EN Today: Why Michigan eventers are seriously cool, or the Sinead Halpin clinic recap

EN’s Ali Smallpage brings us this report from a Sinead Halpin clinic at Cobblestone Farm in Michigan.

From Ali:

Photo: A little wet watching the last of the training riders go.

Well hello there Eventing Nation!

I come to you from the land of Michigan, I was here just visiting the brother and sister-in-law when I facebook stalked heard about a Sinead Halpin clinic. After some quick googling I found it was being held at Cobblestone Farm in Dexter, MI. So I did what any other creeper journalist would do, and drove on over.

First of all, let me just say that stating this farm is beautiful and eventer’s paradise would be a gross understatement. So after I wiped the drool off my chin, I wandered on in to the barn looking for the organizer to introduce myself and if I could cover the clinic for a little ol’ blog. I meet Darlyn who instantly struck me as  a genuine soul. She organized the clinic, and Cobblestone Farms is her work of art. She told me a bit about the farm and granted permission to cover the clinic, so I headed outside to watch while she got ready to ride.

I walked out to the arena just as Sinead was getting on a horse in the training group. Said horse has a tendency to pull and act up a bit, so Sinead focused on moving the horse away from her leg.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXoLulQgzaA  The second horse was a really nice TB in the prelim group that had a few days off before the clinic and was a little fresh.

Here’s a preview of the course to feed your neurosis:

The way Sinead set up the course challenged the rider to know what canter they were in and if they had the correct speed, direction, and rhythm.  She emphasized moving your horse from side to side to help get your horse on the aids. She did this with a strong horse as well as a more sensitive horse, and it worked magic for both. If you wouldn’t put up with it in the dressage arena, don’t put up with it in jumping either, she told several riders. The stress on this day one was also to ride the lines and turns whether your horse was bulging or you don’t see anything.

The warm up consisted of cantering over the grey poles to the gate. You could ride the inside turn in two strides or the outside turn in three strides. This was done by changing the line to holding or running through the exercise. The preliminary group then moved on to cantering jumps on a circle until the speed, direction, and rhythm was consistent and appropriate for the fences and horse. Then the course was started adding just a fence or two at a time finishing off with the grid.

I do have to give a shout out to Jim, Darlyn’s husband, as it was his birthday on March 31. He and Darlyn have 4 daughters and one son. The girls ride, the boys don’t, but he was out there supporting the clinic, and his enthusiasm for his farm was very refreshing. The self-proclaimed “city-boy” has foxhunted, which is really quite a feat if you ask me!

Day 2 saw some great cross country riding despite the fact it was most horses’ and riders’ first time out of the indoor, let alone xc schooling, of the year. Sinead started off the session by asking riders what they thought correct cross country riding was and their perceptions of the galloping position. Again, I was there for the training group,and the three gals were pretty knowledgeable. She encourages riders to keep their hinges “locked” so that you’re moving as little as possible above the motion so as not to wear out the horse unintentionally. It’s really important to teach horses to cruise in the gallop because constantly holding or kicking is not only physically but also mentally taxing for both the horse and rider.  The next position, the preparation position, occurs at different areas in front of the fences for different horses. Young ones need more time, more advanced may need just a slight balance change. You also pick the speed you need for the fence in the preparation zone. Once you have what you like, you maintain by being quiet and waiting, adjusting or changing if the horse sucks back, speeds up, or swerves sideways. Don’t be too “loud” in the preparation zone with huge changes in front of the fence.

The riders warmed up playing with these different positions on the terrain and then over some singe cross country fences. They moved on to a small course after mastering the single fence. Next up was a couple more gallop type fences to a drop fence where riders could practice their defensive “C” position with their leg on and upper body following instead of riding against. The last exercises of the day were the water and ditches. Take it away Sinead:

Some masterful riding at the coffin:

I want to leave you all with several thoughts: 1) Sinead is even cooler in person than she is on paper Eventing Nation. 2) Michigan Eventing and Cobblestone Farm is a seriously great crowd. Lots of spectators, friends, and family came out to watch multiple groups go, and there was just a giant sense of camaraderie that was very enjoyable. 3) Cobblestone Farm hosts a USEA event at the end of July each year, and if you can make it part of your competition schedule, I would highly recommend going. The people and the venue are just amazing. Thank you again to Darlyn and Jim, and the entire Cobblestone family for having me, and welcoming Eventing Nation into their “home.”

GO Sinead, Go Cobblestone Farm, and Go Eventing.


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