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Joe Fargis Clinic


Joe Fargis, Day 1

Joe Fargis, foreground; Haren Lee, background; Elle Klueppelberg

Joe Fargis with Isadora Duhaime-Trowbridge, professional trainer at Camwood Farm

Joe Fargis with (left to right) Ehab Kassasbeh, Carrie Marxx-Farhat, Leonetta Tate, and Nadia Striewski
Photos by Patricia Branan-Wendell

Camwood Farm in Franklin, TN hosted a two-day Joe Fargis Clinic on November 7-8, 2020. The clinic attracted 16 participants for three classes over the two-day period.

Camwood Farm is owned by Camille Schaefer and the Schaefer family and has partnered with Christoph Schroeder to create a premier hunter/jumper facility. Camwood also gives back to the community with donations to 501(c)(3) charities.
Professional Trainer at Camwood, Cristi Caruso, worked and trained for five years with Fargis, so the connection is strongly established.

Readers will remember Joe Fargis as a top American show jumper and Olympic champion, winning individual gold and team gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California on the Thoroughbred mare Touch of Class. Touch of Class lived out her retirement years at River Circle Farm in Franklin, Tennessee, where she passed away in 2001. His career spans over five decades, beginning with winning team gold at the 1975 Pan American Games, team and individual gold at 1984 Olympics, and team silver at 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea on Mill Pearl. Fargis is a 2018 WIHS Hall of Fame inductee. Fargis is considered one of the best clinicians in the U.S. Also notable is his 1984 Olympic teammate, Melanie Smith-Taylor, who resides, trains, and teaches in Germantown, TN.  

Pam Whitfield, of the American National Riding Commission, wrote of Fargis:  “His training philosophy is based on the Forward Riding System that he learned from his first riding instructor, Jane Dillon at her Junior Equitation School in Vienna, Virginia.” Fargis then trained at Francis Rowe’s Foxwood Farm in Crozier, Virginia, then trained with Bertalan de Nemethy.

 “ ‘You keep the horse straight, ride him forward, stay off his back, get him to the point that he’s nicely stabilized, and then he’s a good student and can go on the collected work.  It sounds deceptively simple, but it is,” Joe explained.  ‘There’s no smoke and mirrors, no swirling cape.  It has to be kept simple and I think it’s getting too complicated these days.  I think people over analyze and over-do.  One needs a calm, straight, well-trained horse, and if the horse has talent, then there’s not much else to do but ride it well.’”

Fargis’ basic riding and training philosophy was capsuled in a 2019 Practical Horseman article:

·       “Be forward, straight, and uncomplicated
·       “Be precise on the flat, then a jumping course will be easy
·       “Get the transition done with the least amount of commotion. Be as light and invisible and efficient as you can be.
·       “If you practice being fluid, you eventually will be fluid. If you’re casual about it, it will never happen.”

As a trainer at the USHJA’s Emerging Athlete Program in July 2017, Fargis gave similar advice to the young riders. “Make practice as perfect as you can. If you practice perfectly, you can usually solve the problems that come up in the show ring. That applies to everything, starting with training your horse to stand still when you mount and dismount.
“It’s never the horse’s fault. Horses are very generous. They do what’s asked of them, from roping cows and pulling carts to going to war. If there’s a mistake, it’s ours.

“If a horse is not doing what the rider wants, it’s the rider’s job to figure out why. Is it out of fear, pain, obstinacy? This includes considering whether the horse is capable of what we ask of him. The solution to many problems is to go back to the lowest level, the simplest form of a task, and work forward slowly and patiently. Don’t move to the next step until the horse is comfortable at the current one.”

Find more information about Camwood Farm at:
Oliynyk, Sandra. 2019 (2009). “Joe Fargis: Keep Your Riding Simple.” Practical Horseman. Feb. 26.

Miller, Kim F. 2017. “The Gallop: A Day At The Emerging Athletes Program.” California Riding Magazine. August.

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