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Robin Groves Clinic With Nashoba Carriage Association
Article & photos by Nancy Brannon
Robin Groves is a two-time U.S. National Singles Champion. Robin also competed for the U.S. in the World Single Championships--in Poland in 2008 and in Italy in 2010. And she's a sleigh driver, too! Robin has a talent for helping each driver with the specific needs that they have. Located in Brownsville, Vermont, a small town that boasts having more horses than people, Robin, age 67, and her husband Wilson, age 61, have their own business – R & W Horse Drawn Services - and travel the U.S. giving driving clinics. Robin and her husband compete in combined driving, carriage pleasure shows, and competitive trail drives.
Her early training for young horses is called “Charm School,” in which she develops a good basic foundation including handling and barn manners. Young horses are taught to lead, longe and long line and, when ready, are backed and/or hitched.
For more advanced competitive horses, the emphasis is on building skills according to their previous training and experience. She prepares horses to ride or drive for single or pairs. Training can include dressage, jumping, CDE preparation (driven dressage, cones and obstacles), road work, group work, conditioning, competitive trail, and endurance.
Conditioning is an important part of her training, and she helps drivers learn how to condition their horses for control and confidence in a variety of situations.
For driving competitions, first impressions upon entering the ring are very important. “If you don’t make a good, solid first impression, you will have to work extra hard to get a second and third look. An unappealing picture makes it hard to see a good performance,” Robin Groves advises drivers at all levels.
How does one create an appealing look for one’s horse and carriage? “Start with the horse, then match the horse to a vehicle of appropriate size, type, and color. Then choose attire that compliments the horse and vehicle. Ladies should be tidy but feminine; gentlemen should be tailored and distinctively masculine. Everyone needs a dash of color to avoid looking like the undertaker or his wife! You should be noticed, but not glaringly stick out of the crowd,” she explained.
“The horse is the most important part of the picture. He needs to look full and fit, sleek, and shiny. The mane should be super tidy or braided (whichever way looks best on the horse), the tail hand picked and fluffy, hooves oiled, legs trimmed or well brushed out, and face clean and trimmed. Make all parts of the turnout show off the horse,” Groves continued.
The driver’s attitude also affects presentation. Groves advises to strive for “quiet competence, control, and an aura of elegance. Be confident. Present a relaxed, happy horse moving forward in good self-carriage. Sit tall, eyes up and alert. Be smooth with your commands to the horse, while being prompt to the judge’s orders.”
For more information about Robin Groves, visit: http://www.randwhorsedrawnservices.com
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