“You walk the line” was a phrase was reiterated several times during the Yann Candele Competitive Edge riding clinic held at Foshay South near Hampton, NB, yesterday. The event was part of the Long Term Equestrian Development program sponsored by the New Brunswick Equestrian Association under the auspices of Equestrian Canada.
Despite the at times heavy rain, Team NB riders mounted up and rode bravely into the ring to jump a course before Olympian Yann Candele. Nerves and the soggy conditions added to the challenges facing each rider as she tackled the first round of jumps.
“I was a ‘barn rat’,” Candele said referring to his training opportunities as a child in his native France. “There we learned through hard work and experience. There were no structured programs for us like you have here in Canada. Most of the horse trainers were from a military background, so we worked for them and in exchange had the opportunity to ride many horses and to learn something from each one.”
That informal program obviously worked for Candele who went on to represent France in multiple Nations Cup competitions. He moved to Canada in 1998 and became a citizen ten years later. He has represented his adopted country leading Canada to back-to-back victories in the 2009, 2010 and 2014 Nations’ Cups in Wellington, Florida. He has represented Canada at both the 2010 and 2014 World Equestrian Games and, incredibly, won four consecutive Canadian show jumping championship titles riding Pitareusa (2010), Game Ready (2011 and 2012), and Showgirl (2013). In 2015, he and Showgirl helped Canada win team jumping gold at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Since 2007, Candele has operated his own training business, Normandy Hills, with his wife, Jennifer Wallace Candele. Candele was the traveling alternate for the London 2012 Olympic Jumping Team. In his official Olympic debut at Rio 2016, Candele and First Choice 15 were part of Canada’s fourth place finish in the team event.
Safety is important
“Today safety is much more in the forefront,” said Candele. “We require the use of safety approved helmets yet I am surprised that kids under 12 aren’t required to wear a safety vest when riding and showing. It’s ridiculous that you have to ask permission to wear such a protective device when competing in hunter or jumper classes. It should be mandatory for kids.” He requested that kids riding in the clinic wear safety vests.
Why here? Why now?
“I am very interested in helping to develop young riders in Canada,” Candele said. “There is tremendous talent out there, but not many are switching to the jumpers. So, we are not producing enough riders to replace us older riders on the national team. Deanna (Phelan, President of the NBEA) asked me to come here and help the New Brunswick riders.”
The clinic was structured in a Nations Cup format. There were two teams, four riders each, competing against each other. Each team member rode the jumper course once and scores were tabulated. “One thing our riders don’t have a chance to do is to ride in a team environment,” said Deanna Phelan, President of the NBEA. “Most equestrian competitions are ridden as an individual, so participating on a team adds another element to the experience. It also prepares them to go out and represent their province in interprovincial competitions. We want to encourage them to think about continuing to develop and perhaps, one day, represent their country on the international stage.”
Candele explained that, “In a Nations Cup competition, there are four riders on each team. Each team jumps two rounds, and possibly a jump-off if necessary. At the end of each round, only three scores per team count, the lowest being dropped. If you are that rider with the lowest score, it can be frustrating, but you have to remember that you are a part of a team. Similarly, the other riders on the team need to learn to support each other, including the one with the dropped score. The team wins (or loses) together.”
Katelyn Lackie on Aliyah gaining height over the second element in a line.
After the first round of jumping, each clinic participant and spectators were invited to walk the course with Candele as he explained the strategy for approaching each jump. He wanted the riders to understand the relationships between the jumps and how to calculate and ride those distances effectively. He emphasized regular practice at home and with a coach was important. He wanted the riders to learn what a pace of 350 meters per minute felt like since jumper courses are based on that speed. He reminded them to “walk the line” that their horses would travel between jumps on the course. Knowing what a specific speed feels like and how long the horse’s stride is allows the rider to plan how to approach each jump. Candele felt that if you are on the correct pace, the rest should come easily including arriving at the best take-off spot for each jump.
If the rider is prepared, then if something goes wrong, she is able and prepared to deal with the problem and ride on.
Then, each rider was given some individual instruction in the warm-up ring prior to riding their second round of jumps for their team. The smiles were huge as riders emerged from the show ring, each experiencing noticeable improvement in their performance.
Despite the incessant drizzle, muddy riding ring, and nervousness at riding before such a famous competitor as Candele, the riders all felt they learned a lot and were inspired to work that much harder.
Following the riding competition, riders stabled their horses and then joined the spectators in the indoor arena where Candele gave a lecture about appropriate rider position using Samantha Atkinson and her horse as models at the beginning of the session.
The clinic was scheduled to continue this morning (Oct. 4).
Jill Finnegan on Cambel Z
Grace Stevenson on Ever So Clever
Abbey Alexander on Peakatti
Samantha Atkinson on Royal Runner
Jennika Charette on Caprice
Katelyn Lackie on Aliyah
Suzanne Stevenson on Piccolo Mondo
Samantha Atkinson on Miss Jane
Both teams will be competing Saturday Oct. 6 & Sun. Oct. 7 at the NBEA General Performance Championship show being held at the Princess Louise Park Show Centre in Sussex, NB.