Windurra Eventers Learn Galloping Technique from Jump Jockey Mark Beecher

Winters spent down at Stable View Farm in Aiken are always a good change of pace. One of the best changes is we are around a number of riders from different sports here at Stable View. Over the years I’ve become good friends with Irish timber champion Mark Beecher, who won the Maryland Hunt Cup. Mark’s from a very horsey family: his older brother Paul won the Hickstead Derby in England and his father is a well-known breeder who produces the Loughnatousa horses in Ireland. We’re very lucky to be riding alongside Mark who has a number of racehorses in training and he was kind enough to spend a bit of time with myself and a number of our riders talking about the perfect frame for horses to do their galloping work.

For the first six weeks of the year we do a lot of slow canters with our upper level event horses, twice a week, building up to five miles slowly. In Pennsylvania we use our Attwood Equestrian Surfaces outdoor track but here at Stable View we use the massive Grand Prix jumping stadium which also has Attwood footing.

The first thing Mark addressed was position of rider: there were ten of us riding and he made sure the rider’s body weight was over the wither and shoulder so the horse wasn’t carrying the rider’s body weight on its back. He talked about length of stirrup, shortening us all up a hole or two to help stay over the horse a little bit more (if the stirrups are too long the rider tends to fall back, behind the motion) and the best way to carry the reins, in a bridge formation, when you’re galloping.

Next he talked about the balance horses work best in: he tried to describe the shape and frame the horse should be in for it to be using all its muscles during this work. He wants the horse with plenty of length in its neck but in a soft frame, gently reaching on to the bit with the rider not holding its mouth the whole time. He talked about not having a “flat” canter: the rider should be pushing the horse up to the hand so the horse is really using its hind end throughout the workout.

We basically then started the slow canter with all the horses in work and he made slight corrections to all of the riders as we went around the arena. I appreciate Mark’s input. Obviously he’s a master and a specialist at riding horses at high speeds over fixed obstacles at long distances and we’re lucky to be training at the same facility this winter.

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