- TRAINING -

Balance & power

- with Jock Paget -

Olympian Jock Paget puts Waikato-based event rider Sam Felton and her top ride, Ricker Ridge Pico Boo, through their paces in a showjumping training session. It has been a year since Jock last taught this combination, and he focuses on the importance of balance while maintaining a powerful canter to help them hone their jumping skills.

Words and photos: Show Circuit Magazine

Catching up

It’s a busy Friday at Sam Felton’s Matangi home with her long-time trainer on site all day to work with her on several horses. Lesson four of eight sees Sam on the arena with stable star Bekham for their first lesson with Jock since his last trip to New Zealand. Jock first taught Sam on Bekham not long after she bought him, and has worked with the combination every year since. “I won a 10-day scholarship to Clifton Eventers to work with Jock and took Bekham with me, and every year since then when Jock has been back in the country, Bekham and I have had a lesson with him,” explains Sam. Nine years on from that very first lesson a lot of the hard work has been done, so both rider and trainer agree not to overdo it with Bekham, planning to give him an easy jump so Jock can see how he is going, and work out which areas need his attention.

Easy warm-up

After Sam’s flatwork warm-up, which includes plenty of flexing to the inside and outside, and collection and extension in both trot and canter, Jock asks her to jump a small vertical. “Just start, and we’ll see what’s not good enough,” he says.

They canter over the vertical a couple of times before cantering on to the related oxer, six strides ahead, and Jock is happy with that start. “He’s looking good. Let’s give you a decent oxer.”

With both upright and oxer raised, Jock is pleased with how they are jumping but asks Sam for more energy and purpose in the canter before moving on to jump a course.

The teardrop lines

Jock has set up a course of ‘teardrop’ lines. It includes a related line on the straight down the long side of the arena, two fences placed diagonally back towards the middle of the arena, and another fence-sitting directly between them (see right). He explains it’s an exercise designed to work on related distances on both straight and curved lines. It is also built for options and can be jumped in different directions with consistent rein changes and the option to go inside or outside fences, depending on how tight you want your turns and approach to be.

Sam jumps Bekham cleanly around the course, and when she pulls up, Jock asks her how it went. “It was a bit rusty,” she says. “I felt that I needed to be more committed to staying in the middle of the fence, and I felt a bit unprepared at the start.”

Jock mostly agrees. “Yes, once you got going and got into the right gear, then it all started to fall into place. For me, the only real mistake was after number one. You landed, didn’t organise the canter and didn’t get your eyes on the next fence, so you only left yourself a couple of strides to make a decision. Then you made the wrong one and did one too many strides, so the fence was a bit weak.”

Jock says he’s not worried about Sam making using of the related curved lines to help find her distance. “I don’t have a problem with you using your lines to help with the distance and save killing the canter, but you have to be straight to it. There’s nothing wrong with jumping right of centre or left of centre – make sure you’re straight.”

The next time around the fences go up, and Jock gets Sam to organise the canter at the start and get her eyes on the fences earlier. “You need to feel like you have a canter you can go forward from and then come back from,” he says.

He’s not sure she has it, so instructs her to go on to the circle and find the right canter before starting. “Do you feel like you have that balance? Like you could drop the reins, and nothing would change? Nope? Then he can’t be balanced, do a half-halt put your leg on. Now, do you feel like you want to push him forward?”

Sam answers yes, and Jock says he must be balanced and tells her to start. The round is almost picture-perfect with every fence coming up beautifully, and a great rhythm maintained all the way around.

Maintaining power

Jock wants Sam to create a bit more power and tempo in the canter while keeping the balance. He explains that the more power you put into a canter, the harder it is to maintain balance, so to get this extra power at the same time, he asks Sam to focus on tapping Bekham with her leg as she half-halts.

“As you’re doing your half-halt, you’re not just slowing him down and balancing him; you’re slowing him down and tapping him up with your legs to quicken the back legs a bit. If you quicken the tap, you quicken the rhythm. It feels wrong because you’re not going with the rhythm anymore, but that’s the idea, and he starts to follow a bit by upping his tempo. Creating the right canter, that’s all it’s about.”

"As you’re doing your half-halt, you’re not just slowing him down and balancing him, and you’re slowing him down and tapping him up with your legs to quicken the back legs a bit...”

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