One of the challenges facing the equestrian world is how to disseminate the mass of information available to all disciplines in an interesting and entertaining manner to the wider equestrian community.
With this caveat in mind living legends, Lucinda Green and Andrew McLean joined forces with human performance expert Jon Pitts for the Living Legends Super Clinic at the State Equestrian Centre.
Lucinda has well and truly earned the title of living legend: she won Badminton Horse Trials six times on six different horses, she has been world champion and an Olympic silver medalist. Andrew’s equestrian achievements are also impressive: winner of the Eureka Science Prize, best selling author and much sought after clinician; he also represented his country in eventing and is well known for developing evidence based training schema. Joining them was Jon Pitts from the UK, who brings a new insight into a sometimes closed-minded and horse focused (as opposed to athlete focused) sport.
The Super Clinic was an interesting opportunity for budding riders and horse trainers. It juxtaposed two potentially very different horse training systems; one honed by competitive practice and experience and the other, no less practical, but firmly embedded within the framework of scientifically proven learning theory.
During the clinic Andrew, Lucinda and Jon worked separately with groups of riders; Lucinda focused on preparing eventing horses for cross country while Andrew helped riders of all disciplines consolidate their horse’s basic training through the application of learning theory. Jon backed up the training by assessing the rider’s position, effectiveness and mental processes to enable them to best implement their training and follow through into the competition arena with the confidence and clarity required for a winning ride.
Along-side the ridden sessions was an equine expo including lectures from local and international experts, entertaining and informative demonstrations and a trade-village of exhibitors from across the state. There was truly something for everyone with a wide array of education, entertainment and retail therapy!
The Super Clinic culminated in an evening master class supported by Horseland Midland. During this unrehearsed event all three trainers stepped into the arena and shared their knowledge and experience, each from their own quite different perspective while working with local riders and horses from freshly off-the-track thoroughbreds to winning 3* combinations.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Super Clinic was the extent to which the trainers were able to work together. Lucinda may phrase her horse-training ideas differently from Andrew but the underlying principles are very similar. Lucinda’s focus on rider safety and horse welfare is closely aligned to the concerns of most ethical horse trainers, as is the way she de-emphasises the role of longitudinal flexion in training and teaches riders to eliminate expressions of the flight response related to jumping. Lucinda may or may not be familiar with Andrew’s basic principles of training but nevertheless those principles were clearly evident in her own practice. Her systematic shaping was textbook perfect and her ability to articulate and demonstrate the truly necessary aspects of any given exercise emphasised the importance of clear basic responses trained and maintained via consistent and simple training.
After 6000 years of anthropomorphic beliefs and practices horse training is well overdue for a dose of objectivity. Bringing Andrew’s well-researched techniques into the spotlight with a trainer who through competition trail and error has come to the very same place helps to make the advances in science both relevant and accessible to mainstream horse owners. The clinic highlighted how the principles of learning theory are often to be found in ethical, effective training methodology even if it has not knowingly been informed by science.
Likewise, from a rider’s perspective, the advantage of sports and neuro-science when applied to equestrian sport provides a unique edge for the open-minded horse rider. Jon’s practices address the rider training and skill-acquisition side of equestrian sport – a much needed and refreshing view which will benefit riders hugely at all levels.
The 2015 Living Legends Super Clinic is set to be even better again with another new trainer in the mix and a wider range of disciplines covered. We look forward to seeing you there! Stay tuned to the Facebook page for updates on next year’s Super Clinic.