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Ralph Hill Clinic


Article & photos by LaCresha Kolba

Ralph Hill was back for another equestrian clinic at the Jaeckle Centre in Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, October 17-18, 2015.  Ralph’s clinic in April filled so quickly, the Jaeckle Centre felt the need to bring him back. With a new format to this clinic, Ralph offered private lessons the first day, with group lessons the second day.  This provided the opportunity for one-on-one time with the students, as well as sufficient time for the students in groups, with 16 or fewer riders in his clinics. The smaller group allows him to listen to each horse, find what it needs, and help the horse be successful. 

Ralph sees more improvement with this varied format. He takes all time restrictions off the private lesson so he can focus on that student until he feels they are done. “It could be an hour or it could be an hour and a half.  Knowing I am putting that horse first, finding what it needs, allows me to help that horse and rider.”  Ralph said that giving a private lesson the first day of the clinic to each attendee allows him to prepare that horse to perform better. 

He makes certain that horse is well prepared before they go to the jumps. As he educates the rider, the horse discovers the difference between speed and impulsion. He also believes in adding variety to your routine; it helps to break up the monotony. “I never get bored with horses; you never know who is going to show up to the dance. Maybe we need to push from the rails, do more work on the flat, trot and canter over trotting poles before going to the oxer. When you know your horse, and you both have a connection, you can learn from each other and get a stronger performance out of your ride.”

The benefit of learning from Ralph Hill is that you can apply his techniques to any riding style. Whether you ride Dressage or Western Pleasure, he encourages riders to work on the foundation of their riding. Learn about your horse, what works best for him; “where is his heart?” Whether they can make it as a high level Grand Prix horse or a prize winning Western Pleasure horse, if their heart or athletic ability is not there, you and the horse will only get discouraged. 

Ralph encourages the rider to go at the horse’s pace; “what is he telling you?” Don’t get defensive if the progress is slower than you like, Ralph cautioned. “Often we find ourselves living in this fast food world and we expect results immediately; a lot can be lost with that mentality. But when you take your time and develop your skill, the horse’s skill, you can get great results.” 

Ralph also encourages riders to change up their routine, “Ride what you feel, see how the horse progresses. Give your horse a chance. Maybe one day you need to ride him long and low, the next day take him out and do gymnastics; do Dressage another day. And be sure to stretch; you and your horse are athletes. It is something I often see overlooked.
A great exercise that can develop any horse in any discipline is: increased to decreased circles and back. “With your seat in the saddle and a left open rein, start at a 20m circle, work to 18m to 10m.  Then give him an open right rein and work your way back out. Using an indirect rein will slow the hindquarters and help make the exercise more effective.  Most importantly – end on a good note! It will make a big difference in your ride tomorrow when you end strong the day before.”

When it comes advancing your riding abilities and skill level, Ralph suggests finding an advanced trainer. “Find someone who has done it, who will teach you and your horse. You want to learn from the best, attend clinics, and keep learning.  If you find a trainer who does not work for you, don’t give up. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I’m sorry, but this isn’t a fit for me” and seeking someone who will work with you. Definitely find the best and learn from them!   You absolutely need to be setting goals. Explore a sport you want to try, whether it is reining, hunter/jumper, dressage, fox hunting, or western pleasure, and go do it. Be patient with yourself; we don’t enter school at the 12th grade. We start in Kindergarten, work our way up to First grade, then we find ourselves in middle school and then at the 12th grade level.  It is the same with riding: you start at the bottom and work your way up to the more advanced levels. Certainly find your niche, and if or when your goals or riding interests change, communicate that to your trainer.”

To find out more about Ralph Hill and the other clinicians at the Jaeckle Centre, visit: or find them on Facebook:

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