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Allison Springer Clinic


Allison Springer Clinic

Article & photos by Tommy Brannon

It’s all about correct position and a balanced seat. Those are the prerequisites for everything else you do on horseback. Allison Springer emphasized these fundamentals at the Southern Run Pony Club sponsored 2-day clinic at Mid-South Dressage Academy June 13-14, 2014 in Hernando, Mississippi. Friday was devoted to dressage and Saturday was devoted to jumping fundamentals and gymnastic exercises.

One of the best ways for riders at such a clinic to learn is not only to listen and heed what the instructor says to them, but to also observe other riders and their horses.  Allison stated, “Regardless of the type of horse, people learn from each other. We try to group appropriately, but some difference in a group is a good thing.”  

The most often heard comment to the riders was that they use too much hand and their leg is not strong enough. Here are some other comments about hands and legs Allison made to riders in the clinic.

To a rider mounted on a fractious mare that was not slowing down or responding to the rider: “Softer arms. Stay tall, lighten your rein. Squeeze your leg into the halt. Look where you are going. This mare may not know what an outside rein is but, you relax, use your leg and relax your arm. Stretch and sit taller. Lift your hands and be tall. If she doesn’t think this will be a tug of war, she will soften.” After the rider followed these instructions, there were noticeable improved results.

To the group she said, “Learn to have a tighter leg. Make sure you have power, true power in front of your leg. The more your leg swings on this horse, the hotter she is going to get. Keep your body tall. If you turn too early, it is harder to get to the fence. Use your eye, shoulder, and hip. Put your elbow in front of you so your shoulder moves with the horse. Look at the fence early.”

When some horses shied at a Liverpool jump, her advice was: “Never go straight up to it to show it to them. Walk beside it.”  To another rider Alison said, “What happens after a fence is directly related to what happens before a fence.”   

  Instruction to a rider working through a problem horse balking at a fence: “I promise it will work. Lift your hand. Look at the fence. I want you to use ‘pony club kicking.’ She is getting a lot of mixed signals. Please don’t fight her mouth. Shorten your reins and try to stay light. Stay organized.”

Some advice on a run out: “Never turn the direction that the horse runs out. You are under powered. Your horse needs to be behind your leg. Don’t steer with your hands.”

Some encouraging words to a rider on a pony: “Keep that position. Ponies are helpful for you to work on your position. If you lean too far forward, you will be over his ears.  Practice not putting your hands on his neck. Don’t press your knuckles on his neck.”

To another rider:  “Stay in balance. You get mane in your face if you lean ahead of your horse. If you close your leg, the horse will be safe for you.”

The advanced rider group also received sound instruction: “You can prevent your horse from being sassy and over strong by not being underpowered. If you are in balance when he is strong, it will be a better conversation. Use inside rein and outside leg to slow the horse. Halt with a tight leg. Horses love to make us ride them. Your horse has to be able to trust you with soft hands. You are less rough if you teach him to respect a light rein. You actually pull less if you keep balanced. When going to a fence, teach him with a tap of the artificial aid behind the leg. A shoulder tap is only a little encouragement. You will turn better if you use outside rein. See how much better your turn is when you are not pulling to the inside? Do not tell him to accelerate to the fence. If you are sitting back to make your horse go, you are riding ahead of your leg. Your butt doesn’t make him go. Going fast and strung out is not safe. You have to sense your balance. If you don’t know where you are, the horse doesn’t either.  Look with your body. Keep your eyes on the fence. If you run at the fence, then he will begin stopping at them.

“There is only one human in this conversation and that is you.  An open hand is not a soft hand. You and your horse can not have a good conversation with an open hand.”

Allison’s advice to all at the end of the clinic: “Put a smile on your face and pretend that you are an actor. Part of riding is being an actor.” More about Allison Springer Eventing at: 

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