1000’s of equestrian followers packed into Addington in late January 2023 to get pleasure from “For One Evening Solely” with eventing world primary Oliver Townend and Olympic showjumping legend Geoff Billington. It was the primary time this double act had come collectively for a night lecture demo in a while, and their reputation exhibits no indicators of waning because it was an entire promote out.
Whether or not spectators have been on the lookout for ideas to enhance their driving, their horse’s means of going, or simply an entertaining evening out, this dead-pan comedy duo didn’t disappoint with banter aplenty. So what did we study alongside the way in which?
1. Whereas driving a rising five-year-old named Elton (so named as a result of “he seems like he’s bought Elton John’s glasses on”) and concentrating on discovering “rhythm and steadiness, rhythm and steadiness”, Geoff shared that the most effective recommendation he’s ever had from his mate David Broome was to “maintain your stomach consistent with the entrance of the saddle otherwise you’ll wobble off”.
2. When Elton bought a bit smitten by his work, Geoff demonstrated how he teaches horses to half halt off his higher physique, so he doesn’t have to drag. “The quicker he goes, the extra I lean again as a part of the half halt,” he defined, “so he learns to manage his tempo off my higher physique. Preserve practising that till he is aware of that sign. The earlier he comes again, the earlier you may journey forwards.”
3. Not blessed with lengthy legs (Geoff described his personal as stumps), Geoff desires his horses to go ahead “with a contact of the leg, then after I sit again he stops”. He additionally trains the horse to maneuver simply away from every leg off a lightweight contact – not brute pressure. He emphasised the necessity to “journey the again finish to the entrance finish – don’t pull the entrance finish again to you.”
4. In the meantime Oliver was centered on preserve good “rhythm and steadiness” always on Caunton Stud’s rising five-year-old gray stallion Diacondrik over trotting and canter poles, earlier than shifting on to leaping a small fence. After he tapped out a rail on one event, Oliver got here again round to the fence with the identical “good degree stride”, and this time the horse made a brilliant leap, having learnt from his earlier mistake. “This horse’s mind is gorgeous,” Oliver stated with a smile.
5. Oliver reminded the viewers that whereas repetition is essential to younger horses’ studying, the petrol tank can run empty in a short time, so it’s additionally necessary to provide them loads of breaks.
6. Shifting on to his subsequent horse, a really engaging and “thrilling” rising six-year-old bay mare, Hialisca De Takam, who was the four-year-old French eventing champion earlier than being purchased by Caunton Stud, Oliver reminded the viewers of the significance of getting the horses working simply for you. Working by means of loads of transitions, Oliver stated they need to be “as simple as altering the channel in your TV”.
7. Oliver defined that the rationale skilled riders can work loads of horses in in the future is as a result of the riders aren’t working bodily exhausting. They prepare their horses to be responsive with “a lot of gear adjustments, forwards and again, concentrating on their response to the leg”.
8. Geoff described his second journey Doris, a rising six-year-old who has jumped 22 double clears as far as “as cautious as a nudist over a barbed wire fence”. He demonstrated how he teaches a horse to land on a selected leg from a fence: “look the place you’re going, bend the neck and drop your exterior leg behind the girth”.
9. Geoff additionally shared some recommendation he learnt from the good coach Lars Sederholm: “Trip the again finish to the entrance, maintain your palms collectively and the vitality goes out by means of the bridle – then you are able to do something”.
10. Discussing what makes an excellent horse nice, the pair agreed there are numerous components and that “you don’t actually know the way good they’re till they’re doing it”. Oliver stated he used to fall off his excellent five-star horse Ballaghmor Class “on daily basis”, but the horse went on to a lot success on the highest degree. Geoff stated that horses should have expertise, a terrific thoughts, and so they have to remain sound, including: “They should study to settle with all of the travelling, staying in unusual stables week after week – it’s not nearly having an enormous leap”.
11. Whereas remaining centered on maintaining a easy, degree stride to their fences, the aggressive nature of each riders got here out whereas driving two associated distances. They demonstrated each horses’ adjustability by including a stride into the 5 stride distance from a double of uprights to an oxer, after which becoming additional strides down a seven-stride distance between an upright and an oxer, with as much as 11 being achieved.
12. Geoff’s younger son Alfie seems set to comply with in his well-known father’s footsteps, ought to he want to take action. He and his beautiful little gray pony delighted spectators forward of the interval – “He’s extra fashionable than daddy already,” quipped Oliver.
13. The riders purchased out their huge weapons for the ultimate a part of the night. Geoff rode his grand prix horse Simply Particular, who he described as “an entire gentleman, who travels fortunately on the truck subsequent to Doris”, whereas Oliver had Caunton Stud’s well-liked stallion Consolation (pictured prime). Each are breeding stallions, though Simply Particular combines sport with breeding, whereas Consolation is saved so busy together with his breeding duties that he’s had little or no competitors mileage. No matter that, Consolation confirmed how naturally simple he discovered his work, whether or not that was on the flat or over the fences, which had gone as much as a substantial measurement. After leaping round, Oliver admitted with a smile: “That is the kind of horse that makes me wish to change jobs” – we are able to see why!
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