March 2018 - Lucinda Green Clinic

Copper Meadows hosts terrific weekend with British “Queen Of Cross-Country.”

If you ever have the opportunity to ride with British Olympic, World and European Champion Lucinda Green, take it! You can thank me later. She is known as the “queen of cross-country,” having won the prestigious 4* Badminton Horse Trials a record six times -- on six different horses!  Lucinda now concentrates on teaching clinics, traveling around the globe instructing riders how to ride cross-country.

Lucinda and Jessie Hargrave with Calou de Galarza, a 5 year old Selle Francais she owns with Joanna Dillon.

On January 27-28, we were fortunate to host a clinic on her “Around the World in 28 Days” clinic tour, sponsored by SUCCEED Equine. Our clinic was additionally sponsored by Equipe-USA, Amerigo and Peltzer Winery.

Thirteen horse and rider combinations, ranging from Beginner Novice to Intermediate levels, came to ride at the amazing Copper Meadows facility in San Diego County’s Ramona. The clinic followed a two-day format: the first day used show jumps to mimic technical aspects of the cross-country course. The second day took the skills practiced the previous day and applied them to the cross-country fences.

Captain Of The Ship

With the arena full of show jumps strategically placed to facilitate corners, skinny jumps, angles and challenging turning lines, the riders spent 1.5 hours in experience-level appropriate groups, working on improving their connection and communication with their horses.

One of Lucinda’s big points is to emphasize that the horse and rider should be a partnership and work together as a team. However, the rider should the “captain of the ship.”

As riders practiced jumping skinny fences and angles, points and corners, this partnership was put to the test. Lucinda asked all the riders to think of what part of their body they used for communicating to their horse the location of the next fence: Hands? Legs? Eyes? Weight? A variety of answers were inevitably produced, all of which she said were correct. The important part was to convey to your horse the location of the next fence. They must have plenty of time, and, as fences get more technical, turns more tight, lines more difficult, the challenge of ensuring the horse sees the fence gets ever greater.  Equally important in training the horse was to instill a desire in the horse to “take you to the jump” -- that they see the jump and are motivated to take you to it.

Riders were encouraged to keep their horses “in the tube,” a famous expression heard by anyone who has ever ridden or audited one of Lucinda’s clinics before. The feeling that the horse is kept in a tube between your two legs and your reins, and that you use your legs to squeeze them, as if you were squeezing out a tube of toothpaste! What a great visual!

Riding a very sensitive and hot young horse, I was encouraged to think of being “actively passive” with him. Calmly putting my leg on him and encouraging him to settle with my contact and not become overwhelmed by his power and exuberance. Rather, I should allow him to go the fence and if he made a mistake, not to worry. It was important for my horse to learn to pay attention himself, rather than me telling him what to do. 

Banks, Ditches & Equine Vision

Lucinda was thrilled with the course at Copper Meadows, stating it was perhaps the best schooling course she had ever seen. It has an amazing variety of cross-country schooling options, from Introductory level all the way through Advanced. The groups started out by warming up over several straight-forward fences at the discretion of the riders, and then convened to discuss banks.

Lucinda had everyone start by walking up a small bank (approximately Beginner Novice height) then walking down the bank, all on a long rein. She repeatedly stated that if you couldn’t walk your horse over a simple cross-country fence, and many found it challenging, then there was no good moving on to the trot and the canter. This same approach would later be used at the ditches.

Lucinda with Jessie’s students who came out to watch, learn and help: Avery Torres & Ali Blankfeld.

One very interesting discussion which emerged during the bank walking exercise was how the horse uses its head and how it sees close versus distance. Lucinda pointed out that if a horse is looking at something far in the distance, they will raise their heads up quite high, and conversely, when they are jumping something that has a ditch or a shadow, they often will put their heads down to look. The bottom half of the eye is for seeing at distance and the top half of the eye is for close vision. With this example, she explained that horses need to have their heads up to see the fence rather than curling behind the bit.

Additionally, if a jump has a ditch or something spooky about it, to be prepared to slip the reins if the horse suddenly drops their head to see what they are jumping.

The importance of slipping the reins was brought up again when a few horses made extravagant jumping efforts over the ditches and jumping down banks into water. The notion that the horse must have full use of its head and neck for balance was emphasized, as was the need to pick up the reins quickly especially if there were multiple elements of the jump. Rather than take the time to shorten the reins, Lucinda showed riders how they could simply stretch their hands (on slipped reins) outward, therefore widening the distance between their hands while regaining contact with the horse’s mouth.

A few themes were clear throughout both days, namely the emphasis on partnership and teamwork, albeit with a clear captain, and keeping the horse “in the tube” as you approached a fence. Also, the notion of leaving a fence or exercise, be it show jumping or cross-country, and making the horse go in a straight line and halt, in your own time, unless the horse is running off. Lucinda likened the “straight line and halt” to having a little bit of discipline after a jump, and then an opportunity to give the horse a pat and reward the horse for a job well done. Additionally, she pointed out that the halt itself could be considered the “last fence.” That is, you were not done with the exercise until you had completed your straight line and halt.

Improvements in both horses and rider over the two days were clearly visible. The enthusiasm for getting back in the training arena and mastering the newly acquired skills was evident.  We were so fortunate to have a spot in Lucinda’s USA tour and eagerly await for her return later this year!


Author Jessie Hargrave is an active FEI level 3-day event rider and trainer. Originally from North Carolina, Jessie relocated to California in 2013 and operates Charis Eventing, in Temecula. Jessie is a graduate ‘A’ member of the United States Pony Club as well as holding a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master’s degree in Early Childhood, Special Education, and International Education. She is also Ride Right Equestrian Sport Psychology certified level III coach, a USPC National Examiner, and is pursuing USEA training for ICP certification. www.chariseventing.com.