Andrew Nicholson clinic report – Day one: Bending lines and lots of leg

Eastern Hay 770x170-March


Andrew Nicholson clinic report – Day one: Bending lines and lots of leg

Yesterday, I attended day one of two of the Andrew Nicholson clinic held at Clayton Frederick’s facility, Fredericks Equestrian International in Anthony, FL. If you are not familiar with Andrew Nicholson then you must live in a cave. He is one of the biggest Eventing legends to grace planet Earth. He has represented New Zealand at six Olympic games (winning three medals), ridden at seven World Equestrian Games (also winning three medals), won numerous CCI4* titles and countless FEI and national events. Most recently, he won the 2017 Badminton CCI4* title aboard Nereo. I have been graced with possibly a once in a lifetime experience of auditing a clinic taught by this walking legend.

All 16 of the lucky riders (who I am slightly super jealous of) riding in this clinic have ridden to the two-star level or above making it a real treat to watch. There are six accomplished four-star riders in the clinic: Will Coleman, Sara Kozumplik Murphy, Sharon White, Maya Black, Jennie Brannigan and of course, Clayton Fredericks himself. Going into yesterday, I was curious to see what such experienced riders and horses would work on in this clinic and surprise, surprise, the basics were heavily emphasized.

Andrew started all the groups off by having them canter over four jumps set on a circle with five-strides between each jump. The jumps started off at only about 2′ and riders worked their horses over this exercise until there was a clear and consistent rhythm established. Then two of the jumps went up to about 3′. When the height increased nothing was supposed to change in the ride and this set the precedence for the rest of the session. Andrew reminded riders to not override the larger jumps telling them, “It’s a game, not a competition.”

Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Ruben d’Ysieux working the circle exercise.



After the circle exercise, they moved on to working over an S-shaped bending line of vertical three-strides to a water tray then three strides to an oxer and then back through the exercise the other way (oxer first). The distances were set fairly forward but Andrew emphasized the importance of not ‘cheating’ by angling through the exercise. This exercise forced riders to use their leg and seat to guide their horses and still upper bodies were rewarded. Andrew told several riders to keep their upper bodies tall to balance their horses and NOT to drop the contact. It was easy to see a clear improvement when riders would use more leg and ride their horses into the contact rather than floating their reins.

Sharon White & Cooley On Show over the water tray.

The final exercise the riders tackled was a bit more complex. There were a left and a right-hand corner both set up on a forward bending three strides after an oxer and five strides straight after the oxer was a narrow show jump. Then on its own, off of a left-hand turn, there was a tall show jump with just a single plank on it and no ground line. Riders began by jumping each corner on their own to get the horses comfortable, then they progressed to jumping the oxer to the corner of their choice, then they came back and jumped the oxer to the other corner, then they repeated the oxer again and carried on down to the narrow. Finally, they turned to the single plank show jump.

Justine Dutton & Huck Finn.

Again, riders were forced to use plenty of leg and seat to ride their mounts into the contact and steer them around the bending lines to the corners. Andrew wanted the riders to use this same forward style of riding when they tackled the plank show jump. He brought up an excellent point, that many event riders tend to ‘protect’ their horses and ride backwards to upright show jumping fences. He told one rider who got a little picky to the plank, “If they do hit it they’ll remember they have front legs and back legs.” It was amazing to see how much better the horses jumped when the riders carried the same ride they had been doing to the oxer and corners over to the plank show jump.

Molly Tulley & Gliding Class.

Andrew’s straightforward advice and calm demeanour made a huge positive impact on everyone’s riding. He had riders keeping their horses in a consistent rhythm, riding their horses forward into the contact with their seat and legs and reminded everyone that overriding isn’t necessary during schooling. He also was not hung up about the number of strides horses put in during the exercises. One horse consistently did four strides to the corner that the others were doing in three and Andrew said, “He has the four sorted,” not wanting the rider to force it to happen in the three. The three exercises the riders worked over had a clear progression and by the end of each session, every pair was going with more confidence and control.

Dana Cooke & FE Mississippi

Today, the riders will be tackling cross-country. I cannot wait to hear what the master himself has to say to about cross-country riding. Stay tuned for the day two clinic report!

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