Many years ago, I was lucky enough to go on a few clinics given by Ginny Leng. One exercise in particular has really stuck in my mind – she’d make everyone do it, including horse & rider combinations in our group that had done 2* and 3*.
She built a small single upright, no more than about 1’3” high. We all had to come to it in a short bouncy canter, and get a REALLY deep spot, If you were 1’ or more off it, you got yelled at. Very deep was ideal and got you praise, and dropping to trot absolutely wasn’t allowed.
The point of the exercise was to really teach the horse to snap up both knees super-quick – we were in effect deliberately ‘burying’ the horses, but at something small enough not to punish them. She swore that this exercise had saved her neck more than once, including at championships.
It’s a very good exercise to do occasionally, I still use it.
I was also fortunate enough to be taught by Ian Stark on a 2-day clinic. If you ever get the chance, move heaven and earth to be taught by him! He worked out exactly what my problem was in about 2 seconds. I was being a bit passive, on a 2* horse I’d produced from scratch and who was 100% honest and had never stopped, so I tended to be very trusting and let him ‘put on his glasses’ at something if he wanted to. In xc practice, we came to a biggish drop fence into water and, as I knew he’d go, I just sat there and let him have a little look as he lowered himself in… and got throughly told off for being utterly pathetic, and told to come again and ride as if I actually meant it! Result – a much better jump, obviously!
There was one horse in the group who was obviously taking the mickey out of the rider – napping, running out, refusing, generally being a pain whenever he chose. Ian was very patient, but eventually offered to get on the horse (to the rider’s huge relief) and proceeded to determinedly sort it out. I’ve never seen an ULR willing to risk him/herself like that (I’ve known a few who wouldn’t get on an unknown horse)… this horse did its best to play up with the new rider but soon realised the error of its ways, and was suddenly miraculously transformed into an “oh, I can do that” sort of horse.
Rider back on, problem sorted, angelic horse, huge relief all round, and a real result for them. Ian was then very good about making sure the rest of us didn’t feel we’d lost out due to the extended tussle he’d had convincing that one of the error in its thinking! Brilliant instructor, great times.