“Kick, click, and stick!” – 19 top tips on how to be a great eventer

Photo via Nick Holmes-Smith on Facebook.


Nick Holmes-Smith’s top 19 pieces of advice on how to be a great event rider- AKA “Nickisms”

Nick Holmes-Smith is a very accomplished Canadian event rider and widely respected instructor. In the 1980’s and early 90’s, Nick rode on several Olympic and world championship teams – all on different horses. Some highlights of Nick’s career include a 14th place finish at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, as well as an individual and team gold at 1991 Pan Ams. On top his personal success in the sport, Nick also coached many other riders to the upper levels, including Rebecca Howard, Mike Winter, and Chelan Kozak.

The funny thing about growing up with a renowned event rider and instructor as your dad- you actually learn a thing or two! Sure, maybe by the time you’re five you’ve heard all of their sayings and start mimicking them as they talk and threatening to name your next horse after things they say too many times, but they say repetition is the mother of all learning! Here are the 19 best “Nickisms” from over the years:

1) “Kick, click, and stick!”: In that order.

2) “This is a great opportunity to use the ‘Roller Coaster Technique!”: *Cue demonstration on bike*: Build up speed going down hills and carry it afterwards to save energy and makeup time.

3) “If you have a bad go because you don’t ride well enough or your horse is undertrained, that’s just life, but you put way too much time, effort, and money into this sport to go off course.”

4) “Keep your leg on coming out of the corner, that way you will have options at the fence.”

5) “If you can squeeze an extra half mark out of your test here and there it can be the difference between first and second place.”: Play to your horse’s strengths and ride as accurately as possible. Don’t throw away any marks.

6) “Shit ‘n’ git.”: He stole this one from someone else, but don’t waste time at straight-forward fences.

7) “Give them a lead.”: Horses are herd animals, so giving them a lead makes the job fun and makes new questions less scary!

8) “If you jump four or five days in a row often your horse will come up a level of confidence and ability- that’s what the jumpers do.”: This applies to green horses more than upper level ones. If you’re only jumping 3’0 or so it isn’t nearly as hard on their legs, so don’t be so afraid to jump more!

9) “Jump little and often.”: It’s better to jump twice as often, half as much. Let the horse finish before they get too mentally and physically tired, then come back to it a day or two later. This keeps the learning experience fun and stress-free for them!

10) “Trust your instincts.”: If you think the distance is there it is probably there, so ride to it.



11) “Be decisive.”: It doesn’t matter whether you take the long or deep spot, but pick one and stick to it.

12) “Commit with your legs, not your body.”: It’s fine to commit to the long spot, just not with your upper body. It’s better to get left behind than jump ahead of the horse- just be ready to slip your reins!

13) “Use an opening give and take rein, not a steady pull.”: Horses are way stronger than us and love having something to pull against, so don’t get into a tug-of-war, you won’t win.

14) “The best riders in the world jump 10 or more horses every day.”: Your eye and feel aren’t going to improve unless you practice, so take every opportunity you can to ride lots of horses!

15) “Keep the reins in both hands.”: It’s hard for horses to stop dead in a straight line, so taking the reins in one hand to use your crop on final approach opens the door for them to get crooked, making it easier to stop or run out. Use the stick further out from the fence, or on the shoulder.

16) “Horse are land animals.”: Generally speaking, horses don’t stop when jumping out of water – and usually take off long. Don’t be afraid to stay forward in the water so you aren’t left behind when they jump out.

17) “Start with a hiss and a roar!”: Don’t start your round by being under-paced at the first few fences.

18) “Once you’re in the air that’s the easy part, so start thinking about your next fence.”: Once you’ve taken off the rest is your horse’s job, so stop thinking about how good or bad that fence was and do something useful by planning what you’re doing on landing.

19) “You won’t ride worth a shit if you don’t eat a good breakfast.”: I can probably attribute most of my successes to my dad’s horse show breakfasts.

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