EN Today: Peter Atkins clinic report

From Visionaire: Peter Atkins has been in England, but returned home to the States for a clinic at Champagne Run in Lexington, KY.  His broken leg and hobbling on crutches doesn’t seem to slow him down!  Amy Grayson was able to attend the clinic and was generous enough to send us this clinic report.  Many thanks to Amy for writing, and thanks as always for reading.

From Amy:
It was about 4 am on a Friday morning. I still had an hour to sleep and still be able to make my first lesson time but the excitement got the best of me so I got an early start since there was no way I was falling back to sleep anyways. I finished packing the truck, loaded Steady Smiler and we were on our way to Frankfort, KY for a flat lesson with Dorothy Crowell. I had been given the IEA (Indiana Eventing Association) scholarship and with it I decided to participate in a 2-day Peter Atkins clinic in Lexington, KY at Champagne Run Farm. Knowing I was going to be so close to Dorothy I could not pass up an opportunity to lesson with her also. The drive down to Frankfort was a bit more exciting than I would have liked with detours, windy country one lane roads and coming face to face with a cement truck around one of those windy one lane bends. But we made it safe, sound and ready to learn! Thankfully since I got on the road earlier than expected, even with all the detours I still made it with time to spare. Dorothy was gracious enough to let me come and participate in a lesson she was finishing up.

Getting ready to go at Dorothy Crowell’s farm.

When it was our time to start in true Dorothy fashion she immediately picked up on our weaknesses and we started right to work. She really takes as much time as needed to work through an issue and if something doesn’t work then she quickly gave me another option. She really has a knack for the OTTB’s and since Steady is as OTTB as they come, having raced 8 years, she is knows what works for these guys. Though I swear the few times I have had the opportunity to ride with Dorothy I always feel like she has me doing contortions on horse back, like some equine Cirque Du Soleil. But it is amazing when she finally got me to have my body in balance over my horse how freely and happily he moved underneath me. I walked away from the lesson with a huge amount of information and much to work on when we got home. Stop one, HUGE success. Then it was back on the road and heading to Lexington.

If you have ever been to Lexington then you know how driving down the country roads feels like you are driving through some sort of horse lovers heaven. The acres and acres of lush green pastures all framed in by black board fencing with beautiful barns scattered about. My GPS tells me we have arrived at our destination and I think to myself, “is this REALLY where I get to ride?” The facility was breath taking. From the barns to the beautiful rolling pastures. Then you step out back with a panoramic view of the cross country course. And as any sensible, mature, 31 year old woman would do I look at my horse nearly bouncing up and down and in a ridiculously giddy voice I say, “Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh we get to play out there, yeeeeeeeee!!!” Don’t worry, no one was around to see this display, I hope.

Driving into Champagne Run farm


A partial view of some to the XC jumps at Champagne Run Farm

We were the first ones to arrive from out of town and we took a walk, unpacked, got settled in to our new “home” for the next couple days. All the out of town riders had a little barn all to ourselves complete with beautiful pine stalls and even our own wash rack. I decided to make use of the wash rack so that my horse didn’t look as much like the back yard farm animal he really is. Then others started to arrive. I think half of the reason I fell in love with eventing is the people that are involved in this sport. It doesn’t matter where you came from, what kind of horse you ride or how fancy (or in my case not fancy) your equipment is you all seem to become instant friends bonding over horses, training issues and successes. Dinner with friends, tack store stop and a beer run later I was all tucked in. All tuckered out with a full belly, happy heart and visions of jumps and hearing Peter telling me to “look up, kick up, stand up!” running through my head.

The next morning bright and early to feed, get ready and hack out Steady to find out what horse he would decide to be that day. He seemed calm enough(calm for this horse means that he isn’t acting like he is running in the Kentucky Derby) and we were ready to go. Our first days lesson would be grids with Peter. With Peter’s recent injuries I wondered if it would slow him down any. I should have known better. By 8:30 am he already on his crutches with a whip in hand going around and threatening to whip unsuspecting riders if they laid on their horses neck over a jump. YUP that is the Peter we all know and love!


It would take more than a broken leg to slow Peter down! Another rider in the clinic.

Showing Henry some love, sporting my “Run Henny Run!” shirt

In our lesson I found my horse became a bit more excited when he realized he got to canter around with other horses. We started out with some wild, crooked racing around right off the bat but with some coaching from Peter to “post to the canter, set the rhythm and sit UP” it wasn’t long before we were going around in a lovely dressage quality canter that Peter wanted. In a way that only Peter can do, he asks each rider question after question partly for us to know the answer but mostly to get us thinking for ourselves and analyzing every single moment we are on our horses. I will give you a tip about riding with Peter, no matter how dumb an answer he doesn’t care as long as you NEVER say ‘I don’t know’. We started out with Peter’s puzzle of poles that we let the horses slowly and calmly work their way through. Then, one by one started to add in jumps. We ended the lesson on a great note and I was more than pleased with the progress made.

That is the canter that Peter wanted.

Steady Smiler and I figuring out the ‘puzzle of poles’

That night was a potluck dinner at the the owner’s home. I have never been to a ‘potluck’ that there was shrimp and prime rib, oh my was it good! That evening the rain started and of course in the back of every one’s mind was, what did this mean for cross country day? Well it didn’t stop. It continued through the night and never even quit once through out the day Sunday.The plans changed and Sunday we spent the day in the indoor starting with grids then moving to some show jumping work. Though of course I would never turn down any opportunity to school cross country but if I am being honest the area that we (we as in I) need the most work is in show jumping. So really it was exactly what we needed. This was by far my most exciting lesson! I was with another lovely lady and her warmblood x TB. We were both at right about the same level and Peter spent the next hour and 15 minutes raising jumps and challenging us until he found a challenge for both of us. Jumping on a diagonal! Something neither of us had ever done and I know Steady had never done either. It was a bit of an optical illusion on the approach. I don’t know why but having jumped jumps straight on for so many years then coming up on a large oxer and jumping it at a diagonal was a bit mind boggling but thankfully I have a horse that when asked and ridden in even a partially straight line he will jump anything. It was pretty awesome to learn something so new and exciting. We did a three jump angled line and he put us through a small course of finding our angle and seeing our lines to the next jump. This is by far the most technical we have ever been able to get as of yet in our training and it was so totally FUN!!!

With the conclusion of our lesson this meant our time in Lexington was over and it was time to pack up in the still steady rain but that didn’t dampen my spirits one bit. I was on cloud nine and that is where I stayed for the long drive home all the way up until I got home hit the couch and crashed. I came home to my family, husband and 3 little girls having cleaned the house, cared for the animals, dinner on the table and cards, flowers and Mother’s Day hugs. I tell you this is one Mother’s Day I will never forget. Thanks IEA for making this all possible!!!

Amy Grayson

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