Monday, January 16, 2012

Joe Fargis Clinic Day 2: Focus On Precision And Flow

OK, so maybe I went a little
overboard with this...

I apologize in advance -- I have video of this exercise, but unfortunately my technological abilities, or lack thereof, and business travel have prevented me from getting them into this post.  Waaaah!  Perhaps I will be luckier and can make magic happen when I get home later this week.

Day 2 of the Fargis clinic at Knightsbridge Farm started with more of the same, with Joe urging the riders to "pay attention to details!"

The purpose of the day's exercise was "straightness" and "rhythm." Joe had set an exercise of 5 piles of poles in a large X in the ring. In other words, there were two piles of poles set 5 strides apart on the one quarter line, a pile of poles set in the center of the ring at X, and another set of 2 poles set 5 strides apart on the other quarter line.

The exercise was to be ridden down the centerline from C to A over the center pole, turn left and go across the poles on the diagonal (so F through X through H), turn right and come down over the 5 stride on the quarter line, turn right and go up the first element of the other diagonal, to the right around the fence at X and jump fence 2, and then turn left and come down the other diagonal(K through X through M), turn left and finish down the other 5 stride line coming towards home.

Joe started out by breaking the exercise into distinct elements, asking the riders to start with a big canter circle to the right, come down over the center line poles, and finish with a big circle to the left. Some of the horses were still on the muscle and were rushing the fences, so Joe added poles before and after the fence to back them off and had the riders do that a few times.

Joe stressed to the riders the importance of focusing on detail (“This exercise requires precision”) as well as flow, asking the rider’s to flow “like water through a hose” down the lines. His attention to the minutia was so complete that even if a rider had a faultless round, if that rider did not execute a “big, bold, beautiful circle to finish” they would be called out for it. Over and over he told the riders not to be casual, because casual on the flat and in practice resulted in poor performance in the show ring.

Much of the difficulty in the exercise came during the rollback ½ circle around the centerline fence. By that point in the course most of the horses had picked up a head of steam and the riders were challenged to execute a smooth turn and set their horses up for the next fence. Joe asked the riders to think about their pace in the turn to fence seven, telling them to balance up in the turn, and then he told them they needed to recover faster after fence 7 in order to collect their horses and themselves before the turn, not through the turn. “Don’t ride faster than you can think,” he told them.

The 2 stride to 2 stride diagonal line also presented some difficulty for the riders. Here Joe advised the riders to stay out in the turn, and to then jump the line a bit right to left in order to get a good distance and set themselves up for the left hand turn coming back to the 5 stride line towards home.  In other words, jump the first fence of the diagonal a little on the right side, the second in the center, and the last one a little towards the left side (or outside).

As on the previous day, Joe had the riders and horses end by breaking down the exercise into each element so that they finished just coming down over the centerline fence, in order to leave both horses and riders feeling happy and successful. Joe emphasized again the importance of the partnership with the horse, and the dialogue that good training needs to be.

Joe also left the riders with this bit of wisdom, “Don’t worry about the jump. Worry about everything else BUT the jump. Worry about the line, worry about the turn, worry about your precision – do NOT worry about the jump.” The message was (and as someone who is very guilty of this sin I am TRYING to internalize this) that if you take care of the details, the jump will take care of itself.


  1. "Don't worry about the jump". I like that. Taken out of context, it almost has a Zen-like quality to it. It's even more Zen-like within the context.

  2. Another great exercise for me to try out this week! Going to take me a while to set it up right though... I guess you have to place the center line jump, walk 3 strides on each diagonal away from it, and then make sure the outside lines walk in five.

    Btw, I tried the shutes exercise from Day 1: Harder than it sounds!!