where you would do it until it’s perfect,” explained Martin. “For cross country, I think we have to practice not being so perfect; that’s what’s worked for me over the years. These exercises don’t give the nicest feel, but once we get to the show it should be easy.”
Clinic participant Morgan McGrath said, “I think the biggest take away message for me was to just sit up and get it done, which on my other horse is a lot easier. Because my horse is so strong I’m so willing to say, ‘it’s a little hard, I’m not going to.’ But Boyd said ‘No, you need to sit up and do it – it’s not like he can’t jump and it’s not like he’s not trained well,’ so that was a good take away for me and a reminder that it’s not pretty sometimes and that’s okay.”
The Rutledge Farm Sessions brings exclusive educational opportunities to riders and professionals in Middleburg, Virginia. Drawing from a pool of Olympic and International Champion clinicians, Rutledge Farm offers monthly clinics for riders at all levels and of all disciplines.
“It’s lovely here,” said clinic participant Lindsay Kelley. “There’s nothing better than training on good footing and being asked challenging questions in an atmosphere that you can trust – there’s no variables in it.”
The 2019 Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series will continue with dressage Olympian Debbie McDonald in September, followed by Will Simpson, Ali Brock, Phillip Dutton and Stacia Madden this fall.
“It’s an absolute world class facility,” concluded Martin. “We’re in the mecca of horse sports here in Middleburg. It’s a real honor and privilege to come here. Knowing the clinicians from the other top equestrian Olympic sports, it’s a real honor to be in the same bracket as Debbie McDonald, Peter Wylde and Phillip Dutton – to be regarded as one of the top riders in eventing to come along to Rutledge Farm and be a part of this training facility is a real honor and privilege. I can’t thank everyone enough for inviting me. It’s a brilliant day of training and a bit of fun and hopefully a bit of an inside look of how I go about training my horses at home.”