Sunny Saturday Morning

I’ve been addicted to horses most of my life. Even though I no longer ride, compete or coach, I still enjoy being around horses in one capacity or another. Quite often I am there to photograph individual riders and /or their horses. Other times I’m documenting an event – a training clinic, show or other competition.

Last week my grand-niece expressed an interest in learning to ride. Since my friend Jennifer operates the Hampton Riding Centre, I decided to give my G-Niece, and my sister-in-law, the grand tour of her facility. For me it is always a pleasure to visit the Centre, inhale the scent of warm horses and fresh hay, and watch people enjoying themselves.

We climbed the hill and perched above the field to watch this week-end’s Cross Country clinic that was underway. I spent some time explaining what was going on, why they were doing what they were doing, and we enjoyed watching the riders improving with each round they made.

The main point of this particular lesson was for the riders to learn pace control. In a cross country or derby-style competition, riders have to complete a course of jumps (not in the controlled environment of a fenced-in ring) within a specific time allowed. Each course has a minimum and maximum time allowed and riders finishing outside that window are penalized. Today they were learning to ‘feel’ what 350 metres per minute felt like. At first it was just feeling the pace.

Then, a series of jumps were introduced so the riders could feel not only the speed, but the sensation of going over jumps at the designated speed. This gradual approach helps to develop confidence in both riders and horses under the careful supervision of coach Jennifer.

I don’t know if my G-Niece will decide to pursue this hobby or not, but I think she enjoyed being able to be around the horses and learn a bit about how the lessons would work should she decide to sign up. Luckily the new kittens in tack room are all spoken for or I suspect someone might have been asking to add to her menagerie at home!

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