Jenni Autry recaps her recent clinic with Steurt Pittman and shares a few tips she learned, including but not limited to why a double-chin isn’t a bad thing when it comes to seeing your distance.
Top photo: Steuart Pittman gives me some pointers at a clinic at Stonewood Farms in Dover, Pa., on Saturday. Photo by Amanda Smith.
I braved a very cold and windy Pennsylvania day to ride in a Steuart Pittman clinic at Stonewood Farms in Dover on Saturday. Stonewood hosts a variety of clinicians throughout the year, including Jimmy Wofford and Jeremy Beale. This was my first time riding with Steuart, and I’m very pleased to report that he gave me quite a few tips I’ll be implementing in the future. Three rode in my group: me on Junior, a 7-year-old Paint gelding; Liza Sigel on Allie, an 8-year-old Thoroughbred mare; and Kristen Vigliano on Gracie, a 17-year-old Thoroughbred mare.
Allie was right at home with Steuart, founder of the Retired Racehorse Training Project, as she is a graduate of CANTER PA. Holly Sands, Stonewood’s owner and head trainer, is a longtime supporter of CANTER and purchased Allie through the organization last year; Liza later bought Allie from her. Allie actually appeared in the Dressage for Ex-Racehorses segment at the PA Horse World Expo in February, where Steuart evaluated several OTTBs before a live audience. At that point, Allie had only been off the track for about six months, with just a bit of jumping under her belt. As you can see, Allie is now jumping very nicely. Go OTTBs!
Liza Sigel and CANTER PA graduate Swear Allegiance (Allie). Photo by Amanda Smith.
We started out over a series of one-to-one gymnastics, followed by a bending three or four to a vertical. Then Steuart kept progressively adding on more lines and questions to the one-to-one. I really liked his exercise — which I outline in detail in the image below — that had us start out over the one-to-one, then rollback to a wide oxer. Then you really had to sit up and whoa for a rollback turn to the third element of the one-to-one, with three strides to the vertical that served as a bending line earlier in the clinic. Steuart emphasized that finding your line was really important coming off that rollback turn, which I discovered firsthand when Junior and I proceeded to eat the the vertical the first time through.
I also missed the distance to the oxer during this exercise, and Steuart pointed out that my bad habit of leaning too far forward was contributing to that. He gave us a little gem that he heard from Buck Davidson, who heard it from Aaron Vale: “There’s two sports where you never want to stick out your chin: riding and boxing.” Well that’s certainly a powerful visual. So around I went again, this time really making an effort to tuck my chin, per Steuart’s orders. And what do you know, we nailed the distance. So if you’re like me and have a tendency to get too far forward, I think the chin-tucking tip can be really helpful. It helps you to mentally think of sitting back and rebalancing.
Me and Junior getting ready to rollback to the vertical pictured at the right. Photo by Amanda Smith.Thanks, Steuart, for braving the bitter cold to bring a great clinic to Stonewood Farms. And many thanks to Amanda Smith, Stonewood’s photographer extraordinaire, for freezing out there with us. I look forward to many more clinics with Steuart — hopefully in warmer weather. Stay tuned for an update on what Steuart’s up to with his Retired Racehorse Retraining Project. The organization is introducing an all-new format for its popular Trainer Challenge, which starts next month. Steuart is looking forward to continuing his goal of building a bridge between the racetrack and show ring for OOTBs in 2013.