Way back on Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, Ben and I made the trek to Fitch's Corner in Millbrook, NY to take part in the Boyd Martin clinic. I was equally excited and nervous as I'd never ridden with Boyd before and I had also signed up for the Training group, and I had no idea what was in store for us in that regard!
Saturday was scheduled to be a flat and stadium day in the sand ring, and Sunday was meant to be a full cross country day. We arrived Saturday morning in the pouring rain. It was about 40 degrees (F), it was freezing, it was windy, and it remained that way for the entire day. The ring was super wet and sloppy but the footing held up quite well and it wasn't deep or slippery.
We started the first day with some basic flatwork, doing a lot of transitions between gaits, particularly in the canter. Once we had sufficiently warmed up on the flat we trotted a small vertical a few times before taking turns cantering down a small grid of four oxers, all two strides apart, with a placing pole in front of each fence. Ben handled this quite well and was jumping fabulously. After we did this grid twice, the fences were raised so the last one was about 3'6". Nothing like easing you into it or anything! Ben again jumped fantastically through without even the slightest issue.
Next we put together a little course, starting with the grid, coming around down the diagonal and jumping a three stride line, and then turning back to a gate jump. I let Ben get a little strong into the line so he had a rail on the second fence. We then did a slightly tougher course where we started with a skinny on the centerline, turned to the gate vertical, a bending line of five strides to the three stride line. The first time around we got a little too close to the gate so we had a hard time getting the striding, so we ended up getting a six and a four. No worries though, he just had us immediately come again and we nailed it the second time around!
We then jumped the skinny the opposite direction, turned to a one stride on the diagonal, and then turned back to a liverpool oxer. Ben kept jumping over his shoulder on the in to the one stride, mostly because I am always concerned that he won't make the distance because of his size so I have a tendency to rush him off of his feet a bit. Most of the time I get lucky doing this, but if he ends up getting a close spot he really dives over the fence instead of jumping up. I need to learn how to get the same amount of power and package it up into a shorter stride that is more centered on his hind end. This is a constant battle we are always working on, as Ben struggles greatly with adjustability in his canter, particularly on the flat, but over fences as well. Eventually, we had a great jump through the one stride, and he handled the liverpool like a seasoned pro.
We ended the day with a couple more courses that jumped quite well. Quite a few of the fences were set at about 3'6" but Ben was pinging over them like they were crossrails. We even earned the compliment from Boyd that we were "making it look easy!" If thats not encouraging, I don't know what is!
The rain had really taken its toll on the footing of the cross country course so instead of doing the whole second day outside we did about an hour in the ring, and 30 minutes of cross country in the one field where the footing was decent. As disappointing as this was, the whole Fitch's Corner team did a great job of accomodating us where they could and keeping everyone safe. And it ended up being a ton of fun anyway, as we spent the majority of time in the ring jumping cross country type obstacles, such as a corner, a liverpooil-turned-ditch, and a skinny arrowhead.
We started the session warming up on the flat a bit at will, before starting the jumping off with another grid. Four fences, with one stride between the first three, and two strides to the last. We jumped through this grid quite a few times until it ultimately ended with the last oxer at 3'9"! Again, Ben handled it like a pro, earning a "What a horse!" from Boyd.
We played around with some more courses, incoporating a bounce, the corner, and quite a tough bending line from an oxer to the gate vertical that Ben and I just completely missed the first time! We got it the second time through though! After playing around with some of the courses we popped over the ditch, one stride to the vertical, then jumped the vertical, one stride to the ditch, four strides to the corner, and then started jumping the ditch at an angle, one stride to the skinny arrowhead. That was a lot of fun and Ben was super honest and confident even though he had never seen anything like that before. We jumped it the first time through with guide poles on the arrowhead, and the second time through they were removed. Boyd told us we had "the best ride to the liverpool out of anyone." I can get used to this!
We then moved on to cross country. We warmed up over a "course" of sorts of some portable xc fences. We jumped a small fence off both reins, than a five stride line, and then jumped an angled, offset two stride before heading off to the water complex. We started by trotting through the water and out the bank, which Ben handled beautifully considering it was the first time he had ever done anything like that. We then put a little course together, starting with a small three stride line to the water, out the bank up, another log towards the water, then out over quite a massive table! Ben had a great time galloping through the water and he was super brave.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I cannot wait to do it again next year. Ben was great the whole weekend which is what I definitely needed after experiencing Kent the weekend prior. Boyd is a fabulous clinician, he puts things into words you can understand, he would stop and talk to you one on one if you were having difficulties with a specific exercise, and he increased difficulty (and height, and width) of the fences/courses very gradually. Before you knew it, you were cantering down to some large fences without a care in the world, and the horses jumped great over the exercises as well.
Here is the video from both days, it gives a good glimpse into how miserable the weather was the first day, huge kudos to Fitch's Corner and Boyd for sticking through and standing out there all day:
As always, thank you guys so much for reading!