Megan Kaiser sent us this recap from a recent clinic with Michael Page, an eventing legend whose resume includes three Olympic games.
It takes a special person to be able to start a story with “Back at the ’68 Olympics I was riding toward this jump, and don’t worry it all ends well — we did get a medal…” and not have you roll your eyes. Michael Page is so extremely personable and such a fountain of knowledge that he could do that all day and it’s fine with me. I don’t think it is possible to not be instantly taken by him. He is full of energy, good advice, and a quick wit.
At his annual clinic Village in Honeoye Falls New York (Area I) at Equestrian, Michael attracted more than just eventers. Mixed in with people who have been attending the clinic for many years were hunter and jumper riders.
The parents of one group of hunter riders were probably not even alive for the ’68 Olympics but the opportunity to “cross-train” a bit and learn from a master drew the young group to the clinic. They all left the ring smiling and having accomplished more than they were hoping to. This was no easy feat because they were not being asked to do the same old line, diagonal, line, diagonal and they were on a wide variety of horses (from a pony finals veteran who was getting a little burnt out to a recent Marker’s Mark Secretariat Center acquisition).
“The beginning of good riding starts with the first step of the walk.” The walk is important: “Why do you think they pay so much attention to it in scoring dressage? Now track to the left, smile, and be happy.” This is how Mr. Page started the first day of the clinic. The first day, he explained, was for the pieces and then putting it together in a course the second day. There was some flat work and then work over each jump and line in the ring. He didn’t put more than four jumps together in a row this first day, but this was on purpose; he wants to give the horses the best chance of doing well. But don’t think what they did was straight forward or simple either; there were challenging turns, liverpools, big fences, and combinations. You had to think about your ride and “ride at a higher level to execute this well.” And practice this enough so then “the less you have to think about it and more you feel it.”
A triple combination (one-stride to a two-stride), then four strides to an off-set diagonal fence toward the end of the ring with a tough tight turn afterwards was a great exercise for remaining focused and not just sending your horse down the combination and going on auto pilot. You had work to do after that combination.
Mr. Page spends a lot of time focusing on making the ride a good experience for the horse and making sure they understand what they will be doing. He spoke to a young man about not being “in a hurry to be good;” just because your mare can do it, “don’t rush up the levels.” It is good old fashioned horse sense and foundations that everyone should apply and they are a theme I have seen him repeat each year. Hearing it from someone who has been there and done that, while being challenged and having fun always makes this a good clinic.
Each horse and rider combination was giving personal attention and great advice. He involves the audience while teaching and asks everyone to support everyone in our riding community. This is why people come back year after year, and he also is a great story teller.
Thanks for sharing, Megan! Horse Nation loves publishing clinic reports — send your to [email protected].